WASHINGTON — The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) told reporters on Thursday that the department thwarted a number of ISIS-inspired terror plots likely scheduled for July 4 from “coast to coast.”
“I do believe our work disrupted efforts to kill people, likely in connection with July 4,” James Comey stated as he spoke at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington.
While he declined to provide details regarding thwarted plots, Comey did divulge that there have over a dozen arrests in the past four weeks.
“We made the arrests to thwart what we thought they were up to,” he said. “Some of them were focused on the Fourth of July, and that’s as specific as I can get.”
Comey said that while he doesn’t believe that the plots were directed by ISIS, they were egged on by the group, which has allegedly been attempting to recruit Americans to carry out acts on violence. He noted that ISIS has a large social media following—approximately 21,000 English speaking followers, with many being U.S. residents.
“What we’re seeing now is living proof that social media works. It’s the reason that Twitter is worth billions of dollars. It’s an extraordinarily effective way to sell shoes, or vacation, or terrorism,” Comey said.
He also stated that pinpointing those considering terror plots can be a challenge, because ISIS sometimes encourages those it communicates with to “go dark” by switching to encrypted messaging. But Comey also noted that once a threat is suspected, officials must work fast and not take any chances.
“It’s actually hard to figure out when they’re trying to kill somebody,” he outlined. “And you cannot say, ‘Well, we’ve got to do it on the Fourth,’ because you know you have people who are motivated to kill people, and they are unreliable in terms of when they’re going to act.”
As previously reported, Comey remarked earlier this year that he believes ISIS sympathizers are present nationwide.
“We have investigations of people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states,” he told a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). “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 explained that Islamic terror groups believe that they are carrying out their acts as part of the end times.
“ISIL in particular is putting out a siren song with their slick propaganda through social media that goes like this: ‘Troubled soul, come to the caliphate. You will live a life of glory. These are the apocalyptic end times. You will find a life of meaning here fighting for our so-called caliphate. And if you can’t come, kill somebody where you are,” he outlined. “That is a message that goes out to troubled souls everywhere.”
“It’s almost as if there is a devil sitting on the shoulder saying, ‘Kill, kill, kill, kill’ all day long,” Comey also said in May. “[They are] recruiting and tasking at the same time. … In a way, the old paradigm between ‘inspired’ and ‘directed’ breaks down here.”