The terrorist threat facing the United States is greater now than it was before 9/11 and the failure to address the jihadist problem as “an ecosystem” is helping it to spread and the danger it poses to grow, House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers warned Sunday.
“The difference here is that, before 9/11, there were single-level threat streams coming into the United States – some pretty serious,” the Michigan Republican said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “Obviously, they got in and conducted the attacks on 9/11.”
“Now you have multiple organizations, all al-Qaeda-minded, trying to accomplish the same thing,” he said, citing the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL) and al-Qaeda affiliated such as the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
“Thousands of individuals now signing up with ISIL to fight their jihad in Syria and Iraq have Western passports. That’s what’s so dangerous about this,” he said.
“We also know that they want to conduct an attack. But so does al Qaeda. And so now you have two competing terrorist organizations. Both of them want to get their credentials to the point where they can say, ‘we are the premier terrorist organization.’ Both want to conduct attacks in the West for that reason.”
“And guess what?” he added. “That means we lose at the end. If either one ever those organizations is successful, we lose.”
He pointed to concerns raised by Attorney-General Eric Holder recently about a rising terror threat from Yemen – “one of the things that keeps him up at night. I would concur with him. That is an attack that many believe is going operational. And that is what we should be worried about.”
Rogers said he believed the terrorist danger to the U.S. now is greater that before 9/11 because “the threat matrix is so wide. And it’s so deep. We just didn’t have that before 9/11.”
He observed that ISIS controls territory the size of Indiana, possesses sophisticated weaponry and is reported to have “as much as billion dollars in both precious metals, currency, and, by the way, selling oil on the black market to the tune of about a million dollars a day.”
Rogers pointed to parallels between ISIS’ viciousness and that of other terrorist groups.
“This is exactly the kind of thing – beheading people, convert or die, burning religious relics from the past – just the sheer brutality of it is exactly what AQAP pitches. It’s what Boko Haram [in Nigeria] pitches. When they took those 300 girls, that’s what that was all about.
“That’s what they’re practicing and putting into practice. That’s why this policy of not dealing with it as an ecosystem, I think, is wrong and has caused the spread and danger of these organizations.”