(Newsmax) – There are individuals living in the United States today who have contact with the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and other terrorist groups who have “a desire to conduct an attack” on U.S. soil, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Johnson would not say how many such individuals the government is aware of, but did say the number is dwarfed by the number of people in Europe intent on carryout out acts of terror there.
And the ability to recruit and communicate through social media has only strengthened the ability to inspire lone wolves since the days just after 9/11, he said.
“The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security do a pretty good job of tracking the travel of individuals of suspicion, of investigating potential acts of terror or material support for terrorism,” Johnson said. “Just this past Friday there were arrests of five individuals who were providing material support, allegedly, to ISIL.”
He said government does a lot to keep track of suspected individuals, but added that the public should continue to be vigilant and report anything suspicious.
Johnson said his thoughts and prayers are with the family of Kayla Mueller, the 26-year-old aide worker captured by ISIS that the group claims was killed in a Jordanian airstrike.
The State Department advises Americans not to travel in the region, and Johnson was asked whether the government is acting to free American hostages who travel to places where there is a known risk.
“Where we can we do our best to secure the safety of Americans held hostage by terrorist organizations,” Johnson said, adding that his department is continually evaluating its ability to do so.
Turning to issues in Washington, Johnson said it is vital that Homeland Security receive full funding past the February 27 end of a continuing resolution.
Republicans want to cut funding that would help implement President Barack Obama’s executive actions granting legal status to millions of illegal immigrants. Johnson argued that the continuing resolution itself, which simply keeps funding at current levels, is hurting the department’s ability to fund new initiatives and quoted FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate as saying 80 percent of his workforce would have to be furloughed.
Host Dana Bash challenged Johnson on threats that Homeland Security would have to drastically cut its numbers, quoting him from the 2013 government shutdown threat when he said that nearly 90 percent of Border Patrol agents, 85 percent of ICE agents and 93 percent of TSA officials have to come to work without pay, but would still be on the job.
Johnson insisted there would be a significant drop in service and that 30,000 employees would have to be furloughed, while the rest would be forced to work without pay.