Syria a U.S. homeland security threat: DHS chief

WASHINGTON Fri Feb 7, 2014 2:47pm EST

1 of 2. A man looks at a damaged pick-up truck at a site hit by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the Dahrat Awad neighbourhood of Aleppo February 7, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Hosam Katan

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The civil war in Syria has become a threat to U.S. national security, with Westerners traveling to fight in the conflict, where extremists try to recruit them for missions back home, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Friday.

"Syria has become a matter of homeland security," Johnson said in his first policy speech since assuming the job in December.

He said U.S. authorities are paying close attention to foreign fighters heading to Syria, where an array of opposition forces includes Western-backed groups and Islamist factions.

"We know individuals from the U.S., Canada and Europe are traveling to Syria to fight in the conflict," he said. "At the same time, extremists are actively trying to recruit Westerners, indoctrinate them, and see them return to their home countries with an extremist mission."

Johnson, who met in Poland with his European counterparts this week, said Syria was the No. 1 topic of conversation there.

He said the threat to Americans he worries about most was from "lone wolf" extremists who do not train with al Qaeda or other militant groups but "self-radicalize" at home, as in the Boston Marathon bombing last year.

"It may be the hardest to detect, involves independent actors living within our midst, with easy access to things that, in the wrong hands, become tools for mass violence," Johnson said in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

But he stressed that vigilance against such threats should not be at the expense of civil liberties and fundamental American values.

Johnson succeeded Janet Napolitano as DHS secretary. He was previously the Defense Department's general counsel during President Barack Obama's first term.

There, he was involved in ending the military's ban on gays serving in the armed forces and in formulating the administration's policy for the use of unmanned drones to strike at enemy targets.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chris Reese) nL2N0LC1H9

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Comments (11)
Kahnie wrote:
Yes, and they bought yellowcake in Niger and have mobile rocket launchers like in Iraq. Let’em go and don’t let’em back. Homeland Security should stop’em at the border.

Feb 07, 2014 3:37pm EST  --  Report as abuse
PeaceinDRC wrote:
One had to be blind not to think that Syria mess will come back to hunt US as extremists try to take advantage of the chaos..

Feb 07, 2014 4:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
“…So give us more money please thank you very much wow that was fast!”

Feb 07, 2014 4:09pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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