Following the Thursday arrest of a 19-year-old Harrisburg man accused of aiding the terrorist group ISIS, U.S. Senator Bob Casey said Congress has a lot of work to do in combating what is referred to as homegrown extremism.
Casey was briefed Thursday on the months of work that went into the arrest of Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz. Casey said knowing the methods terrorists or potential terrorists use is imperative in preventing future violence.
“Obviously one element of ISIS’ power is their ability to act as a criminal organization, and they’re using new technology to communicate and spread propaganda,” he said.
Aziz was charged with two counts of attempting to provide materials to terrorists. He had more than 50 Twitter accounts he used to advocate violence against U.S. citizens. Authorities also said he attempted to use those Twitter accounts to coordinate travel to Syria for others to join ISIS. According to the criminal complaint, Aziz supported “violent jihadist beliefs.”
Casey said this kind of extremism looks very different than terrorism even 10 years ago. He noted in similar cases, the supporters weren’t recruited, but they were able to be involved in a very connected world.
“It’s important, I think, to remember that this individual as far as we know right now is a United States citizen,” he said. “He was not a refugee, he was not someone who came across our borders to engage in this type of activity. So this does fit that kind of broad definition of home-grown.”
He said in addition to funding intelligence agencies, Congress will have to work with social media outlets to continue to monitor extremism support.
Casey also noted the suspect tweeted that it was very easy to obtain fire arms in Pennsylvania because of, “light gun laws.”
“I think folks in both parties need to examine that statement and then make a decision about how to respond. Because it’s obvious that, I’ll call them ‘bad guys’ are going to places they think they can be successful in furthering the aims of the terrorists,” he said.
According to court documents, a bag containing a face mask, a kitchen knife and a high-capacity magazine were found in Jalil Aziz’s home where his parents also lived.
Homeland Security Director Marcus Brown commended the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Pennsylvania State Police and other members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“His arrest is a reminder that we must remain vigilant, strong and focused on anyone here in the state who may seek to harm Pennsylvanians," he said. "I am proud of PSP’s ongoing efforts to protect Pennsylvania citizens. My administration is in constant communication with our law enforcement partners and will continue to assist in any way possible.”