This week, an FBI expert on domestic-terrorism told reporters that currently there are over 1,000 active investigations into ISIS related threats within the United States. What is worse is that those under investigation are for the most part American citizens and reside in every state in the nation.
One such example centers around a 29-year-old Waxhaw, N.C. man who reportedly lied to FBI agents when he denied he told someone he planned to fly to Syria to fight with ISIS. He made that statement while he was secretly helping others do the same. That information comes from a bill of indictment which was unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Charlotte
The man, Alexander Samuel Smith, is accused of meeting with someone in the town of Matthews in 2014, whom he believed to be was an ISIS representative. What Smith didn’t know was that the man was in fact an FBI confidential source. According to court documents, Smith offered, among other things, lower-fare “buddy passes” to reduce the cost of transporting prospective Jihadist to the middle east. He claimed he could get them from his girlfriend, who was employed by a U.S. airline at the time.
Meanwhile in Burke County, Justin Sullivan faces a capital murder trial in connection with the shooting death of John Bailey Clark, an elderly recluse who lived near Sullivan’s parents in Morganton. According to federal investigators Sullivan told a fellow jail inmate following his arrest that he had killed his 74-year-old neighbor “for practice.” Prosecutors say Sullivan hoped to kill at a much greater number of people.
With the help of his home computer and a Casio smartphone, Sullivan plotted directly with prominent ISIS leader, Junaid Hussain, a recruiter and social media expert who was killed during an August 2016 airstrike in Syria. Their goal: to kill up to hundreds of people at a concert or club in North Carolina or Virginia while filming the carnage as an ISIS propaganda tool.
Keri Farley, the FBI’s assistant special agent in charge of North Carolina, said Sullivan’s arrest saved lives. But she added that “homegrown violent extremists” are becoming harder to stop. “Identifying a terrorist before an attack happens is one of the most difficult challenges we face,” during a press conference after Sullivan’s sentencing. Farley said “It’s harder than finding a needle in a haystack; it’s like finding a needle in a stack of needles. But that’s exactly what happened in this case.”t
In just the last three years, the FBI has arrested the 126 people in the United States for ISIS-related acts or conspiracies, according to the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. As with Sullivan, 90 percent of those charged have been male. The average age is 27. Some 45 percent were arrested as they attempted to join ISIS fighters overseas. About 30 percent have been accused of plotting to carry out attacks on U.S. Soil.
Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the extremism program, says nearly nine out of 10 of those arrested are either Americans or permanent legal residents.