SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Concerns about terrorism are on the minds of many people in the Tampa Bay area after Thursday’s deadly attacks at military recruiting centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Authorities say Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, used an automatic weapon when he opened fire at the recruiting centers killing four Marines and injuring a police officer, a Marine recruiter and critically injuring a Navy sailor.
Congressman Michael McCaul R-TX, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, was on an airplane heading to Sarasota with Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan Thursday when news broke of the shootings in Chattanooga.
“I came here initially to get a briefing on our counter terrorism efforts form a military perspective in the war against terror,” McCaul said. “Little did I know in the flight down here that terror would strike America in the Heartland.
MCaul began Friday with a Town meeting in Sarasota where he revealed—as Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee—he knows about recent ISIS investigations in all 50 states, including Florida. McCaul would not say if any of those threats centered on Sarasota or the Tampa Bay area. “It’s a little bit law enforcement sensitive to talk about this particular area,” McCaul told 8 on Your Side. “But your law enforcement knows.”
In his role as chair of the Homeland Security Committee, McCaul is at the epicenter of intelligence briefings and insists that a primary goal of ISIS is to attack military installations and personnel. Based on that knowledge and private briefings Friday with the FBI, McCaul later told reporters at MacDill Air Force Base he believes ISIS has a hand in the Chattanooga killings.
My judgment and my experience is this is an ISIS-inspired attack and it has been opened as a terrorism investigation by the FBI which is a very significant development in this case McCaul said. Though he concedes there is no direct proof yet of an ISIS link, he believes one will emerge as the FBI begins a forensic examination of the killer’s computers and phone.
McCaul told reporters that ISIS is winning a worldwide propaganda effort waged through the internet and social media and it’s time for America to catch up. “There are over 200,00 tweets a per day that we are trying to monitor but the volume and chatter is so high and so intense that it’s hard to get a handle on it,” McCaul said.
He also warned of “dark space” on the Internet where ISIS followers can communicate freely without worrying about intercepts.
The congressman applauded the FBI for really stepping up anti-terrorism efforts but criticized the Obama administration for complacency. Thursday’s killing of four marines is an example he says of an ISIS success amid many plots thwarted by the American intelligence system, particularly around the 4th of July holiday that just passed.
“These people are evil,” said the former federal prosecutor. “We want to take the fight to them over in Syria and Iraq and stop them from doing with they did yesterday,” said McCaul. “We need to drain the swamp so we don’t have to swat the mosquitos over here.”