WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A former CIA operative warns that sleeper cells of the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are already in the United States and that they are capable of launching an attack on the homeland.
The warning from Bob Baer comes after ISIS released a video Tuesday showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff. The terror group also killed U.S. journalist James Foley in the same gruesome manner in a video released two weeks ago.
“The people who collect tactical intelligence on the ground, day-to-day – and this isn’t Washington – but people collecting this stuff say they’re here, ISIS is here, they’re capabale of striking,” Baer, a CNN national security analyst, told the news network.
“They don’t know what their plans and intentions are. But it’s a definite concern,” Baer continued.
The former CIA operative explained to CNN that U.S. intelligence agents are concerned about suspected ISIS militants who they believe have crossed the U.S.-Mexican border, or are American citizens who have come back from fighting in Syria.
“They can’t prove it. They’re waiting to get enough intelligence to actually run them in,” Baer explained to CNN. “And then there’s the unknown, of how many people have come back they’re not even aware of.”
He added that the “people who do this for a living are very alarmed.”
In the video released by ISIS, the executioner said that Sotloff’s death happened due to the continued airstrikes against the group in Iraq.
“I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State, because of your insistence on continuing your bombings … and on Mosul Dam, despite our serious warnings,” the executioner said. “You, Obama, have but to gain from your actions but another American citizen. So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”
During a press conference in Estonia on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said that the U.S. will not be intimidated by ISIS and that a coalition will be built to “degrade and destroy” the terror group.
“We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists,” Obama said. “And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.”
Obama also sought to clean up the damage from his statement last week that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the Islamic State group in Syria. Republicans quickly seized on the remark to argue the president lacks a coherent approach to fighting the extremist group.
“It is very important from my perspective that when we send our pilots in to do a job, that we know that this is a mission that’s going to work, that we’re very clear on what our objectives are, what our targets are,” Obama said. “We’ve made the case to Congress and we’ve made the case to the American people, and we’ve got allies behind us so that it’s not just a one-off, but it’s something that over time is going to be effective.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., released a statement Tuesday explaining he will be introducing legislation to give Obama authority to order U.S. military airstrikes in Syria to take out ISIS militants.
Nelson’s statement came following the release of the video showing Sotloff’s beheading.
“This will ensure there’s no question that the president has the legal authority he needs to use airstrikes in Syria,” Nelson said. “Let there be no doubt, we must go after ISIS right away because the U.S. is the only one that can put together a coalition to stop this group that’s intent on barbaric cruelty.”
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