“High Risk” from Foreign, Domestic Terrorists: U.S.

Other U.S. officials have cautioned that while groups like al-Qaida are unlikely to be capable of carrying out what they describe as spectacular attacks, it is difficult to eliminate the threat of attacks from followers inspired by their propaganda or attacks carried out with minimal direction from a terrorist operative working online.

The biggest danger, according to the new report, is “marked by lone offenders or small group attacks that occur with little warning.”

Homeland Security officials also argue that while the number of encounters with individuals on the department’s Terrorist Screening Data Set trying to cross into the U.S. has been increasing, it is still rare, and comes as the overall number of encounters at the border has been rising.

These encounters represent significantly less than 0.01% of total encounters per fiscal year in recent years,” a DHS official told VOA, agreeing to share the data only on the condition of anonymity.

These encounters may include individuals who are not known or suspected terrorists, such as encounters with family members of a [known and suspected terrorist],” the official added. “We work closely with our interagency and international partners to detect and prevent people who pose national security or public safety risks from entering the United States, often receiving intelligence before they attempt to enter the United States.”

Some U.S. lawmakers have voiced growing concern, especially after an August report by CNN that more than a dozen migrants from Uzbekistan traveled to the U.S. southern border to seek asylum with the help of a smuggler connected to IS.

Just when it seems President Biden’s border crisis can’t get any worse, it does,” said Republican Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement last month.

The federal government is now scrambling to find individuals who traveled and entered the U.S. with help from an ISIS-linked smuggler,” McCaul added. “It is way past time for this administration to secure the border and protect Americans from criminals and terrorists seeking to do us harm.”

In addition to the threat from domestic and foreign terrorists, the latest DHS assessment renews the department’s warning about Iran.

Among state actors, we expect Iran to remain the primary sponsor of terrorism and continue its efforts to advance plots against individuals in the United States,” the DHS assessment said.

Iran relies on individuals with pre-existing access to the United States for surveillance and lethal plotting — using dual nationals, members of criminal networks, and private investigators — and has attempted plots that do not require international travel for operatives,” the report added.

FBI officials warned in April that Iran, along with China, has been ramping up operations to target individuals on U.S. soil.

Some of Iran’s attempts have made headlines, including multiple plots targeting Masih Alinejad, an Iranian American human rights activist and VOA Persian TV host.

In a separate plot last year, U.S. prosecutors charged a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in a murder-for-hire plot targeting former U.S. national security adviser Ambassador John Bolton.

Jeff Seldin is VOA national security reporter.  This article is published courtesy of the Voice of America (VOA).