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U.S. Gov't on High Alert for ISIS Threats as Country Celebrates July 4th Independence Day; Some Think Risk Is Overblown

( [email protected] ) Jul 03, 2015 10:00 AM EDT
Government officials across the United States are on the lookout for any terror attacks that could be carried out on Independence Day. While such security warnings on July 4 are considered routine, this year there have been concerns that ISIS could attempt such attacks.
A worker installs a piece of security equipment on a lamp post on a bridge over the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts July 2, 2013, in preparations for the city's Fourth of July celebrations. Security officials said they would deploy record numbers of police and install scores of new surveillance cameras and checkpoints around fireworks displays, concerts and other Fourth of July events in Boston, New York, Washington and Atlanta. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Government officials across the United States are on the lookout for any terror attacks that could be carried out on Independence Day. While such security warnings on July 4 are considered routine, this year there have been concerns that ISIS could attempt such attacks.

According to Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin to all U.S. law-enforcement agencies last week urging them to be vigilant for any signs of potential violence. However, they have yet to uncover any active plotting of such attacks.

"There's a lot of open cases out there, and that doesn't mean there's a lot of terrorists, just a lot of people that have come up on the radar, whether it's through things they are saying on social media or human beings reporting on them," former FBI counterterrorism official Don Borelli said.

Borelli, who now works at security consulting firm Soufan Group, added that the FBI "is doing triage with all the various joint terrorism task forces around the country."

Borelli explained to the Wall Street Journal on how the FBI has changed in handling terror threats against the U.S. to modern-day challenges.

"Now you've got all these googling jihadi wannabes that can do whatever they need to get the inspiration, and in some cases the knowledge, to do the attack, and they've never left their hometown," Borelli said. "I was always a lot more worried about the threats I didn't hear about than the ones I did hear about."

According to the Wall Street Journal, the House Committee on Homeland Security expressed concerns that ISIS "is dead set on attacking America and its allies." The panel also claimed terror plots have "surged" and counted 24 different plots or attacks in the first half of 2015.

"U.S.-based ISIL supporters could be encouraged or inspired to act during holidays such as the Fourth of July, which coincides with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan," a U.S. intelligence official said. "Recent arrests of U.S.-based individuals highlight their continued interest in conducting attacks in the homeland."

Despite the reported threats, Borelli took a nonchalant approach for the upcoming weekend.

"I wouldn't get overly worked up about this weekend," Borelli quipped. "I think the FBI and the intelligence community and local police have a pretty good handle on it."

Ronald Bailey of Reason looked at how "serious" the risk was to Americans over the Independence Day weekend. Based on statistics gathered from the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, he contended that "terrorism does not remotely threaten the existence of the United States."

"Only 68 Americans have died in terror attacks since 9/11, and that includes the 13 who died in the Fort Hood rampage by military psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan," Bailey wrote. "That's an average of just under 5 people per year. An additional 260 Americans were injured, including 132 in the Boston Marathon bombing, yielding an average of about 19 people wounded annually."

According to Bailey, one's annual chances of dying or being injured from a terrorist attack were "1 in 62 million and 1 in 16 million respectively."

"For some context, note that an average of 335 people drown in their bathtubs annually, a rate of just over 1 in 900,000," Bailey wrote. "Americans are 69 times more likely to die taking a bath than from terrorism."

Bailey looked that the types of attacks that have occurred around the Fourth of July in previous years.

"Since 2001, four have been perpetrated by Animal Liberation Front activists, two targeted abortion clinics in Florida, one was a knifing of a Hispanic man by white supremacists in California, and one other was an attempted arson of a mosque in Missouri," Bailey wrote. "Fortunately, no one died in any of those incidents."

Bailey contended that the bureaucracy within the U.S. government and "their enablers in Congress" help keep such fears of terrorism alive, which has led to the erosion of rights and freedoms for all Americans.

"We live now in a 'your papers please' world where we all are subject to 'random' searches in order to enter government buildings or take public transport," Bailey wrote. "We have lost our Fourth Amendment rights to privacy. The national security surveillance state has metastasized."

Bailey acknowledged that "Islamic radicals linked with ISIS and al-Qaida no doubt hope to carry out or inspire attacks in the United States," citing recent acts of terrorism in Kuwait, Tunisia and France. However, he argued that "terror only works if you let it."

"We must forcefully remind ourselves that the perpetrators are seeking to destroy our open society and free institutions," Bailey wrote on what Americans should do if another terror attack occurs. "By overreacting to the minimal risks they pose, we have been doing the terrorists' work for them. So if there is an attack this holiday weekend, stay calm, carry on, and above all, defend the Constitution."


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