Days after an off-duty officer stopped an attempted terror attack in Garland, Texas, the head of the FBI warned that "hundreds, maybe thousands" of Americans are receiving messages from the Islamic State (ISIS) urging them to join the group and launch assaults.
"It's recruiting and tasking at the same time. The old distinction between inspiration and direction is no longer relevant," FBI Director James Comey said Thursday while describing how ISIS is using social media to achieve its goals, reports USA Today
The director's remarks came the same day that a federal grand jury brought an additional charge to a January indictment against Christopher Lee Cornell for attempting to provide material support to ISIS, according to an FBI press release
Cornell, a 21-year-old Ohio resident, was in the process of planning to attack the U.S. Capitol Building and kill government officials.
In a discussion with reporters, Comey disclosed that the FBI had issued a bulletin to the Garland Police Department to make them aware of a potential threat from Elton Simpson and Soofi Nadir, the two ISIS sympathizers who attempted to attack a "Draw Muhammad" cartoon contest at the Curtis Culwell Center on Sunday.
He denied reports that the FBI knew the pair would attack the event.
While they were killed during the failed assault, Comey underscored the extent to which ISIS has infiltrated the U.S. homeland.
"I know there are other Elton Simpsons out there. Only a few years ago ... if someone wanted jihadist propaganda, they would have to go find it on the Internet. So we focused on the places they'd go," the director said, according to NBC News.
It is a warning Comey first delivered in a speech to National Association of Attorneys General
"We have investigations of people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states. This isn't a New York phenomenon or a Washington phenomenon. This is all 50 states and in ways that are very hard to see," Comey told the group.
He added that it is "highly unlikely" that federal law enforcement is the first to hear an individual express a desire to kill, which underscores the need for local and federal law enforcement to effectively communicate with each other.
In an interview with The Washington Times
, Jeff Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in Texas, disagreed with the FBI's assessment that ISIS, if unchecked, could carry out an attack on the scale of 9/11.
"If this came out two years from now, I would say there's probably a couple of operatives here right now in this country," Addicott, a former senior legal adviser for U.S. Army Special Forces, told the paper.
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