As many (though not enough) people know by now, the United States has supported Al Qaeda-linked jihadists in our effort to topple Assad of Syria. Now some those fighters are coming home to America
. Apparently, at least a hundred of them were Americans to begin with.
In recent months, the U.S. intelligence community has made the tracking of all Westerners going to fight into Syria a top priority. Speaking in March before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, described in vague terms an effort by the whole government to find Western citizens traveling to Syria and to track their travel.
Can you spot the obvious problem here? These guys should be on "no-fly" lists, yet they were allowed to get on airplanes, flying to Syria and flying back. Maybe they sat in a plane carrying someone you know. (Thoughts of the crotch-bomber should now be dancing in your head.)
A moderate amount of between-the-lines reading tells us that these people were encouraged -- perhaps even recruited -- to fight in Syria.
Now apply those same between-the-lines reading skills to the following passage:
The problem, U.S. counter-terrorism and intelligence officials tell The Daily Beast, is that there are just so many jihadists with Western passports traveling to fight in Syria that they worry some of them may slip back into the United States without being detected.
“The NSA does not have the ability to track thousands of bad guys—and on the human intelligence side, this is even more difficult,” another senior U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “So we are worried that people are slipping through the cracks.”
Olsen in his March testimony said there were thousands of foreign fighters in Syria and that hundreds of those fighters held Western passports.
The NSA does
have the ability. Had it decades ago. How hard is it to know when a guy on a list gets on and off a jet? How many stories have we read in which some utterly inoffensive person is prevented from boarding a jet because his name somehow ended up on a "no-fly" list?
It could be argued that some of the jihadis/rebels/whatever traveling to Syria used stolen passports. Although that sort of thing does happen
, I'm not sure that this possibility explains everything. How can those "senior officials" say that these fighters were using "Western passports" unless said officials have a pretty good idea as to who is holding which document?
This bodes ill. If a new domestic terror attack occurs, and if one of these anti-Assad fighters is identified as the perpetrator -- well, let's all study the matter very
This Daily Beast story attracted some rather hip comments...
"more than 100 Americans have joined the jihad in Syria to fight alongside Sunni terrorists there."
So now they're terrorists fighting jihad. They used to be revolutionaries fighting oppression by Assad. How interesting.
There should be NO PROBLEMS TRACKING ANYONE who has recently gone to Syria whether they are American or Western European. The have the names.
Added added note:
LiePar Destin points out that one of the NSA Powerpoint documents provided by Ed Snowden falsifies the NSA's claim that they can't track "thousands of bad guys" when they travel by plane. I've put that document at the very top of this post. Looks like the official who made that remark was lying his spooky ass off.
If the job of tracking "thousands of bad guys" is too much for the NSA to handle, then why are we giving them billions of dollars? And why did we give up our right to privacy?