October 10, 2018

Senator Hassan Presses Counter Terrorism Official on Report That a Resurgent ISIS Has 30,000 Fighters in Syria and Iraq

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To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today pressed Acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Russell “Russ” Travers on recent reports that a resurgent ISIS has 30,000 fighters engaged in its attempts to reassert control over Iraq and Syria, seemingly contradicting President’s Trump’s assertion that ISIS has been “obliterated”.

“These reports are obviously very concerning, especially since this time two years ago, ISIS’s ranks were being eroded on a daily basis, the terror group was being evicted from Mosul and allied forces were beginning to encircle ISIS’s last stronghold in Raqqa,” Senator Hassan said during a Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) hearing. “If we have failed to finish the job of crushing ISIS, as these reports suggest, then a reconstituted ISIS safe-haven in Iraq and Syria will threaten not only the region but the U.S. homeland by giving the groups area from which they can plot and direct attacks against Americans.”

In response to Senator Hassan’s question regarding ISIS’s strength in Iraq and Syria, Director Travers responded, “We saw them several years ago begin to be thinking about how to implement an insurgency strategy, and they’re burrowing down and we certainly see this throughout Iraq and Syria. So if we don't keep pressure on them, and if we don't address the problems of disenfranchisement, we should expect to see problems in the future."

Senator Hassan also asked FBI Director Christopher Wray about the emerging threat of “deep fakes”, or the use of video editing practices enhanced by artificial-intelligence to create convincing video impersonations of public figures and government officials. Senator Hassan expressed concern that this technology could be used to make it look like a government official was making statements that might threaten the country’s national security. Director Wray shared the Senator’s concerns and stated that the FBI was working on technology to combat this emerging threat.

On technological advancement more generally, Director Wray said “I do think it illustrates a broader problem, which is every time we have some great new technology I have two reactions. One is, wow that's awesome, I can't believe we can do that, and then, oh my God, I can't believe they can do that. And this is a great example of that.”

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