CIA chief expects more IS at­tacks in ‘pipe­line’

US states shun Syr­ian refugees af­ter Paris car­nage

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON: CIA di­rec­tor John Bren­nan warned yes­ter­day that the at­tacks in Paris were likely not a “one off event” and that he expects the Is­lamic State group has more oper­a­tions in the pipe­line. “Se­cu­rity and in­tel­li­gence ser­vices right now are work­ing fever­ishly to see what else they can do in terms of un­cov­er­ing it,” he said at a Wash­ing­ton think tank. The CIA chief said Fri­day night’s at­tacks by gun­men in sui­cide vests in the heart of the French cap­i­tal were care­fully planned and ex­e­cuted.

“This was not some­thing done in a mat­ter of days. This is some­thing that was care­fully and de­lib­er­ately planned over the course of sev­eral months in terms of whether they had the op­er­a­tives, the weapons, ex­plo­sives, sui­cide belts. I would an­tic­i­pate that this is not the only op­er­a­tion ISIL has in the pipe­line,” he said, us­ing an alternate acro­nym for IS, the mil­i­tant group that has seized large ar­eas of Syria and Iraq.

At least 129 peo­ple were killed in the at­tacks car­ried out by at least eight gun­men nearly si­mul­ta­ne­ously at a sta­dium, a con­cert hall and restau­rants as throngs of Parisians were en­joy­ing a night out. The at­tacks were the lat­est in a burst of hor­rific at­tacks at­trib­uted to IS - fol­low­ing the ap­par­ent bomb­ing Oc­to­ber 31 of a Rus­sian air­liner over the Si­nai with 224 peo­ple aboard and twin sui­cide bomb­ings that killed 44 peo­ple in Beirut on Thurs­day.

“They are look­ing abroad to have th­ese spec­tac­u­lar at­tacks to fur­ther their nar­ra­tive that the caliphate is grow­ing and is suc­cess­ful,” Bren­nan said.

In­tel­li­gence ser­vices were aware that IS was plan­ning at­tacks out­side their strongholds in Iraq and Syria, par­tic­u­larly tar­get­ing Europe, Bren­nan said. “I can tell you it was not a sur­prise that this at­tack was car­ried out, from a stand­point that we did have strate­gic warn­ing, we knew plans, plot­ting by ISIL was un­der­way, look­ing par­tic­u­larly at Europe as a venue for car­ry­ing out th­ese at­tacks,” he said.

But the large num­bers of in­di­vid­u­als who have gone to Syria and Iraq and then re­turned to Europe, he said, has strained the ca­pac­ity of Euro­pean in­tel­li­gence ser­vices to mon­i­tor them all. The fact that such a com­plex plot was car­ried out with­out be­ing de­tected also shows IS has “gone to school on what they need to do in or­der to keep their ac­tiv­i­ties con­cealed from the au­thor­i­ties”, he said.

Bren­nan made a pitch for re­view­ing curbs placed in re­cent years on the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices’ sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­i­ties, say­ing “unau­tho­rized dis­clo­sures” and “hand­wring­ing” had made in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to track down ter­ror­ists “much more chal­leng­ing”. The Paris at­tacks show IS is shift­ing its sights to the West, rais­ing ques­tions about a US-led strat­egy that has fo­cused on air strikes on its strongholds in Syria.

Bren­nan, how­ever, ar­gued that con­tain­ing the group in the re­gion re­mains the most ef­fec­tive strat­egy, and said there have been no­table suc­cesses in dis­rupt­ing the flow of peo­ple and ma­te­rial needed to carry out at­tacks. Like­wise, he cau­tioned that clos­ing bor­ders ei­ther in Europe or the United States was in­con­sis­tent with western val­ues and “not sus­tain­able”. “We don’t want to have th­ese ter­ror­ists suc­ceed in tak­ing away the free­doms and lib­er­ties that we pride our­selves on, whether it be here in the United States or in Europe.” But he said no coun­try was “im­mune from ISIL’s touch”.

