- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The intelligence community’s inability to identify Americans who are susceptible to the “siren song” of the Islamic State before they make their way to Syria to fight alongside the extremist group is troubling lawmakers and the country’s top spies.

To date, about 150 U.S. citizens, ranging in age from 16 to 62, have flocked to Syria, FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers during a Wednesday congressional budget hearing. As a result, the FBI has multiple investigations into “homegrown violent extremists” in all 50 states, he said.

Those extremists hail from various parts of the country and have no defining pattern that links them, which makes it difficult for FBI agents to pick them out, Mr. Comey said.

“The one common characteristic they have — which is unfortunately not a great marker for finding them — is they are people who are troubled souls seeking meaning in life,” he said. “But there’s not a poverty marker. Some of them have jobs. They just have a misguided sense that they need to participate in the apocalyptic battle. Some of them are kind of losers who had a couple of jobs or petty crimes.”

Mr. Comey believes that it was not the responsibility of the FBI to push back against against the “siren song” of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. However, he expressed concern about how “that siren song increasingly goes out in English” and is sometimes aimed at members of the U.S. military.

“Increasingly, the focus of this threat is on people in uniform,” he said. “This week, we saw ISIL calling for harm to be brought to over 100 members of our military services. And so the threat we face is global. It moves at the speed of light and it’s increasingly difficult for us to see, because it moves through the complex spider web of social media.”

That responsibility should fall on the shoulders of some of the Arab allies participating in a U.S.-led military operation known as Operation Inherent Resolve, said Timothy Roemer. The former U.S. ambassador to India and a member of the 9/11 Review Commission made the remarks during a Wednesday morning press conference at FBI headquarters over a new 9/11 Review Commission report.

The commission was tasked by Congress to make a series of recommendations on how the FBI can improve its intelligence gathering methods.

Arab allies such as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates “should be stepping up” their anti-Islamic State efforts, Mr. Roemer said. Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have been dropping bombs on Islamic State militants in Syria since September 2014. Just last month, Jordan expanded its role in the region and began conducting airstrikes in Iraq too.

“They can take more of a role on the messaging, on the social media, on the financing and the financial networks and helping the United States in those areas,” he said. “In the soft power areas, I think, our allies can be step up and provide more important support in roles there.”

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