Homeland Security: Why Yes, Americans With U.S. Passports Fighting For ISIS Are a Threat

Posted: Sep 11, 2014 8:30 AM

For months intelligence agencies, lawmakers and everyday citizens have been sounding the alarm and voicing concerns about hundreds of Americans fighting for ISIS who still hold valid U.S. or western passports. At this point, the State Department still has not confirmed that passports belong to Americans knowingly fighting for ISIS have been revoked, boosting concerns ISIS fighters will use them to regain entrance into the United States. Now, officials inside the Department of Homeland Security are finally admitting that Americans fighting with ISIS and in possession of U.S. passports do in fact pose a threat.

The admission to the threat came yesterday during a hearing held by the House Homeland Security Committee. Chairman Michael McCaul expressed concerns about Americans fighting for ISIS returning to the United States undetected. 

“My biggest concern is we don’t have sufficient intelligence, human intelligence, in particular in Syria, to identify the 100 to 200 Americans that are over there, and that we don’t have sufficient intelligence on these tens of thousands of foreign fighters that could board an airplane and come into the United States,” McCaul said. “When I ask the question ‘Do we have a high degree of confidence?’ as to who these people are over there, I’m not always satisfied with the answer. I think the honest answer is ‘We don’t.’ I would urge this administration - and I’m hopeful that the president tonight will articulate a policy, a strong policy, since we pulled out of Iraq completely without a status of forces agreement and left a vacuum there that has developed into what is one of the biggest threats to the homeland in Iraq and Syria - that we regain that reconnaissance, that intelligence, and also that intelligence on the ground to determine who is over there so that we can stop them from coming back to the United States and killing Americans.”

"As an operational organization, we’re always looking for additional sources of information to help us paint a better picture of a traveler. if we can figure out what their intentions are by having access to additional information and how we would us it, in what circumstances we would use it and how we would protect it,” Assistant CBP Commissioner for Office of Field Operations John Wagner said in response to McCaul's concerns.

“We continue to look at the known terrorists to look at travel patterns, to look at who they’re connected to, to look at some of the data elements that we may be able to utilize to identify future people,” Acting Assistant CBP Commissioner for Intelligence Tony Miller added. 

At this point, TSA and Customs and Border Protection have not announced extra security measures for travelers with flights coming from Syria.