Obama’s ISIS Strategy Includes Outreach to U.S. Muslims


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With the primary focus on air strikes and the potential for ground troops to fight Syria-based ISIS, the Obama administration more quietly is tapping new domestic resources to identify and head off any Americans considering joining the terror group.

Attorney General Eric Holder in his Sept. 15 weekly video message announced that the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Homeland Security Department have launched pilot programs for community outreach by U.S. attorneys and police in several cities, having already conducted 1,700 such “engagement meetings” since 2012.

“We can be both innovative and aggressive in countering violent extremism,” Holder said, “while keeping with our core democratic values of freedom, openness and inclusion.” This is according to a report by govexec.com.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Sept. 16 told a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, “Within DHS, we have programs to engage in outreach to communities which themselves are able to reach young men who may turn to violence. I have directed that we step up these programs and personally I participate in them.  In June I met with a Syrian-American community group in a Chicago suburb. Later this month I will meet with a Somali community in Columbus, Ohio.”

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The House hearing focused on uncertainty about securing of the Southwest border against radical Islamist intruders and proposals to confiscate some Americans’ passports. Secretary Johnson said, “We are continually on guard against the potential domestic-based, home-grown terrorist threat who may be lurking in our own society.  The independent actor or ‘lone wolf’ is in many respects, this is the hardest terrorist threat to detect, and the one I worry about the most.”

David Gersten, Homeland Security’s coordinator for countering terrorist extremism, said Muslim American communities need to be the “front lines” against Islamist fighters’ efforts to recruit youths to join the so-called Islamic State.

Matthew Olsen, the departing director of the National Counterterrorism Center, added, “Neighbors and the communities at risk are best positioned to identify” the locals who might be influenced by propaganda to pursue terrorism.

The domestic outreach was cited by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He called the program, in cooperation with international partners, “a very important component of our overall strategy.”