US Attorney General Eric Holder expressed his concern about recent reports indicating that Syrian terrorists were joining forces with Yemeni bomb-makers, calling the threats “more frightening” than anything else he had encountered as Attorney General. His comments came in an ABC News interview that aired on Sunday.
American officials learned earlier this year that a Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda was collaborating with the Yemeni bomb-makers who designed the 2009 Christmas Day “underwear bomb” used in an attempt to attack a plane over Detriot. Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate has been linked to three attempts to smuggle explosives onto airliners. Authorities have been following both groups separately, but the reports of their partnership have raised red flags. In particular, apprehensions about the possible partnership played a role in the decision earlier this year to keep on the lookout for explosive-laden cosmetics, shoes and toothpaste tubes.
When asked about the possibility of an explosive device small enough to fit inside a cellphone, Holder intimated that the recent TSA restrictions of dead cellphones were established “in reaction to things that we have detected.” The Department of Homeland Security announced ahead of the Fourth of July weekend that it would be adding stronger security measures at certain airports overseas. The most notable new rule stated that cellphones and other electrical devices without any battery power will not be allowed on flights.
Holder has been in Europe meeting with his counterparts about security challenges and concerns stemming from the growing conflicts in Syria and Iraq. In Norway’s capital of Oslo last week, Holder beseeched European leaders to adopt tougher security measures such as undercover stings in their efforts to prevent terrorists from traveling to Iraq or Syria, where they could receive training before being sent back to Europe to commit an act of terrorism. Holder also urged the enactment of stronger laws for criminalizing the aiding and abetting of terrorists.
The attorney general said that such a situation presented a “clear and present danger.” Eric Holder’s concern regarding the possibility of these kinds of terrorist threats was punctuated by his description of them as “more frightening” than anything that he had encountered thus far in his tenure as attorney general.
According to him, the FBI was investigating dozens of cases involving American citizens who had gone to Syria and then returned to the States. American authorities believe that approximately 7,000 foreigners have traveled to Syria to join rebels fighting against the forces of President Bashar Assad. FBI Director James Comey has said that the government is investing a massive amount of time and effort in trying to identify those that have traveled to Syria.
Holder also expressed his concerns about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, which last month conquered a huge swath of territory in Iraq that included the country’s second-largest city, Mosul. The attorney general said that he believed that it was only a matter of time before ISIS starts targeting Western interests.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s frightening and foreboding concerns regarding the terrorist threats facing the West at the hands of Islamist fundamentalists highlights the profound security challenges with which the US is forced to contend. In an inauspicious if succinct analysis of the geopolitical situation, Holder concluded the interview by simply saying these were dangerous times.
By Yitzchak Besser