Mean­while, at least eight US states are seek­ing to block a pro­gram to re­set­tle Syr­ian refugees within their bor­ders, cit­ing se­cu­rity fears in the wake of the Paris at­tacks. The move­ment swelled Sun­day and Mon­day, prompt­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to push back by urg­ing the United States to “step up and do its part” to help those flee­ing war-torn Syria. The dis­cov­ery of a Syr­ian pass­port near the body of one Paris as­sailant, has re­vived Europe’s de­bate on how hard a line to take on record mi­grant in­flux from Syria.

In the United States, Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls Marco Ru­bio and Jeb Bush said out­right Amer­ica must not take in Syr­ian refugees be­cause they might in­clude Is­lamic State mil­i­tants. And Repub­li­can state gov­er­nors lined up to re­ject plans to re­set­tle Syr­i­ans on US soil. “Given the tragic at­tacks in Paris and the threats we have al­ready seen, Texas can­not par­tic­i­pate in any pro­gram that will re­sult in Syr­ian refugees - any one of whom could be con­nected to ter­ror­ism - be­ing re­set­tled in Texas,” Gov­er­nor Greg Ab­bott of the large southern state wrote yes­ter­day in a let­ter to Obama.

Ab­bott urged the pres­i­dent to halt his plans to re­set­tle thou­sands of Syr­ian refugees in the United States, ar­gu­ing the gov­ern­ment could not pro­vide safety guar­an­tees. “As such, open­ing our door to them ir­re­spon­si­bly ex­poses our fel­low Amer­i­cans to un­ac­cept­able peril,” he said. Mis­sis­sippi Gov­er­nor Phil Bryant is­sued a sim­i­larly blunt state­ment, say­ing “I will do ev­ery­thing hu­manly pos­si­ble to stop any plans from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to put Syr­ian refugees in Mis­sis­sippi.” Obama’s pol­icy of wel­com­ing such in­di­vid­u­als “is not only mis­guided, it is ex­tremely dan­ger­ous.”

Alabama and Michi­gan an­nounced their op­po­si­tion to Syr­ian refugees on Sun­day. In ad­di­tion to Mis­sis­sipi and Texas, they have been joined by Arkansas, In­di­ana, Louisiana and Illi­nois. All eight states are led by Repub­li­can gov­er­nors. Alabama Gov­er­nor Robert Bent­ley op­posed Demo­crat Obama’s plans, say­ing “I will not stand com­plicit to a pol­icy that places the cit­i­zens of Alabama in harm’s way.”

Gov­er­nor Rick Sny­der, whose state of Michi­gan is home to one of Amer­ica’s largest con­cen­tra­tions of Mid­dle East im­mi­grants, said he had de­cided to sus­pend ar­rivals of Syr­ian refugees un­der Obama’s pro­gram un­til the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity com­pletes a “full re­view” of se­cu­rity clear­ances and pro­ce­dures. Michi­gan’s lead­ing news­pa­per, the Detroit Free Press, re­ported that be­tween 1,800 and 2,000 refugees have re­set­tled in the state over the past year, about 200 of whom were from Syria.

An­other US gov­er­nor, Louisiana’s Bobby Jin­dal who also is run­ning for the Repub­li­can Party’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, wrote Obama Satur­day ex­press­ing “grave con­cern” about al­low­ing Syr­ian mi­grants into the coun­try, and say­ing it would be “pru­dent to pause the process”. “Au­thor­i­ties need to in­ves­ti­gate what hap­pened in Europe be­fore this prob­lem comes to the United States,” Jin­dal wrote. Jin­dal com­plained he was kept in the dark about Syr­ian refugees as they be­gan ar­riv­ing in New Or­leans ear­lier this month. “It is ir­re­spon­si­ble and se­verely dis­con­cert­ing to place in­di­vid­u­als, who may have ties to ISIS, in a state with­out the state’s knowl­edge or in­volve­ment,”he said. — — Agen­cies

John Bren­nan

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