FBI thwarts mysterious July 4th terrorist plot

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said on Thursday that counterterrorism authorities had thwarted multiple attacks being plotted for July 4 by the Islamic State and its sympathizers in the United States. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/10/us/july-4-terror-plots-foiled-fbi-chief-says.html?smid=tw-nytimes
Mr. Comey would not say what the plots entailed or how many people had been arrested, but he said the plotters were among more than 10 people with ties to the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — who had been arrested across the country in the past month.
Those arrested “are products of this ISIL online recruiting, motivating, directing effort” that often begins on Twitter, he said in his quarterly meeting with reporters, adding that some of the plotters had switched to encrypted communication that made them more difficult to track.
In the days leading up to July 4, federal authorities and national security experts said that the United States was more susceptible to an attack. They cited repeated calls by the Islamic State for its sympathizers to carry out acts of violence in the group’s name. Instead of pulling off spectacular attacks like those Al Qaeda often tried to mount, the Islamic State has tried to motivate its followers to stab police officers or shoot members of the military.
To call attention to the threat, federal authorities sent bulletins to state and local law enforcement officials in the days before July 4.
Mr. Comey said the bulletins were sent because “we perceived a potential threat that we were looking to make sure we motivated our state and local partners to focus on.”
The comments from Mr. Comey came a day after he and Sally Quillian Yates, the deputy attorney general, testified on Capitol Hill about how law enforcement agencies are struggling to intercept communications as encrypted channels have become more popular. Senators and representatives from both parties appeared to embrace that perspective.
Mr. Comey has said he is hoping to spawn a debate on the subject and to find a solution that protects the privacy of individuals but also gives law enforcement officials access to the communications of criminals and terrorists.
“The tools I have are significantly diminished by this phenomenon,” Mr. Comey said. “We’re going to stay after it and, as I said, we will try and use all the tools that we have. What I’m trying to do is make sure the American people, who own the F.B.I., as I said yesterday, understand these tools you think we have are being changed significantly and I can see the future in which that change continues to grow.”
The country may decide ultimately that the problem is too difficult to fix, Mr. Comey said, and “that we’re just going to live with law enforcement having the set of the tools they have.”
“And my response to that is ‘O.K., fine that what people decided is O.K. and that’s where we’ll operate and we’ll stay at it and we’ll still find ways to make these cases.’”

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