CIA Director: ‘I’d Be Surprised’ if Islamic State Hasn’t Planned Istanbul-Style Attack in U.S.

TOPSHOT - EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A Turkish police officer directs a passenger at Ataturk airport in Istanbul June 28, 2016 after two explosions followed by gunfire hit Turkey's biggest airport, killing at least 28 people and injuring 20. All flights at Istanbul's Ataturk international airport were suspended on …
OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

Within hours of the horrific attack on the Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, CIA Director John Brennan told Yahoo News it appeared to be the handiwork of the Islamic State and warned that ISIS is probably planning to conduct such an attack on U.S. airports.

“I’d be surprised if Daesh is not trying to carry out that kind of attack in the United States,” said Brennan, using another name for the Islamic State.

Yahoo News notes that ISIS had not formally claimed responsibility for the attack as of Wednesday morning, and their culpability could not be determined with absolute certainty, but Brennan pointed out that the scale and methodology of the suicide-vest assault were far more reminiscent of the Islamic State’s operations than the radical Kurdish nationalists Turkey has been fighting. Of course, the specific example that springs to mind is the ISIS massacre at the Zaventem airport in Brussels earlier this year.

The Hill reports that later on Wednesday, at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, Brennan repeated that the Istanbul airport attack “bears the hallmarks of ISIL’s depravity.”

Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, also seem to believe ISIS is responsible, noting that the terror state has called for attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The significance of the airport as both a hub of international travel and a monument to Turkey’s visionary leader Kemal Ataturk also point toward the Islamic State, as does Turkey’s recent tightening of control over its Syrian border and the permission granted to the U.S. for carrying out anti-ISIS airstrikes from Turkey’s Incirlik airbase.

“For terrorist organisations, there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago or Antalya,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised address on Wednesday.

Brennan cited the Islamic State’s hunger for civilian casualties, murdered in as many locations around the world as possible, and the relative ease of constructing suicide vests like those worn by Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport attackers as reasons to worry about follow-up attacks.

“You look at what happened in the Turkish airport, these were suicide vests. It’s not that difficult to actually construct and fabricate a suicide vest… so if you have a determined enemy and individuals who are not concerned about escape, that they are going into it with a sense that they are going to die, that really does complicate your strategy in terms of preventing attacks,” he said.

Brennan was not quite on the same page as other administration officials, such as Secretary of State John Kerry, who claim the recent spate of attacks against soft civilian targets by the Islamic State are signs of desperation. While Brennan said the Islamic State was using terrorist attacks to “offset” its battlefield setbacks, he added that the terror offensive was “not solely” a reaction to those losses.

“Over the past year and a half they have made a more determined effort to carry out attacks abroad, and we see in terms of their plans, their preparations, the movement of people as well as propagandizing outside, exhorting, inciting a much more determined effort to carry out these external operations,” Brennan told Yahoo News, adding that he was “very concerned” about the anti-ISIS coalition’s lack of success at thwarting the caliphate’s “ability to reach beyond the Syria-Iraqi borders and put in place some of the plans and preparations to carry out attacks.”

Brennan also complained that Russia’s military invention in Syria had secured dictator Bashar Assad’s throne in Damascus, which makes the terrorist situation worse, given how many terrorist elements have flocked to the Syrian insurrection. That’s a rather striking admission from anyone in the Obama administration, which was previously confident of its ability to find good-guy rebels it could sponsor against Assad.

Of course, the Russians would turn Brennan’s argument around and claim that the United States’s continuing indulgence of “terrorists,” which is how Moscow describes all insurgent forces in Syria, is to blame for the dire international terrorist situation, and the wisest course of action would be for the U.S. to help end the Syrian civil war and join Russia and Syria in destroying the Islamic State.


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