ISIS Has Whole Fake Passport ‘Industry,’ Official Says
ABC: The terror group ISIS has created a whole “industry” out of the production of fake passports, a high-level French official said today.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters that through ISIS’s operations in Syria, Iraq and Libya, the group has acquired blank passports and has now set up a “real fake document industry.” Cazeneuve made the statement following a meeting with top European officials where he proposed setting up a new task force to help nab people attempting to come into the European Union with fake papers.
Last month ABC News reported that U.S. intelligence suspected ISIS had acquired thousands of blank Syrian passports and at least one passport printing machine after taking over government offices in Syria. Officials from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said in a 17-page report that the terror group has likely been able to print legitimate-looking Syrian passports since at least last summer – and raised the possibility that people using the forged documents have snuck into America.
“Since more than 17 months [have] passed since Raqqa and Deir ez-Zour fell to ISIS, it is possible that individuals from Syria with passports ‘issued’ in these ISIS-controlled cities or who had passport blanks, may have traveled to the U.S.,” the HSI report says.
The report notes that the primary source for the information was rated at “moderate confidence,” the second-highest rating given for source assessments. Testifying before lawmakers days after the HSI report was circulated to American authorities, FBI Director James Comey first publicly revealed the nation’s top security officials’ very real anxiety over the problem.
“The intelligence community is concerned that they [ISIS] have the ability, the capability to manufacture fraudulent passports, which is a concern in any setting,” Comey said.
Former Department of Homeland Security intelligence official and ABC News consultant John Cohen said in December, “If ISIS has been able to acquire legitimate passports or machines that create legitimate passports, this would represent a major security risk in the United States.”
Fake Syrian passports have already been discovered in Europe, most notably two used by suicide bombers in the horrific terrorist attack on Paris in November. The two men are believed to have slipped into Europe with a flood of Syrian refugees fleeing the violence in their homeland.
According to the source that provided the passport information to HSI, Syria is awash in fake documents.
“The source further stated that fake Syrian passports are so prevalent in Syria that Syrians do not even view possessing them as illegal,” the report says. “The source stated fake Syrian passports can be obtained in Syria for $200 to $400 and that backdated passport stamps to be placed in the passport cost the same.”
Meanwhile it is quite effective in Europe
ISIS ALREADY ESTABLISHED IN EU STATES, EUROPOL WARNS
Newsweek: Europe faces a greater militant threat from within its borders than from foreign fighters posing as refugees, the EU’s law enforcement agency has said.
“There is no concrete evidence that terrorist travelers systematically use the flow of refugees to enter Europe unnoticed,” according to research published on Monday by Europol, which also warned that domestic cells belonging to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS or IS) were operating within EU states and that the group has training camps within Europe in addition to its facilities in Syria.
The research says that “IS is preparing more terrorist attacks, including more ‘Mumbai-style’ attacks, to be executed in member states of the EU,” and adds that the group has developed an “external actions command” trained for “special forces-style” attacks worldwide. Speaking to reporters at the launch of the agency’s new European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC), Europol director Rob Wainwright said “the so-called Islamic State had developed a new combat-style capability to carry out a campaign of large-scale terrorist attacks on a global stage, with a particular focus in Europe,” AFP reports.
Europol also says that “IS-incited attacks do not necessarily have to be coordinated from Syria. Central command in Syria is believed to map out a general strategy, but leaves tactical freedom to local leaders to adapt their actions to circumstances on the spot.”
But it warns that the refugee crisis does bring new threats: “A real and imminent danger…is the possibility of elements of the (Sunni Muslim) Syrian refugee diaspora becoming vulnerable to radicalization once in Europe.”
The ECTC is designed to act as an information hub, helping EU states to share information on counter-terrorism and coordinate joint operations.
“The wide range of possible targets in combination with an opportunistic approach of locally based groups creates a huge variety of possible scenarios for future terrorist events,” Europol says. “A regular exchange of strategic intelligence is essential to any up-to-date assessment of the situation to be shared amongst Member States.”