Peter Bergen Testifies Before Joint Hearing of the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security

Peter Bergen testified before a joint meeting of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Committee on Homeland Security on the threat of terrorism in the United States. 

Portions of the testimony are excerpted below:

"Returning militants from Syria are a worrying potential source of terror attacks. And two major factors place Europe at far greater risk of “returnee” violence from veterans of the Syrian conflict than is the case in the United States: the much larger number of European militants who have gone to fight in Syria and the existence of more developed jihadist networks in Europe."

"Four years into the Syrian civil war, little evidence has emerged to support the notion that returning fighters from Syria pose a great threat to the United States. In the United States, there has only been one case of a fighter returning from Syria and allegedly plotting an attack. Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 22, of Columbus, Ohio, left for Syria in April 2014 and fought there before returning home around two months later. The government alleges that a cleric in Syria told Mohamud that he should return to the United States to conduct an act of terrorism and that he discussed some kind of plan (with an informant) to kill American soldiers at a military base in Texas. He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of providing material support to a terrorist group."

"Rather than being an easy target for ISIS recruits, the United States benefits from a series of layered defenses that make returning and plotting a sophisticated attack undetected quite difficult. It takes more than a plane ticket for a returning fighter to conduct a sophisticated attack: they also have to gather arms, conduct surveillance, and carry out the attack undetected. This is difficult as Muslim communities have often reported suspicious activity and law enforcement has instituted an aggressive effort using informants and other investigative tools to prevent such an occurrence."

Read the full testimony here.