Glimmers of Islamic State's virtual influence continue flicker on US soil.
On Monday, federal authorities in New Jersey charged Nader Saadeh, formerly of Rutherford, N.J., with conspiring to support the militant group. Mr. Saadeh viewed Islamic State propaganda online and traveled to the Middle East in May in an effort to join the militants, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.
Saadeh’s arrest makes him the sixth person to be taken into custody in New York and New Jersey since June for what officials have said is a broader plot, and highlights the growing influence of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, on young people worldwide, including the United States.
“Jihadi recruiters are mastering the ability to monitor, and prey upon, Western youth susceptible to the twisted message of Islamist terror,” Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R) of Texas said at a congressional hearing in June, The Christian Science Monitor reported. “They seek out curious users who have questions about Islam or want to know what life is like in the so-called Islamic State.”
Part of the problem is the group’s ability to reach young people through the Internet and social media, the Monitor’s Warren Richey added.
The US government is battling a “new generation of terrorists” who are using social media to quickly and effectively spread their violent ideology far beyond the battlefields of Syria and Iraq to the streets of Europe and America, senior intelligence officials told Congress on Wednesday.
Unlike the centralized and secretive operations of Al Qaeda, the self-anointed Islamic State is successfully recruiting new members through aggressive use of social media, particularly Twitter, the officials said.
Estimates are that the terror group can generate up to 200,000 tweets per day based on the initial work of a couple thousand “core propagandists.”
In the last few months, the government has launched a number of efforts – including anti-extremism campaigns through the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications – aimed at curbing radicalization and the spread of ISIS influence on US citizens.
The House also passed a bill last month that would allow the government to revoke or deny passports to Americans with connections to “foreign terrorist organizations.”
Some experts also urge an on-the-ground military strategy that corresponds with the government’s online policy.
“Offline, the group is now estimated to be 30,000-strong or bigger,” The Atlantic's associate editor Kathy Gilsinan wrote in February. “But the roots of its expansion probably don't lie on the virtual battlefield. More likely, they're on the real one.”
Saadeh’s arrest comes a little more than a month after his brother, Alaa was arrested on similar charges, including “conspiring to provide material support to ISIL,” the Justice Department said, using another name for ISIS. Both brothers were in frequent contact with two other men who had been arrested in June for planning to support the extremists: Samuel Topaz, also from New Jersey, and Munther Omar Saleh, a college student from Queens.
Saadeh was scheduled to appear Monday in US District Court in Newark.
This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.