Days after a terrorist attack in Texas for which ISIS has claimed responsibility, the U.S. military has raised its alert level for bases in North America to its highest since the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
The move to level “Bravo” was not based on specific threats from ISIS but was “informed by recent events,” a spokesman for U.S. Northern Command told Fox News.
“Bravo,” the third of five levels of alert, requires increased security at military posts in the country.
FBI Director James Comey warned Thursday of domestic threat from ISIS sympathizers, saying hundreds and possibly thousands of people in America are following ISIS on social media and consuming their “poison.”
A Defense Department statement said the move is “a prudent measure to remind installation commanders at all levels within the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility to ensure increased vigilance and safeguarding of all DOD personnel, installations and facilities.”
“This change, in addition to random drills or exercises, is a mean to ensure that we effectively execute our force protection mission,” the Defense Department said.
The heightened alert allows for measures such as stricter inspections of vehicles and IDs on military posts.
One result of the heightened alert is the cancellation of a concert Friday night at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Ohio.
Prompted by Texas terror
The move, said Stratfor’s Fred Burton, likely was influenced by the attack in Garland, Texas, Sunday night, which WND reported from the scene and followed with a first-person account. Two Muslims who traveled from Phoenix opened fire outside the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” before they were shot and killed by police who were part of a massive security effort.
The event, hosted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, co-founded by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, featured Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who already had departed with his permanent security detail by the time the attackers arrived.
Geller, herself, now must travel with security, with ISIS naming her this week in a threat posted on one of its affiliated websites.
The assailants, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, stopped their car in front of the Curtis Culwell Center parking lot as attendees were heading to their cars after the event, jumped out and started firing. An alert police officer fired back with his service pistol, followed by a hail of gunfire from SWAT officers.
Burton, whose group provides open-source global intelligence and analysis, told FoxNews.com an “overabundance of caution today in this kind of environment is certainly prudent but I think it’s the new normal.”
“The Islamic State or activists on the ground here would certainly view a military installation in any capacity as a high-value target, but they would not succeed,” he said.
FBI warned Simpson ‘interested’ in Garland event
The FBI’s Comey revealed Thursday that three hours before the attack in Garland, his agency sent a bulletin to local police with a photo of Simpson, noting he was “interested in the event.”
Comey explained that at the time, the FBI had no reason to believe Simpson intended to attack the event and didn’t know he was already on his way there.
He said the police officer who shot Simpson and Soofi likely was not aware of the bulletin.
Comey told reporters there are potentially thousands of “online” ISIS followers in the U.S. consuming “radical poisonous propaganda.”
“I know there are other Elton Simpsons out there,” he said.
An ISIS statement referred to the men as “two soldiers of the caliphate” and warned many more attacks are on the way.
Comey said the “very hard task” now is to identify and stop anyone inspired to launch an attack from inside the U.S. homeland.
‘No game plan’
Terrorism expert Harvey Kushner told WND Thursday he believes threats of ISIS terror cells operating in the U.S. should be taken seriously.
But he says American law enforcement has “no game plan” for stopping the type of attack carried out Sunday in Texas.
“The attack by the Islamic State in America is only the beginning of our efforts to establish a [province] in the heart of our enemy,” the ISIS statement read.
It also claimed there are 71 radicals in 15 states ready to attack. Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan and California were the only states named.
Simpson was in private contact with known jihadists overseas who were encouraging him to launch an attempted attack, reports CNN.
The FBI has found private communications and Twitter exchanges between Simpson and prominent terrorists, including Jenaid Hussein, a British national tied to ISIS, and Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, an American now believed to be in Somalia, according to CNN.
Hasan, according to U.S. court documents, traveled to Somalia in 2008 from Minneapolis to join the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. A few days before the attack, Simpson tweeted a message to Hassan.
“How are you doing?” Simpson wrote in a tweet, then followed with another tweet that said “dm me,” meaning to send him a direct message.
Kushner says discovering whether Simpson and Soofi were sympathizers or following orders would help authorities get a handle on the larger threat.
“What would be chilling about this is if, in fact, this was a direct communication from an ISIS group in the Middle East. As of this point in time, there’s not necessarily an indication that was the case,” said Kushner, who believes it’s possible ISIS is just using the Texas story for its own propaganda purposes.
“ISIS has used media to pile on. This was an event that fits into their MO. Naturally, you’re going to take advantage. The good news is it might show a sign of weakness that they had to wait for these two freelancers to act, and then they would say this is something they have in the pipeline,” said Kushner.
The big advantage for ISIS, he said is that its recruits can remain in the shadows for a long time.
“We’re not facing this structure of al-Qaida that we had 15 years ago or so. We pretty much dismantled that,” said Kushner. “[ISIS] means to radicalize individuals by their incendiary rhetoric and by their extreme view of Islam and have these people strike out against Western targets,” said Kushner.
The U.S. is struggling against the new threat, he said.
“We haven’t really adjusted. We don’t really have a game plan,” he said. “How do you infiltrate the mindset of this one or two or three radical individuals who are plotting something from the comforts of their living room couch?”