Congressional members were warned of ISIS threat nine months ago–despite protestations from the Obama administration.
In November 2013, the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade held a hearing on “Terrorist Groups in Syria.”
The committee consists of 14 state representatives and is chaired by Rep. Ted Poe from Texas. Other committee members include Reps. Mo Brooks (AL), Brad Sherman (CA), and Joaquin Castro (TX).
As he opened the hearing on November 20, 2013, Congressman Poe spoke about ISIS:
“The worst of the lot [of hardcore extremists] is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, which is al Qaeda.”
“ISIS works closely with al-Qaeda in Iraq to create a safe haven from which they can conduct their reign of terror.”
“ISIS numbers well into the thousands, and most of the foreign fighters who have come to Syria fight with ISIS. I will repeat that. The foreign fighters that come are those that fight with ISIS. It isn’t just the numbers that are important, it is what they are fighting for and how effective they are.”
Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser with Rand Corporation and Barak Barfi, research fellow from New America Foundation testified about the imminent threat from ISIS . Jenkins, an author and expert on terrorism, told the House Subcommittee:
” ISIS, or ISIL, is simply the latest incarnation of the al-Qaeda in Iraq that emerged after the American invasion.”
“Since the American withdrawal, the group has continued its terrorist campaign in Iraq while expanding its area of operations to include Syria.”
He also detailed the significance of the variations in the name of the terrorist organization. Often ISIS is referred to as the “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham”. Jenkins explained to the Committee that “al-Sham” suggests an area much larger than Syria, encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.
He warned the House Committee that “… volunteers could be recruited by al-Qaeda operatives to carry out terrorist operations in the West.”
Barak Barfi, a research fellow with New America Foundation, a national security think-tank, delivered an equally ominous report on ISIS:
“ISIS is able to act with impunity because of its predominance in the Syrian arena.”
“ISIS seeks to create an Islamic state guided by the harshest interpretation of Islamic law that have little grounding in Islamic history. The organization has declared that its struggle will not end with the toppling of the Syrian regime. It plans to take the fight to other Arab countries in its quest to create a nebulous caliphate.”
Just four days later, on November 24, 2013, President Obama was asked by New Yorker magazine if he had concerns about the growing presence of al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.
President Obama responded with his, now infamous, “JV team” comment about ISIS:
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant…”
“…how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”
While President Obama may have been clueless about ISIS, it’s clear now that several congressman in DC had been duly warned and were aware of the impending threat from the terrorist organization.