That's the alarming headline in the Telegraph, which reports:
At the Daily Beast, Eli Lake is reporting that more than 100 Americans are fighting in Syria.
This US assessment chimes with the belief of EU intelligence services that hundreds of Europeans are also in Syria. Indeed, "terrorist-tourism" is an increasingly acute concern of British Intelligence.
The growing fear? That these "tourists" will soon return home with the means and intention to conduct atrocities.
. . .
Imagine, for example, that a group of British or French citizens attacked an American target. The fallout would almost certainly involve aggressive unilateral US Intelligence operations in Europe, new visa restrictions and further politicisation of productive Intelligence relationships (too-often ignored). In human, economic and political terms, an attack would be disastrous.
Unfortunately, the challenges posed by ISIS only reflect broader trends in Sunni-Islamist terrorism. Pushed by al Qaeda core leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and lead by ambitious terrorists, Salafi-Jihadist groups have diversified. Whether it’s ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or AQAP and al-Wuhayshi, or al-Shabaab and Godane, or Boko Haram and Shekau, we see independent groups that ally where it suits them. This is forcing western Intelligence services to stretch their finite collection and analysis capabilities in hard choices of priority. Incidentally, this is one reason Obama is increasing CIA weapons supplies to rebel groups that oppose ISIS. Things are so bad that he must gamble.
Ultimately, successful Intelligence work is as much the product of luck as anything else. This explains why officials on both sides of the Atlantic are adopting an increasingly alarmist tone. They see the rising storm and they expect mayhem in its wake.
There's more at the link. Highly recommended reading.
To illustrate the mindset that's given rise to such fears, here's an extended BBC interview with a British man who's joined an Al Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria.
I've run into this problem myself. In a blog post some years ago, I wrote of my experience with returned Islamic insurgents in South Africa.
During the late 1980's, we encountered Mujahedin who'd returned to South Africa after fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, and who were now trying to establish a fundamentalist Muslim society. They founded an organization known as Qibla, which later spawned PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism And Drugs). In time, the latter became a pseudo-terrorist and criminal organization in its own right. On more than a few occasions, members of Qibla tried to force my colleagues and I to channel our aid to the victims of violence through them, in areas where they were active. (They would have distributed the aid "with strings attached", and used it to boost their image in the community, ignoring us.) When we refused, they turned nasty - sometimes violent. (Such incidents confirmed for me, the hard way, the truth of Clint Smith's maxim: "You can say 'stop' or 'alto' or use any other word you think will work, but I’ve found that a large bore muzzle pointed at someone’s head is pretty much the universal language.")
It looks as if such people are still up to their tricks in South Africa, as I noted last year.
I think this is going to be a very real problem in the future. The trouble is, the 'security state' uses this threat as an excuse to further degrade - if not completely eliminate - our right to privacy. To me, that's absolutely unacceptable. It's a classic example of the cure being worse than the disease. On the other hand, there are many 'sheep' in today's world who demand that the government protect them from any and all such threats, no matter what rights, liberties and privileges they may have to surrender in the process. They forget Benjamin Franklin's prophetic warning, and ignore the reality that there is no such thing as foolproof security. Terrorists will always succeed in inflicting casualties, just as criminals will always succeed in committing crimes. If they're thwarted by security measures in one area, they'll simply change tactics and/or select different targets, and try again. Sooner or later they'll succeed.
I think it's going to be very difficult to retain our constitutional rights and freedoms and our civil liberties in the face of this threat - even more difficult than it's been so far in the face of past threats. We'd better prepare now for the fight of our lives . . . on multiple fronts.