FBI officials directly involved in the war on terrorism are bracing for more threats over the holidays — and are reportedly worried they don't have enough resources to track the growing numbers of radicalized Americans inspired by the Islamic State.
The Washington Times
, citing interviews with unnamed officials familiar with the FBI's preparations, reports the Obama administration's plan to accept thousands of Syrian refugees
exacerbates the bureau's concerns.
"The administration has a calming public storyline that we have this all under control and life can go on as normal," one official tells the Times. "But we're one crack in the sidewalk away from a tragedy, and that crack could be an encrypted message we can't follow, a lead we couldn't resource or a refugee who slips in like we saw in Paris."
Another official tells the Times the bureau is frustrated the White House and Justice Department haven't pressured Congress to force technology companies to help break the encrypted communications of suspects.
"We have suspects we've been tracking that have gone dark, because we can no longer follow their encrypted activities," this official tells the Times.
"Physical surveillance can only take us so far and the urgency to solve that gap in the political realm isn't there."
According to the Times, FBI officials are noting an increase in ISIS supporters in the United States switching to mobile and gaming apps with deep encryption to carry out their communications — cutting off the FBI's ability to monitor them.
"These apps and games have encryption we currently can't penetrate," a source tells the Times. "A legislative solution isn't even possible with the time we have left with the potential threats in the U.S. for these holidays."
The Times reports FBI officials see a high terror threat through the New Year's holiday from ISIS-trained fighters using small arms, suicide bombers, grenades and other conventional means on soft targets like sporting events, hotel parties, restaurants or entertainment venues.
The bureau also has growing evidence ISIS has advanced its bomb making skills in places like Brussels — the staging location for the Paris attacks — and disseminated the information to sleeper cells or home-grown terrorists radicalized across the Internet, the Times reports.
"The attackers could look and act just like everyday Americans until they strike with weapons we haven't seen in terror attacks here," one official tells the Times.
Also of concern, the Times reports, is the slower activity among ISIS recruits in the United States since an FBI announcement over the summer that it had disrupted multiple plots and arrested at least 10 U.S.-based sympathizers.
"While it has reduced the load a bit this fall, there are some in the intelligence community who fear it may be a sign that the sleeper cells are already here or that the arrests and publicity this summer tipped off ISIL to change its tactics and communication patterns," one counterterrorism official tells the Times, using the alternate name for ISIS.
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