Syrians in U.S. Under Heightened FBI Watch in Advance of Expected Attack on Syria

Thursday, September 05, 2013
(photo: Craig Ruttle, AP, Press Association Images)

In preparation for a possible attack on Syria, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has ramped up its surveillance of Syrians inside the United States to head off any terrorist reprisals against American targets.


FBI field offices received orders from Washington recently to use their sources within the Syrian-American community to determine if loyalists to President Bashar al-Assad plan to strike back on American soil if the Obama administration orders an attack on Syria’s military.


There are about 150,000 Syrian-Americans. Among the most famous are Jerry Seinfeld, whose mother was of Syrian Jewish ancestry; Paula Abdul, whose Jewish father was born in Aleppo, Syria; and Steve Jobs, whose biological father, Abdulfattah Jandali, was born in Homs, Syria.


Federal agents are expected to interview hundreds of Syrians in the coming days. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security also sent out a classified communication to federal, state and local law enforcement officials regarding potential threats created by the Syrian crisis.


The moves mirror similar actions taken while the U.S. government went after Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Two years ago, the FBI interviewed nearly 1,000 Libyans in the U.S. to locate any operatives who might pose a threat.


In 2003, before the U.S. invaded Iraq, the bureau questioned Iraqi-Americans to acquire intelligence about any suspicious behavior by members of their community.


James W. McJunkin, a former top FBI counterterrorism official, said that some of his colleagues did not believe that such a labor-intensive operation was effective.


“We didn’t think the return on investment was especially high given the time and resources required to contact that many people,” McJunkin told The New York Times.


In addition to increasing surveillance on Syrians, the Obama administration also has warned federal agencies and private companies that cyberattacks against them may expand following any American military action in Syria.


The Syrian Electronic Army, a group of hackers supporting Assad, has successfully attacked a number of American websites, including those belonging to The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Financial Times.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

F.B.I. Sharpens Scrutiny of Syrians in U.S. (by Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times)

U.N. Inspectors Flee Syria…Obama Pulls a George W. Bush in Iraq (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Only 9% of Americans Favor Syria Intervention as Obama Considers Military Options (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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