As politicians rush to curb refugee intake, research reveals 55 of 68 people indicted over alleged Isis ties were born in US and none came from Syria
None of the Isis-linked suspects who have ever been charged in the United States came from Syria and the overwhelming majority were born in the US, research reveals.
Sixty-eight people have been indicted because of alleged involvement in Isis, of whom 18 have been convicted, with an average sentence of 10 years three months, according to figures published this week by Center on National Security at Fordham University.
Yet despite a growing political clamour over a perceived security threat posed by an influx of Syrian refugees, the data shows that only three of those indicted in connection with Isis was a refugee or asylum seeker; none came from Syria.
Instead 55, or 80.9%, of the individuals concerned are US citizens, including 44 who were born in America. The rest include six born in Bosnia, four in Uzbekistan, three in Somalia and two in Sudan. Fifty-eight are men and 10 are women. The average age is 26 and around a third are under 21.
The typical alleged Islamic State adherent is intent on fighting abroad rather than plotting attacks at home, research shows.
The center classifies more than half arrested of those and charged as foreign fighters/ aspirants, around a quarter are domestic plotters and about one-fifth are facilitators. But other demographic patterns are hard to discern, with occupations ranging from soldier to student.
They are young, they are spread over a wide geography, they are impervious to profiling in many ways, said Karen Greenberg, director of the center, who has tallied cases dating back to March 2014 when Isis made massive territorial gains in Iraq.
The current political rush to suspend Americas asylum programme is misguided, she added, noting that the overwhelming majority of refugees are grateful for the way they are treated. We have tremendous border controls in this country. Weve spent 14 years and almost a trillion dollars on our security industry. Were pretty good at vetting them, despite what Marco Rubio says.
Law enforcement is being very careful about these arrests. They really dont see a great domestic terrorism threat here. Of course we know that anything could happen but, compared to abroad, the terrorism threat is really quite low.
This is reflected in relatively short sentences, Greenberg continued, indicating that judges regard those convicted as young people in need of diversion rather than hardened terrorists posing a serious threat.
There is a difference in tenor and tone, she added, from the post-9/11 decade when the FBI was accused of using entrapment to link people to the al-Qaida terrorist network. You always have to be vigilant. There are a couple of cases where there has been concern.
But generally theyre more like deterrent cases. Its no longer about trying to see how far you will go. Its more, Youre 16, we dont want to know how far you will go.
Nevertheless, concerns persist that young people who make rash statements on social media can be lured by undercover government agents posing as Isis into saying or doing things they would not have otherwise, landing them in trouble.
In March the New Yorker magazine highlighted the case of Jonas and Hasan Edmonds, cousins from Aurora, Illinois, charged with conspiring to provide material support for Isis. After posting a pro-Isis video on his Facebook page, Hasan received a friend request from an undercover agent working for the FBI. He wrote to the agent about wanting to bring the pain to them here, maximising damage and mayhem and something like the brother in Paris did a reference to the deadly attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Hasan, 22, and 29-year-old Jonas were soon invited to a face-to-face meeting with another undercover agent, who drove with them at a military base where Hasan had been training in the national guard, and later alleged that they had discussed how to carry out a mass shooting with a death toll of more than a hundred. It would be perpetrated by Jonas, while Hasan would travel to Egypt on his way to join Isis.
New Yorker journalist Mattathias Schwartz commented: In the case of the Edmonds cousins, its clear that the government got involved at an early stage. Hasan does not appear to have made arrangements to connect with Isis in Cairo, and while Jonas spoke of his desire to carry out a domestic attack, there is little evidence that he had made concrete plans to do so.
It seems possible that Jonass desire to execute the plot would have flagged without Hasan and the two undercover agents, who inserted themselves into his life and prodded him along. While the FBI agents conceivably could have attempted to counter the Edmonds cousins radicalisation, they allowed and perhaps encouraged it, and then put them behind bars.
The concerns were echoed by Professor Michael Desch, co-director of the Notre Dame international security programme. In a number of these instances, it looks less like a priority threat than someone who got caught up in a situation where they made bad choices. There seem to be a lot of cases of people getting caught up in stuff which they wouldnt have without a government agents involvement.
I would not defend these people at all if someone gets caught up in something they shouldnt, they should not walk scot free but it is striking that in a lot of cases the only contact with a terrorist organisation was one manned by the government.
The total of people charged numbers fewer than a hundred. Desch said: Its not to deny theres a threat out there and US law enforcement should not be vigilant, but it shows the threat is inflated. Of these cases very few rise to the level of the September 11 attacks.
The youth of many of the individuals is evident. In January, Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, of Bolingbrook, a suburb of Chicago, was charged with trying to provide material support to Isis. His 17-year-old sister and 16-year-old brother were also arrested at OHare international airport as he tried to board a plane to Vienna en route to Istanbul, but were not charged.
Khan, who lived with his parents, was described by neighbours as a polite teenager. But he left a letter expressing disgust: We are all witness that the western societies are getting more immoral day by day, he wrote. I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this.
In another case last year, Shannon Maureen Conley, a Muslim convert from suburban Denver, was arrested at an airport after telling agents she planned to live with a suitor she met online, apparently a Tunisian man who claimed to be fighting for Isis. She said she wanted to start a holy war.