Last year saw the most terrorist attacks and plots in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Heritage Foundation’s tally, which was released Friday just as the Obama administration announced a series of new terror-related arrests and indictments.
The 13 “Islamist-inspired” attacks and plots uncovered in 2015 were more than the previous three years combined, according to Heritage researched Riley Walters.
And 2016 is off to a bad start, with the Justice Department announcing separate terror-related indictments late Thursday of two Iraqi refugees, both of whom were admitted to the U.S. under a program President Obama has insisted is safe, yet both now stand accused of actively trying to aid terrorists in Syria.
Republicans on Capitol Hill said the two refugee arrests should force Mr. Obama to rethink his plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees this year. The president’s top aides had held up the Iraqi program as proof that they could properly screen out would-be terrorists from the refugee population, and Mr. Obama had mocked Republicans for fearing “widows and orphans.”
Yet one of the Iraqi refugees, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee while he was still a minor — a fact that Republicans said proved children could be just as dangerous when radicalized.
Mr. Al Hardan has been charged with trying to provide material support to the Islamic State.
The other man, Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, stands accused by prosecutors of having traveled to Syria to train with terrorists. According to an affidavit filed to support charges against him, he repeatedly bragged on social media of having executed Syrian security forces, and of knowing he was breaking U.S. law by visiting Syria and lying about it to U.S. immigration officials.
In both cases, authorities say they stopped the men before they conducted any plots in the U.S.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the indictments success stories saying they were “good examples of how the Department of Homeland Security, the intel community, our law enforcement and other national security agencies work effectively together to keep us safe.”
But lawmakers on Capitol Hill said the fact that the two men were admitted to the U.S. showed the holes in the president’s security plans.
“This is the kind of threat that keeps me up at night,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, who said he’d been secretly briefed on the cases before hand, and was now able to talk about them publicly — and said they were similar to other cases he’s not yet allowed to talk about.