Are July 4 Terror Attack Fears Warranted?

As the country prepares for the Independence Day holiday this weekend, a briefing from the Department of Homeland Security has raised concerns about a possible July 4 terror attack, CBS News reported. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said his agency was urging law enforcement officials to be "vigilant and prepared." But USA Today, citing the same security briefing, said it contained no specific or credible threat of attack. So, which is it? And aren't law enforcement officials always vigilant and prepared as part of their normal course of duty?

It's worth noting that Johnson said the bulletin was not related to separate attacks Friday in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait, according to CBS News. But people should report any suspicious activity, and authorities will "adjust security measures" as needed. On Monday, former CIA deputy director Michael Morell told CBS This Morning on Monday that he "wouldn't be surprised if we're sitting here a week from today talking about an attack."

The recent uptick in activity by ISIS in the past several months is certainly cause for concern. But before anyone decides to skip Fourth of July fireworks, it is worth considering who in Congress is worked up about this latest security alert.


Congressman Peter King (pictured below) of New York told ABC's This Week there was "probably more concern now than any time since Sept. 11." A member of the House Counterterrorism and Intelligence subcommittee, King is well known as one of the most outspoken members of Congress especially on issues of terrorism. During the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in flight last March, King posited a theory that one or both of the pilots had been trying to commit suicide. "It could be for religious reasons or professional shame, or his family is collecting on his insurance policy," he told Politico.

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Then there's the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas (pictured below). He told USA Today there had been "increased chatter on social media" indicating terrorists were planning an attack during celebrations this weekend. He appeared on Fox News Sunday to express his concern that "Syrian and ISIS recruiters can use the Internet at lightning speeds to recruit followers in the United States ... and then activate them to do whatever they want to do."

Well, OK. But McCaul also put forth one of the weirder theories about the missing Malaysian plane, telling Fox News in March 2014, "It could be used later on as a cruise missile, as the 9/11 hijackers did. That’s something we have to use our imagination in these situations."

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While it would be irresponsible to dismiss the bulletin from DHS, or to ignore the very real fears about ISIS attacks, perhaps it's better that we not "use our imagination" in these situations, as McCaul suggests, and instead rely on actual facts or credible threats. It's always good to be on alert, but telling people to "be vigilant" isn't really helpful, and may contribute to people seeing danger where there may be none.

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