19-year-old Shannon Conley pled guilty today on charges of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization today. She’s the suburban Colorado gal who got nicked by the FBI while trying to board a plane to join up with ISIS in Syria. Her potential sentence, according to CBS News, is a surprisingly light five years in federal prison, plus a $250,000 fine. With time off for good behavior, she ought to be back on the streets long before President Obama’s new three-year strategy to dismantle the Islamic State plays out. (Let’s be honest, even if she shanks somebody in prison and serves extra time, she’ll probably still be out before Obama’s strategy could run its course.)
Conley said she wanted to put her training as a nurse’s aid at the service of the Islamic State. She apparently sought to augment her skill set with U.S. Army Explorer training and NRA certification, and first came to the attention of authorities because she was stalking her local Faith Bible Chapel and making the sort of sketches that would be useful in an attack. She reportedly told the FBI she considers American military bases, government employees, and public officials “legitimate targets of attack.”
According to an article at the UK Daily Mail, a fellow university student said she “tried out several different religions in a period of six months before finally settling on Islam.” The authorities found some CDs from the late jihadi imam Anwar al-Awlaki among her belongings.
How many more Shannon Conleys might be out there? FBI Director James Comey said he couldn’t be sure: “When I give you the number of more than 100, I can’t tell you with high confidence that’s a 100 of 200, that’s a 100 of 500, that’s a 100 of a 1,000 or more, because it’s so hard to track.” And he’s just referring to Americans who actually went abroad to fight with ISIS. The ones who didn’t go abroad are harder to detect, harder to separate from the pack of Internet jackasses and blowhards.
The ideological outreach of ISIS is one of its most troubling aspects. They’re more virulent that old-school al-Qaeda, not to mention far more of a military force. Those jackasses and blowhards are a security issue too, because even though they might never be persuaded to kill or die for the jihad, they still provide a sympathetic culture for the hardcore terrorists to operate within.
It’s also disturbing that the Islamic State is having considerable success recruiting young women across the Western world. Another example comes from the New York Post, which introduces us to a pair of cute-as-a-button teenage Austrian girls who turned into burqa-wrapped jihad harpies, and aggressively sought to recruit other young women to the ISIS cause:
Samra Kesinovic, 16, and Sabina Selimovic, 15, are the daunting duo feared to be encouraging young Austrian girls to flee their country and take up arms in Syria to help ISIS spread violence, Central European News reports.
Austria’s Interior Ministry has confirmed that two additional girls from Vienna — ages 16 and 14 — recently were nabbed trying to sneak out of the country and join the Islamic State jihadists.
They were caught when the mother of a third friend who was supposed to go with them to Syria grew suspicious when she noticed all the luggage her daughter had packed.
Little is known about the two, but their parents are believed to be from Iraq. Police are trying to piece together how the wannabe jihadis could have become radicalized and who may have lent a direct hand in getting them to Syria.
Piecing together how they got radicalized seems rather urgent, as a spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry said “the problem with teenagers fleeing the country to commit bloodshed abroad is something that’s increased greatly and is difficult to fix.” I’m not looking forward to finding out how many teenagers didn’t flee their countries of birth, but have still been assimilated into a culture that seems very canny about exploiting youthful alienation and spiritual emptiness, and developed a taste for bloodshed.