PolitiFact: Ad against Ossoff incorrect about Syrians ‘infiltrating’ U.S. for ISIS

An ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee against 6th District Democratic congressional candidate Jon Ossoff begins, “ISIS is infiltrating America and using Syrians to do it,” and continues, “The FBI warned we can’t safely screen every Syrian. Yet Jon Ossoff’s liberal party bosses brought 10,000 Syrian refugees to America. And Ossoff supports their dangerous Iran nuclear deal allowing billions for the leading sponsor of terrorism. Billions that will fund terror. ”

We’ve checked some of this narration previously: The parts about FBI warnings on screenings and the Iran nuclear deal funding terrorism each got a Half True, for instance. Here, we’ll look at the opening line, “ISIS is infiltrating America and using Syrians to do it.”

To date, there is no documented case of that happening. There is one area of the world where Syrian ISIS infiltration might be taking place. ISIS members posing as refugees from Syria can make their way to central and western Europe over land or by boat from the Mediterranean. But that’s not the case for the United States.

For entering the United States, “ISIS infiltration is not very efficient,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a terrorism specialist at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. It’s not that the screening process is perfect, he said, but rather a question of math.

“The refugee-selection process is designed to select very few military-age, single males, and even if you fit the criteria, the odds are still not good that you’ll get selected” to go to the United States. And before gaining entry to the United States, you are likely to have a long wait in a refugee camp.

NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson argued for the ad’s accuracy by saying that in addition to physical infiltration, “ISIS is also infiltrating us with their ideology by seeking to inspire lone wolf attacks here from afar. The domestic terrorists have gotten their ideas and been inspired by what’s going on in the Middle East.”

We have no objection to the argument that ISIS is inspiring lone-wolf terrorists but the ad didn’t stress ideological propaganda on social media. It used the phrase “terrorists infiltrate” and referred to Syrian refugee admissions — of humans, not ideas. So it gives a different impression than the reasoning Anderson cited.

The rare instances in which an adult entered the United States and committed a terrorist act don’t apply to what the ad said about Syrians. The closest example might be the case of two Iraqi immigrants, Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, who were arrested in 2011 in a sting in Bowling Green, Ky.

Before coming to the United States, Alwan had made bombs that allegedly targeted American military personnel in Iraq. So he was a terrorist, and he did enter or “infiltrate” the country. But he came to the United States before ISIS existed, and before the civil war that triggered an influx of displaced Syrians.

Among more recent perpetrators, Tashfeen Malik, half of the married couple behind the 2015 San Bernardino shootings, came in on a marriage visa. But she was a Pakistani who had come most recently from Saudi Arabia, not Syria. She pledged loyalty to ISIS shortly before the attack.

However, far more common than “infiltration” cases are examples of self-radicalization by people already in the United States, mostly people who were born and raised here. Often, they are driven to terrorism by propaganda and social media networks, and sometimes they pledge loyalty to ISIS before committing an attack. That description fits Nidal Hasan, the Army major who killed 13 soldiers in 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas, for example, and the two brothers behind the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Our ruling

In the few examples since 2001 of an “infiltration” leading to a terror attack, they have not involved ISIS terrorists from Syria.

We rate the statement False.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Homepage