Individuals suspected of Islamic State sympathies monitored by law enforcement are not Syrian trained and members of terrorist cells, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
Instead, those monitored are “angry, troubled people” who may be inspired by social media attributed to the Islamic State.
“They’re targeting the school-shooter types, the mentally ill, people with dysfunctional families and those struggling to cope with different issues,” said one law enforcement official. “We have been pretty successful in disrupting these cases because they are not very sophisticated or smart.”
Less than fifty Americans have traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State. Most have stayed there or were killed and the small number returning soon lose interest in the Islamic State, according to officials. The FBI discovers their travels only after they post to Facebook and Twitter.
“Being an Islamic State sympathizer is not against the law. Neither is expressing hatred for the United States on Twitter. Buying guns is also legal, and investigators have watched nervously as terrorism suspects passed background checks and purchased guns more than 2,000 times in the past decade, according to government data,” the Times reports.
Few expect the FBI to find an “angry, violence-obsessed young man and arrest him before he shoots his classmates,” but failing to find a violent person inspired by Islamic State social media is considered a failure of intelligence.
In a 20-month period the agency realized a 300 percent increase in arrests related to terror investigations, many based on social media activity. In recent years the FBI has come under criticism for using sting operations to set-up and bust supposed terrorist sympathizers.
Despite there being few if any Islamic State terror cells in the United States and the government stating “there is no specific or credible threat to the United States,” officials say they are bracing for attacks in Washington D.C. and New York City based on videos posted to the internet.
Security measures are now in place to protect airports, sports stadiums, movie theaters, subways and mass transit, bridges and tunnels, the electric grid, the water supply and government buildings.