U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock asked the FBI director on Thursday to brief her about a 17-year-old who was taken into custody last week for allegedly helping a man travel to Syria and join the Islamic State.
In a short letter, Comstock (R-Va.) told FBI director James Comey she wanted “to make sure that those of us who represent the area are doing all we can to support your efforts both at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security.”
She said in an interview that she was struck by a Washington Post report about teen being taken into custody, and she wanted to “make sure we’re doing everything we need to be doing to deal with this problem.”
“We want to intercede and get engaged on this before it gets worse,” Comstock said.
The case — which involves a teenager using online contacts to help a man not much older than himself get to the Islamic State in Syria — seems to be the latest example of the terrorist group inspiring and making connections with youths in America. In her letter, Comstock noted the case is not unique.
“As we have seen with the recent cases in Brooklyn, New York, where the suspect also has ties to Virginia and three British teenage girls who by way of Turkey allegedly made it to Syria, ISIS and its members has been very successful in recruiting from Western nations,” she wrote.
The Washington Post did not name the teen because he has not been charged as an adult, and the news organization generally does not identify those accused as juveniles. People who knew the youth said he was a quiet, intelligent teenager who wrote online articles about his faith and digital currency systems.
A spokeswoman with the FBI Washington Field Office said she would have to reach out to headquarters for comment on Comstock’s letter. Researchers and federal authorities estimate that more than 20,000 foreign fighters have joined the Islamic State, and that about 180 Americans have traveled to tried to travel to Syria during the ongoing conflict there. Not all of those people, though, were found to have nefarious intentions.
Comstock said she would ask Comey if terrorism task forces might do something about the problem or if there should be more coordination with local law enforcement in the D.C. region.
This story has been updated.