CNN is reporting that U.S. military bases raised their threat alert levels on Thursday night in response to increased activity on the part of the Islamic State, and on a message released Wednesday by the jihadist group claiming that they have 71 “trained” jihadists prepared to attack within the United States.
CNN reports that the threat level at bases was raised to “Force Protection Bravo,” according to one unnamed American official, which the Pentagon describes as “increased and predictable threat of terrorism.” The news outlet notes that this is the highest threat alert level bases have been raised to since the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. An official confirmed to CNN that Admiral William Gortney, head of U.S. Northern Command, signed the order to raise the threat level.
CNN also quotes Captain Jeff Davis, spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command, as stating that the raised threat level is “the new normal” and military bases will have “increased vigilance and force protection.” “We seek to be unpredictable,” he added.
The threat level alert follows remarks by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter that such threats should be “taken seriously,” and that, while the Islamic State remains an inspiration to homegrown terrorists more than director commanders, their influence is “concerning.”
The Islamic State’s repeated insistence that their foot soldiers are working within American borders follows an attack on Sunday night on a Draw Muhammad art contest in Garland, Texas. The two shooters– Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi of Phoenix, Arizona– failed to enter the event, though they approached it armed and immediately began shooting at security personnel. A traffic officer neutralized them before they could approach attendees.
Following the attack, the Islamic State released audio claiming that they were responsible for the attack. This was followed by a written statement, signed by ISIS propagandist Abu Ibrahim Al Ameriki, claiming that the group has “71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack any target we desire,” and calling for the “slaughter” of Pamela Geller, organizer of the Draw Muhammad free speech event.
There is no evidence to suggest that high-ranking Islamic State terrorists organized the attack. Experts have suggested that, on the contrary, the shooters organized the attack themselves in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the leadership. This type of terror organization, law enforcement officials have said, poses a new challenge to law enforcement, as the lack of a direct link between terrorist groups and “lone wolf” actors provides law enforcement with less evidence to use in arresting aspiring terrorists before they act.
Soofi, who is only known to have spoken about radical Islamism with his family and was not on the FBI’s radar, proves this difficulty. Simpson, on the other hand, was known to the FBI and particularly active on social media, discussing with known terrorists believed to be waging jihad in the Middle East and in Africa his desire to join them. Simpson was arrested in 2010 after telling an FBI informant on tape that he was interested in traveling to Somalia and joining Al-Shabaab, a jihadist group affiliated with Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is currently a rival group to ISIS, though in 2010, ISIS was still considered an official subgroup of Al Qaeda.