The Senate’s newly-released report on alleged torture of terror detainees after the 9/11 attacks is “unlikely” to inspire near-term attacks inside the U.S. homeland, but it is “very likely” to be used by terrorist groups for their future propaganda, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned local law enforcement across the country today.
“The FBI, DHS, and [National Counterterrorism Center] assess the most likely impact of the report will be attempts by foreign terrorist organizations … and their online supporters to exploit the report’s findings by claiming they confirm the U.S. government’s perceived hypocrisy and oppression of Muslims,” the FBI and DHS said in a joint intelligence bulletin distributed within hours of the report’s release.
Al Qaeda-linked groups and the Islamic State, the Iraq-based group also known as ISIS that has occupied large swaths of northern Syria and western Iraq, have often made U.S. detention and interrogation policies a central theme of their online messaging. Such critiques are “likely attempts to validate supporters’ existing grievances and convince them to pursue attacks in the Homeland or travel overseas to fight,” the bulletin said.
The bulletin noted that in brutal videos released by ISIS showing the beheadings of American and British hostages, the captives wore orange jumpsuits “reminiscent of those used by U.S.-held prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.”
The online propaganda campaign by ISIS has proved effective, inspiring scores of Americans and thousands of others from around the world to join terrorists in Iraq and neighboring Syria. And the bulletin said such Americans who have been radicalized online are still likely to prioritize joining ISIS overseas rather than launching their own attack inside the United States.
Specifically, the bulletin concluded that homegrown terrorists “are unlikely to mobilize to violence in the near term as a direct result of the information released” in the Senate report because many aspects of the CIA program had already been “widely publicized,” and past attacks by homegrown terrorists “have typically not been linked to public disclosures of U.S. detention and interrogation activities.”
The bulletin, obtained by ABC News, did not include the common refrain that the FBI and DHS have found no specific, credible threat. But law enforcement sources say that, in fact, the U.S. intelligence community has not come across any specific, credible or actionable intelligence indicating a threat inside the U.S. homeland tied to the Senate report.
Nevertheless, the bulletin said: “We cannot rule out … attempts to conduct isolated or opportunistic attacks after the release of the report given the individualized process of radicalization to violence and unpredictable nature of [homegrown terrorists].”
In addition, the bulletin said the Senate report’s “focus on actions taken by the CIA and other government entities could motivate some [homegrown terrorists] … to consider targeting U.S. government officials, such as intelligence officers or military personnel.” The bulletin cited a recent ISIS audio message encouraging supporters in the West to attack “soldiers, patrons, and troops … their police, security, and intelligence members.”
On Monday, the White House warned that the Senate report could spark violence against U.S. interests outside the United States.