Press Briefing: Josh Earnest, Press Scretary
Q Are there ISIS fighters inside Syria right now actively plotting attacks against the United States?
MR. EARNEST: This is something that Chairman Dempsey himself talked about over the weekend. And he indicated that according to intelligence assessments that there is no evidence of an active plot right now. That said, we are well aware of the threat that is posed by ISIL, and that we’ve already -- ISIL has already demonstrated in rather violent fashion their willingness to perpetrate terrible acts against American citizens.
We are concerned, as I mentioned to Ed, about the role that so-called foreign fighters could play in undermining the security of Western nations. Again, these are individuals with Western passports, citizens of Western countries who have traveled to this region, to Syria and Iraq, to fight alongside ISIL; that the risk that is posed by them, that they're getting back on a plane and flying back to the West to carry out terrorist attacks, that is why we are working cooperatively with our partners in the region and among our Western allies to monitor these individuals to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to mitigate the threat that's posed by them.
So we are concerned about the threat that is posed by ISIL. But it is the assessment, as stated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by the intelligence community, that there currently is not an active plot underway to attack the U.S. homeland by ISIL.
STATE DEPARTMENT ON ISIS, AUGUST 26, 2014
(24 Hours Later)
QUESTION: Why are you so concerned all of a sudden now about a threat to the United States potentially emanating from ISIS in Syria when the march of ISIS through Syria and then through Iraq has been underway for quite a long time now? The reports of dozens of Western – people with Western nationality fighting among them have been out for months. I mean, what’s different? Is there some kind of new or proximate threat that causes you to be concerned about this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I think anybody who looks at the situation in Iraq and Syria – the threat from ISIL – would say that they have gained strength over the last six months, that things have certainly changed in that regard. Obviously, we monitor and have long monitored very closely whether or not ISIL will seek to develop plots aimed at the West, beyond the geographic area where they have been operating in Iraq and Syria. And we’re actively, of course, consulting on that and working on that.
But it’s important to note that they, of course, have threatened to attack the homeland. We take those threats very seriously, and I think what you’re seeing here is a response to our growing concern about the counterterrorism threats. This is not new this past week. Neither is our response to it. I would point you back to the President’s speech at West Point where he talked about a $5 billion counterterrorism fund and our efforts to increase assistance to the Iraqis over the past six months. But certainly, we’ve seen an increase over the past months.