Congressman: U.S. Missed Chattanooga Attack But Foiled ‘Over 60’ ISIS-Linked Plots

Michael McCaul (R-Texas) fears an attack can happen ‘anywhere, any time, any place.’

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – In the wake of a deadly attack at two military recruitment centers here that took the lives of four marines and a sailor, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee heralded U.S. successes against “over 60” would-be terrorist attacks by “ISIS followers” in the last year.

On Sunday (July19), appearing on ABC, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said there are active terror investigations in all 50 states, and there have been more than 60 ISIS-related arrests in the past year. While he commended the efforts of law enforcement, he said: “What keeps us up at night are the ones that we don’t know about, and I’m afraid that [Chattanooga] falls into that category.”

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The fifth victim of the attack, 26-year-old sailor Randall Smith, died of his wounds on Saturday. The marines who died on Thursday were Thomas Sullivan, Carson Holmquist, Skip Wells and David Wyatt. Two other men were injured.

The shooting suspect, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a 24-year-old Kuwaiti-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was shot dead by police. McCaul said the FBI was examining Abdulazeez’s computer and cellphone and investigating his trips abroad.

Asked why Abdulazeez had been able to buy guns online and then open fire on a joint military recruiting center and a naval reserve center, the Texas Republican said: “20-20 is hindsight. I commend the FBI for stopping so many terrorist plots in the United States. But we will be examining this case.”

McCaul had previously called the attack “ISIS-inspired,” referring to the Islamic State militant group. The FBI has not confirmed that it considers the Chattanooga shooting a terrorist act.

McCaul heralded FBI successes in stopping plots he said were instigated by “a new generation of terrorists” who followed “internet directives out of Syria from the cyber command, if you will, to activate people in the United States to attack.

“What they are saying is to attack military installations and attack police officers and what we saw was one of the most deadliest attacks on U.S. soil, against the Marines and the American sailor,” he said.

“But this is, again, the new threat that’s out there over the internet that’s very hard to stop,” he added. “We have 200,000 ISIS tweets per day that hit the United States. The chatter is so loud and the volume is so high that it’s a problem. It’s very hard to stop and disrupt in this country and it’s something we’ve been warning about this last year.”

McCaul was asked why lessons had not been learned from the case of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who in 2013, despite being known to authorities, carried out with his younger brother the Boston Marathon bombing, killing three people and injuring more than 260.

“I was one of the biggest critics of how it was handled, and that particular case, we saw it fall through the cracks,” he said.

“We’ll be conducting oversight and discussing what happened. But again, when we stopped the Fourth of July plot, it was imminent to blow up military and Fourth of July parades. We stopped Garland,” he added.

Authorities warned of imminent attacks on the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Such attacks did not materialize, prompting accusations in some quarters of scare tactics.

In Garland, Texas, in May, two men opened fire on a convention center which was hosting a “Draw the Prophet Muhammad” competition hosted by a rightwing group. The two attackers were shot dead by police, without causing injury themselves.

McCaul also advocated “taking the war” to what he called “cyber commanders” of terrorist groups overseas. “I’ve met with the generals who conduct the war on terror,” he said, “and you know what, I think we need to take the war over there a little stronger.

“We need to hit these guys, these cyber commanders who are sending these internet directives out to attack, attack, attack in the United States. We need to identify them and take them out,” he added.

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