THE CURRENT ongoing release of convicted terrorists who have now completed their prison sentences is “absolutely a concern,” a senior FBI counter-terrorism official has said, promising the public that investigators will work to assess the mounting risks that released terrorists are having on American society.
The remarks followed hours after the “American Taliban,”John Walker Lindh, exited a prison in Indiana after serving 17 year behind bars for his involvement with the radical Islamist group.
Relatives of Johnny “Mike” Spann, a CIA operative who died in Afghanistan after questioning Lindh — and even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — have also raised concerns about whether Lindh has forsaken his ties to violent extremists.
Nearly 18 years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a wave of defendants convicted of supporting terrorist groups or committing acts of violence is starting to leave prisons and jails.
Lindh is perhaps the most high-profile example.
At a briefing for reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington, the counter-terrorism official — who asked not to be identified while discussing the prospect of future threats — said special agents near the sites of prisons designated for terrorists in Colorado and Indiana have several options to follow up if needed.
“Could be a case. Could be interviews with them, [putting] agents in front of them,” he said. But overall, authorities have been criticised for what many consider to be a complete absence of any plan.
The FBI official said the overall threat from terrorism is both “high tempo” and evolving.
He highlighted a “significant increase” in racially motivated violent extremism from last fall to earlier this year, on track to meet or exceed last year’s 120 domestic terrorism arrests.
During the first two quarters of this fiscal year, the FBI made 66 domestic terror-related arrests and 63 international terrorism arrests, he said.
“Domestic terror represents a persistent and evolving threat,” the FBI official said.
There have been more deaths in the U.S. from acts of domestic terror than from international terrorism, he added. And as with international terror, there’s been an evolution in the threat from big conspiracies — plots like the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings — toward lone offenders, giving agents fewer “dots to connect.”