The FBI has roughly 1,000 active Islamic State probes inside the U.S. and new reports have revealed that at least 48 of those suspects are considered so high-risk that the bureau has deployed elite surveillance teams to track them.
The squads, known as mobile surveillance teams or MST are following the men and women, who are believed to be radicalized, 24 hours a day in case they plan to commit any acts of terrorism, Fox News reported.
Republican Sen. Dan Coats, who sits on the Select Committee on Intelligence, would not comment on the specific details of the surveillance or the suspects, but said the around-the-clock tracking is a major commitment for the FBI.
“The FBI together with law enforcement agencies across the country are engaged in this. It take enormous amounts of manpower to do this on a 24-7 basis. It take enormous amounts of money to do this,” Mr. Coats told Fox.
At least a dozen agents are assigned to each case to provide 24/7 coverage. The amount of surveillance reflects the high risk associated with suspects most likely to attempt copycat attacks like the shootings and bombings in Paris on Nov. 13.
“It is a big resource drain. Yes it is. Almost overwhelming,” Mr. Coats said when asked about the demand placed on the FBI. “There will be a lot of people over the Thanksgiving weekend that will not be enjoying turkey with their family. They’ll be out there providing security for the American people and the threat is particularly high during this holiday period.”
Experts say the Paris attacks proved that domestic terrorists can become radicalized very quickly. Friends of Hasna Ait Boulahcen, the female suspect who was killed in the siege of Saint Denis, said she abandoned her party life only a month before joining her cousin Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the plot’s on-the-ground commander who was also killed in the siege, Fox reported.
FBI Director James Comey has dubbed this phenomenon the “flash to bang,” stressing that the time between radicalization and crossing the threshold to violent action can be very short. Last week, in a rare public appearance with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Mr. Comey would only say that “dozens” of suspected radicals have been under “tight surveillance.”
“Together we are watching people of concern using all of our lawful tools. We will keep watching them and if we see something we will work to disrupt it,” Mr. Comey said.