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FBI braces for holiday terror attacks

  • In United States
  • 00:00, 18 Nov
  • By Sudhir Vyas

Washington DC: With another round of holidays fast approaching in the shadows of last Friday’s Paris attacks, FBI officials on the front lines of the war on terrorism see a new round of threats rising and worry they don’t have all the tools to cope, according to interviews with this website.

Officials familiar with the bureau’s preparations, speaking only on condition of anonymity, said Director James Comey has put a brave public face on the bureau’s fight against ISIS that masks significant tensions behind the scenes with the Obama administration.

Bureau officials are deeply worried they don’t have enough resources to track a growing number of radicalized Americans inspired by the Islamic State, with more possibly entering as President Obama opens the borders to thousands of Syrian refugees. Those fears are also shared in Congress, where support is building for a measure by House Speaker Paul Ryan to temporarily halt any new refugees from entering the country.

Rep. Blake Farenthold, Texas Republican and a member of both of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees, said  that the U.S. government does not have the resources to screen a new wave of Syrian refugees for terror ties as the administration has promised.

Meanwhile most  Americans want the U.S. to stop letting in Syrian refugees amid fears of terrorist infiltrations after the Paris attacks, siding with Republican presidential candidates, governors, and lawmakers who want to freeze the Obama administration’s resettlement program.

The findings are part of a national poll released Wednesday that also shows the nation divided on whether to send U.S. troops to Iraq and Syria to fight the Islamic State, an idea President Barack Obama opposes, and whether the U.S. government is doing enough to protect the homeland from a comparable attack.

Fifty-three percent of U.S. adults in the survey, conducted in the days immediately following the attacks, say the nation should not continue a program to resettle up to 10,000 Syrian refugees. Just 28 percent would keep the program with the screening process as it now exists, while 11 percent said they would favor a limited program to accept only Syrian Christians while excluding Muslims, a proposal Obama has dismissed as “shameful” and un-American.

More broadly, terrorism and the Islamic State group surged to the top of Americans’ concerns immediately following the deadly attacks, even as Republicans and Democrats remain divided over how best to address threats. The percentage of those rating terrorism or the Islamic State as top concerns has nearly doubled since the poll last was taken in September. At the same time, those who think the U.S. is on the right track fell to 23 percent, the lowest rating in more than three years. Obama’s disapproval rating rose to 51 percent, up 4 percentage points since September.

These trends may offer momentum to the Republican leaders of Congress as they begin hearings and consider threatening a government shutdown over Obama’s Syria policies, even as 64 percent of Americans say Islam is an inherently peaceful religion.

Terror in general, and specifically ISIS, the group that claimed responsibility for last week’s attacks, are cited by a combined 35 percent of Americans as the top issue in the survey conducted November 15-17. That’s about the same as concerns about jobs, immigration, health care and the federal deficit combined. ISIS alone is the top issue for 21 percent of Americans, up from 11 percent in September. Terrorism is the top issue for 14 percent, up from 7 percent two months ago.

In another development Muslims around the U.S. are facing backlash following the deadly attacks in Paris, including vandalism to mosques and Islamic centers, hate-filled phone and online messages and threats of violence. Advocacy leaders say they have come to expect some anti-Muslim sentiment following such attacks, but they now see a spike that seems notable, stirred by anti-Muslim sentiment in the media.

"The picture is getting increasingly bleak," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. "There's been an accumulation of anti-Islamic rhetoric in our lives and that I think has trigged these overt acts of violence and vandalism." He said the rise in the level of anti-Muslim sentiment is reflected by some GOP presidential candidates, governors and others speaking out in opposition to the U.S. accepting more Syrian refugees.