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Senator warns of Islamic State attack: ‘I think of an American city in flames.’

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) described the Islamic State — what he called “ISIS” and “ISIL” — as an “existential threat” to the United States.

“I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorist ability to operate in Syria and Iraq,” Graham, a member of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee. told host Chris Wallace. He added: “I’m saying Iraq and Syria combined represent a direct threat to our homeland. … What is going on in Washington when the FBI director, when the head of national intelligence, the CIA, the homeland security secretary tells every member of Congress, including the president, we’re about to be attacked in a serious way because of the threat emanating from Syria and Iraq?”

Graham made it sound as if top U.S. officials feared an attack on U.S. soil was imminent – scary stuff. But did they really say that? Politifact decided to find out. Graham’s office sent the publication statements from three of the four named officials – FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

They gave Graham’s claims a “Truth-O-Meter rating of “half-true.” Here’s their analysis:

While each of them voiced strong concern about attacks on American soil, the role of ISIS was more indirect and less immediate than Graham would have us believe.

The government officials spoke of the conflict in Syria as a training ground. Johnson, the Homeland Security director, also cast the Syrian civil war as a cause that could inspire “lone wolf” terrorists in the mode of the Boston Marathon bombers.

The government officials talked about the “aspirations” of some al-Qaida veterans and the steps they were taking to track the people who posed the greatest risk. They spoke of taking the threat seriously, but their words fell well short of Grahams’ phrase that,”we’re about to be attacked in a serious way.”

Graham favors more aggressive intervention in Iraq than the limited air strikes authorized by President Obama. “If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want to call these guys, they are coming here,” he said in Sunday’s interview, calling for a “sustained air campaign in Syria and Iraq.”


Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.



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