Washington – CIA Director John Brennan declared before the Senate Intelligence Committee an update regarding the Islamic State and the threat of Western fighters. He also explained the possible dangers America could be facing after the Orlando shooting. The hearing was held on Thursday.
John Brennan talked about the risk of Western fighters that ISIS can draw, and the imminent threat they represent to the U.S. He said that in spite of military efforts, the group remains as dangerous as ever.
The CIA chief said the U.S. airstrikes manage to reduce the terrorist group’s troops from 32,000 to nearly 22,000. As a result, they have lost Iraq and Syria territories and have experienced a reduction of finances. The CIA chief said regarding this matter that ISIS is having difficulties to grow its ranks due to less foreign fighters traveling to those countries.
ISIS finances have been reduced but remain active. The Islamic State controls taxation and sales of oil in Syria and Iraq’s black market, which generates millions of dollars per month.
“Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” Brennan said at the hearing.
In Libya, their numbers are increasing. This new growth means another challenge to face. This branch is “the most developed and the most dangerous” according to John Brennan. He added that Libya’s proximity to Europe was a problem.
The CIA director stated that to make the terrorist group suffer heavier losses of territory, manpower, and money, modest resources are needed.
He also warned that an ISIS group is preparing an attack against the West and their plans include infiltrating refugees. Brennan said ISIL is exploring their chances to infiltrate the West with trained teams that will access the countries by smuggling routes and legal methods of travel, including refugees.
Social Media and terrorist groups
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) June 17, 2016
Social media was mentioned in Brennan testimony. The CIA Director made public that Tumblr, Twitter, and Telegram were online spaces used by ISIS to make propaganda. He urged the need for the collaboration of technology and communication companies because their services are allowing terrorists and their followers to make clandestine contact.
The intelligence community faces serious opposition from Silicon Valley companies who defend their responsibility to respect their customer’s privacy and to protect them from corporative spies and hackers.
ABC News report that Sen. Richard Burr, Committee chairman, said the dispute between the tech companies, the intelligence community, and the law enforcement needs to stop. In opposition, Sen Ron Wyden stated that the request to companies to build backdoors into their products will weaken strong encryption and will put at risk the personal safety of Americans.
The CIA chief supports a bill that intends to form a cooperative commission between intelligence, law enforcement, and the tech business communities to work together to prevent terrorist communication through their platforms.
ISIS and the Orlando shooting – Boko Haram, Russia, and torture
The CIA director confirmed to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, had not been linked directly to ISIS, but stated that he was inspired by the terrorist group.
The Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub left a 49 death told. Brennan said that this kind of attack, carried by one single person, is inspired by terrorist organizations. The CIA chief stated that the scenario of lone wolfs represents a challenge for the intelligence community because they cannot control what these groups can inspire and whom will they inspire.
Being the IS forces in West Africa, the terrorist group Boko Haram was mentioned by John Brennan. He said they were the most active and leader terrorist group in Egypt. The Boko Haram organization in attacking the Egyptian government and its military forces. This group recently claimed responsibility for the assault on a Russian passenger flight that was downed by a bomb. Boko Haram target both foreigners and tourists
The CIA Director stated Boko Haram has several thousand fighting men, and IS is cultivating a global network that now exceeds al-Qaida troops.
Regarding the Yemen branch, Brennan said they also have several hundred fighters. The Afghanistan-Pakistan branch has hundreds of men, but they are fighting to keep cohesion due to their competition, the Taliban.
About Russia Brennan said their forces have supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and now he is in a better position to threaten the cessation of violence. He added the Russians were planning attacks against the U.S.
Torture was another topic mentioned at the hearing. Some agents of the CIA are involved in illegal actions made in the agency’s former detention and interrogation program that was established after 9/11. The CIA chief said he could collaborate in a classified meeting.