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Report: Hundreds of foreign nationals in America have joined ISIS
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While reports have recently been released that suggest that ISIS has been losing leverage in the Middle East, a bombshell investigative report from a Washington-based think tank makes it seem like the Islamic State may be making moves to infiltrate the United States.
According to a June report by the Institute for Gulf Affairs (IGA), hundreds of Saudi and Kuwaiti nationals who attended school in the U.S. have left the country to join ISIS and related terror groups.
The report, titled “From American Campuses to ISIS Camps: How Hundreds of Saudis Joined ISIS in the U.S.,” examined Saudi nationals for three years, and found that there is a pattern or “flow” of students leaving American universities and heading to learn to fight with terror organizations in the Middle East.
To make matters worse, these student Visas often allow the individuals to return to the U.S. later on.
U.S. Vulnerability Exposed
The number of Saudi students in the U.S. in 2016 totaled at least 125,000 — “the most in the world,” according to the report. But the most frightening part of the problem is that Saudi nationals are able to return to the U.S. after fighting for various terror groups: the report indicates several vulnerabilities that allow this, such as sparse monitoring and leniency in student Visas.
“Foreign fighters traveling to Syria or Iraq could…gain battlefield experience and increased exposure to violent extremist elements,” then-FBI director James Comey said of the issue in 2014. “They may use these skills and exposure to radical ideology to return to their countries of origin, including the United States, to conduct attacks on the Homeland.”
According to a 2016 investigative report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Saudi Arabia has the second-most ISIS soldiers, with at least 2,500. Assuming the IGA report is correct, a startling 16 percent of these soldiers were living in the U.S. when they committed to join ISIS.
Saudis Not Stopping It
The IGA report also condemns the Saudi government for being aware of the situation of terror recruitment and doing nothing to stop it; there has even been evidence that they have hidden pertinent information on the subject.
This flies in the face of a Barack Obama-era State Department issuance that claimed, “Saudi Arabia has continued to cooperate with the United States to prevent acts of terrorism…through information exchange agreements with the United States.”
That clearly isn’t happening in this case — but this hardly comes as a surprise. The IGA report also includes alarming details about the FBI’s own inability to identify a flow of Saudi’s exiting the U.S. and heading for the Middle East: one FBI employee, Daniela Greene, left the U.S. for Syria herself in June 2014 and married an ISIS jihadi after being assigned to do an investigation on him. Greene eventually reached what some outlets have called a “lenient plea deal” for her crime.
While Greene’s actions were condemned by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in May, the bigger issue is “that a relationship between an FBI employee and a prominent ISIS recruiter went unnoticed,” Grassley said, adding that he was “troubled that there wasn’t a safeguard to successfully catch this incident.”
Further, the recent IGA report shows that still little has been done to prevent a similar issue — with foreign students and government agents alike — from occurring again.
“It’s important for the public to understand how this happened and how similar problems will be prevented in the future,” Grassley said in May. Hopefully, Congress will act on the issue soon.
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