Texas resident Bilal Hamed Abood, an Iraq-born naturalized US citizen, successfully used the border in 2013 to travel to Syria, where he fought for a Syrian rebel group. The FBI arrested Abood for lying about his initial travel to Syria when he tried to come home through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Abood claimed that he fought for a faction that was not prohibited under US law………………….Previously, government officials warned about threats to the US border posed by other terrorist groups including Al-Shabaab and Hezbollah………………

President Trump touted the ISIS threat as a reason for building his wall along the Mexican border during the campaign. He signed an executive order on Wednesday calling for the wall’s construction, but funding sources for the wall are not yet clear.


Threat Overview

(U) Texas faces the full spectrum of threats and hazards. The globalization and convergence of crime and terrorism; an unsecure border with Mexico, powerful and ruthless Mexican cartels, violent transnational and statewide gangs, and serial criminals; worldwide terrorist organizations and lone-offenders; cyber intrusions and threats; the unpredictability of catastrophic natural disasters and pandemic diseases; the high loss of life from vehicle crashes; the large amount of nationally significant critical infrastructure in Texas, and the dramatic and continued increases in the state’s population – all of these factors have resulted in an asymmetric threat environment in our state that requires constant vigilance to minimize the danger to our citizens and their families. Overlay Map of Texas on the Northeastern United States (U) Texas has 29 ports of entry, 1,254 miles of international border with Mexico, 367 miles of coastline and over 267,000 square miles of landmass, making it larger than France and twice the size of Germany. It is larger than many US states combined. El Paso is closer to San Diego, California and Houston is closer to Tallahassee, Florida than El Paso and Houston are to one another. (U) Texas is also demographically diverse, with a large population that is quickly growing. The state’s near 27.5 million residents are concentrated in large urban and suburban areas, but are also spread across vast rural areas. More than 7.1 million people live in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area, and 6.6 million in the Houston-Woodlands-Sugarland metropolitan area. At the other end of the spectrum, several Texas counties have small populations with fewer than 1,000 people. Texas’ vast distances create challenges with regard to communications and capabilities. (U) Finally, Texas has a large and diversified economy, with a gross domestic product of more than $1.4 trillion. Texas accounts for significant volumes of international trade with Mexico and other nations. The state also plays a vital role in the nation’s agriculture, defense, and energy industrial activity. Some of these industries and associated facilities have been designated as nationally important critical infrastructure. Appendix 1 provides an overview of critical infrastructure sectors and their importance.

