Sen. Feinstein: ISIS Fighters Could Pose Threat to United States

Monday, 23 Jun 2014 06:03 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS,  could be a direct threat to the United States' security if efforts aren't made to disrupt plotting before it happens, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein believes.

"We know there are at least 100 Americans that have gone to the area to fight who have an American passport, who are going to try to get back," Feinstein told CNN's Candy Crowley on "State of the Union" Sunday.

Officials know that the fighters can go back to Europe and if they are in a country where Visas are waived, can "come right into the United States," sahe said.

"This is where I think he we need to build our intelligence to see that we can disrupt the plot in this country before it happens," said Feinstein, "because there will be plots to kill Americans."

Meanwhile, the California Democrat said that she and other government officials have known about ISIS for some time, not just in the last 10 days when news broke of the militants' spread across Iraq.

"We've seen its developments in Syria," she said. "We're aware of the fact that they are recruiting fighters in Europe. There have been arrests in Spain, France and Germany."

In addition, she said ISIS fighters have tried to assassinate the head of security in Beirut, and were responsible for killing people at a synagogue in Brussels.

"They are vicious," she said. "They have killed thousands of people. They have cut off heads ... we knew they were a brutal bunch."

But nobody saw it coming that ISIS could overrun one-third of Iran so quickly, she said.

"I think it is a real wake-up call for the United States, because they do want to develop the caliphate," she said of ISIS. "They now just about destroyed the border with Syria."

But she believes Obama is taking the correct steps when it comes it Iraq.

"He's being a bit circumspect," she said. "He's being thoughtful. I think we're building our assets so that some pinpointed action can be taken."

But, she said, "the most most important thing that I can say today is that the Iraqi state, as a state, is in danger ... they have to move and develop a group of leaders that can reach out and reconcile. We are in the middle of a major Sunni-Shia war."

Feinstein, though, would not call the element of surprise involved in the Iraqi situation a failure.

"This is a different culture," she said. "It is very difficult to pierce. So I think there is a view that, well, we're always going to criticize and we just can't do this."

Meanwhile, she said, the United States has to build up the diversity of its intelligence assets "in north Africa, in Yemen. The world is a big place."

Iran has called for the United States to stay out of Iraq's fight, and Feinstein agrees, for now.

"I think the reconciliation has to be done through a new government in Iraq," she said. "And it has to be effective. We've got to keep the Kurds. We've got to enable them to have some share of oil, get outstanding tax receipts, and those kinds of things. And I think there has to be Sunni participation in the government."

And in other matters, Feinstein told Crowley that she laughed last week when former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a fellow Democrat, insulted her reputation while discussing her role in the National Security Agency scandal and more and about the things she didn't know about.

In a lengthy profile with The National Journal, Schweitzer said of Feinstein:

"She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees, and now she says, 'I'm a nun,' when it comes to this spying!" he said. "I mean, maybe that's the wrong metaphor — but she was all in!"

Schweitzer, said Feinstein, has "got clearly a rather large mouth and all sorts of things come out. I think that's really too bad, but it is the way it is."

But she noted that women like her who have been in power for a long time "understand sometimes these sorts of things happen."

Schweitzer has not called to apologize, says Feinstein, not that it would help.

"But it says something, doesn't it?" she told Crowley.

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