Last year saw the most terrorist attacks and plots in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Heritage Foundation’s tally, which was released Friday just as the Obama administration announced a series of new terror-related arrests and indictments.
The 13 “Islamist-inspired” attacks and plots uncovered in 2015 were more than the previous three years combined, according to Heritage researcher Riley Walters.
And 2016 is off to a bad start, with the Justice Department announcing separate terror-related indictments late Thursday of two Iraqi refugees. In Philadelphia, a man who opened fire on a police officer Thursday night proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State terror group after he was taken.
The refugees were admitted to the U.S. under a program President Obama has insisted is safe, yet both now stand accused of actively trying to aid terrorists in Syria.
Republicans on Capitol Hill said the two refugee arrests should force Mr. Obama to rethink his plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees this year. The president’s top aides had held up the Iraqi program as proof that they could properly screen out would-be terrorists from the refugee population, and Mr. Obama had mocked Republicans for fearing “widows and orphans.”
Yet one of the Iraqi refugees, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee while he was still a minor — a fact that Republicans said proved children could be just as dangerous when radicalized.
Mr. Al Hardan has been charged with trying to provide material support to the Islamic State.
The other man, Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, stands accused by prosecutors of having traveled to Syria to train with terrorists. According to an affidavit filed to support charges against him, he repeatedly bragged on social media of having executed Syrian security forces, and of knowing he was breaking U.S. law by visiting Syria and lying about it to U.S. immigration officials.
In both cases, authorities say they stopped the men before they conducted any plots in the U.S.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the indictments success stories saying they were “good examples of how the Department of Homeland Security, the intel community, our law enforcement and other national security agencies work effectively together to keep us safe.”
But lawmakers on Capitol Hill said the fact that the two men were admitted to the U.S. showed the holes in the president’s security plans.
“This is the kind of threat that keeps me up at night,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul. The Texas Republican said he’d been secretly briefed on the cases before hand, and was now able to talk about them publicly — and said they were similar to other cases he’s not yet allowed to talk about.
On Sunday evening, the Philadelphia Police Department told reporters that they had received a tip that Edward Archer of Yeadon, the 30-year-old suspect in the attack on Officer Jesse Hartnett, “had an affiliation to a group with radical beliefs.”
The department fears that group may still pose a threat to other officers and the department continues Sunday to require officers to work in tandems or teams. The department is investigating the credibility of the information with the assistance of the FBI.
Officer Hartnett was struck three times in the arm by gunfire Thursday night after the man ran up to his police cruiser and opened fire in a dramatic ambush that was caught on a surveillance camera.
Officials said Mr. Archer fired 13 times — at one point with his arm all the way inside the police cruiser. Officer Hartnett was able to chase after the man, firing off several rounds that struck the suspect, and the man was later taken into custody by responding officers.
While investigators were probing whether Mr. Archer — who
Officials said Mr. Archer has a criminal record, including a gun offense and domestic violence, but the details of his ties to Islamism remained unclear Sunday. He declared his allegiance to the Islamic State on Thursday and reportedly said the attack was done “for Allah.”
“I know federal investigators will be promptly working to determine what, if any, connections the suspect had with overseas radical groups and whether there’s any indication of future attacks in the works,” said Rep. Patrick Meehan, Pennsylvania Republican. “It’s a grim reminder of the need for constant vigilance as we work to defeat the Islamic State worldwide.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce expressed similar concern.
“ISIS cannot be contained, it must be defeated,” the California Republican said. “To keep Americans safe from an increasingly sophisticated enemy, we need to eliminate sanctuaries and counter ISIS’s ability to recruit and radicalize on the Internet.”