1. Terrorism

(U) We assess that the current terrorism threat to Texas is elevated in light of the relative frequency of recent attacks and thwarted plots in Europe and in the US, organized, supported, or inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other foreign terrorist organizations. At issue is that ISIS and other terrorist groups, from afar, have succeeded in using various methods, including online propaganda and incitement messaging through social media, to inspire lone offenders and small groups to attack targets in the United States and in Europe. These inspired offenders, sometimes using the simple yet effective tactics laid out for them, are highly difficult to detect and disrupt. The incitement capability for such attacks was indicated, for instance, when two Arizona extremists, already considering various targets, noticed social media reporting about a “Draw the Prophet Mohammed” contest in Garland, Texas. In May 2015, two extremists drove to the Garland event and launched an attack at the contest location – 1 2 3 as extremists abroad had been vigorously urging American ISIS loyalists to do. A few months later, in San Bernardino, California, two local attackers killed 14 people after reportedly pledging allegiance to ISIS.4 In June 2016, a lone offender in Florida, also likely inspired in part by the group, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others inside an Orlando nightclub.5 (U) To assess the threat most accurately, we also consider the number of attacks that were attempted but thwarted, rather than merely the relative few that succeeded or the number of their victims. In the past two years, federal authorities have arrested more than 90 ISIS supporters inside the United States, and have broken up dozens of plots among them to commit violent acts inside the country.6 (U) The group’s deployment of trained operatives for attacks outside of its territory in Syria and Iraq, particularly in Europe, is relatively new. The strategy appears to have intensified amid ISIS territorial losses in those countries due to oppositional military pressure. The group’s external multi-location attack strategy as it loses territory is of particular concern to the US by the continuing volume of ISIS-inspired or supported attacks and plots, have been attempted or carried out in France, France, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, at a café in Bangladesh frequented by international customers, in The Philippines, and elsewhere where loyalist affiliates have arisen. Additional terrorist attack plots have been foiled in Europe since July 2016, when another ISIS operative in France, supported by a cell, murdered 86 people, including two Texans, by driving a truck through crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. (U) The many attacks and thwarted plots in France, Belgium and in Germany underscore the persistent threat posed by returning foreign fighters in general. But those high-casualty European attacks also relied, seemingly for the first time, on the use of illegal migration and human smuggling tactics by which ISIS infiltrated the returning fighters into Europe-bound migration flows, which may hold implications for the US-Mexico border.7 8 (U) Some of the operatives who carried out the 2015-2016 France and Belgium attacks reportedly were returning foreign terrorist fighters of French and Belgian citizenship who posed as illegal immigrant asylum seekers as they arrived at land borders. Also, a number of non-citizen migrant asylum seekers, 9 10 11 12 13 14 rather than returning citizens, were involved in later attacks and plots. For example, European counterterrorism authorities arrested a Syrian refugee planning a bombing attack in Germany,15 three Iraqi 16 17 migrants in Switzerland, and several Afghan migrants in Italy in the midst of attack planning. A Syrian asylum-seeking migrant ISIS sympathizer was shot dead after he attacked a Paris police station.18 Among many other such cases of extremist migrants, a recent immigrant attacked people on a commuter train in Germany, where counterterrorism police reportedly identified at least 40 other migrant, border-crossing asylum seekers suspected of terrorism.19

(U) Given how ISIS deployed operatives to their targets in European capitals via long-distance and illegal immigration methods, we recognize the potential that ISIS and other groups have noted the successful use of this tactic and would contemplate infiltrating operatives in the same manner across the Texas-Mexico border, possibly also posing as asylum seekers. We recognize that millions of migrants not associated with terrorism had overwhelmed European border controls in comparison. However, we note that human smugglers, working along established Latin American routes, have long transported Syrians, Iraqis, and other immigrants from countries where terrorist groups operate to our land border with Mexico, where they often seek asylum too. 20 As well, migrants from countries with a known terrorism presence – known as “special interest aliens” (SIAs) – have included travelers from Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Egypt and many other “countries of interest” in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia where terrorist groups are active. These immigrants sometimes seek asylum fraudulently at the Texas­ 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 Mexico border, as did the terrorist-immigrants upon reaching Europe. (U) Our concern extends also to the issue of refugee resettlement and the thoroughness of vetting, given some past instances in which refugees from the Middle East region have been prosecuted inside the United States for terrorism. For example, in January 2016, Houston resident and Iraqi-born refugee Omar Faraj Saeed Al-Hardan was indicted on three felony offenses related to plans both to join ISIS overseas and also to bomb two Houston malls. Al-Hardan entered the US as a legal resettled refugee in November 2009 and was granted legal permanent resident status in August 2011.30 (U) We expect the threat from ISIS-inspired homegrown violent extremists, returning foreign fighters, and external attack plots to persist over at least the next year as the terrorist organization suffers ongoing military defeats in Iraq. We reach this judgment due in part to the group’s ongoing external attack campaign, continuing online incitement messaging capability, and the movement of foreign fighters from ISIS-influenced terrorist redoubts outside of Iraq and Syria.31 (U) We also recognize the persistent threat posed by al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and other foreign terrorist organizations, such as the Pakistani Taliban, which continue to articulate their aspirations to attack the US, particularly as al-Qaeda tries to strengthen its global networks as ISIS loses territory. (U) Other threats, such as violent domestic extremists, also remain a concern, as evidenced by the July 2016 shootings of 20 Dallas and Baton Rouge law enforcement officers, as well as the November 2014 shooting attack on multiple targets in downtown Austin by a man who identified with a white supremacist ideology known as the “Phineas Priesthood.”

Full Report  threatoverview2017


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