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Study: Arrests for alleged ISIS supporters on the rise in the U.S.

Monday marks the first full year since ISIS declared the "Caliphate" -- an Islamic State -- part of the justification for its terror campaign across the Middle East. A new study from Fordham University has uncovered an increase in the number of Americans arrested for allegedly supporting ISIS. The Director of Fordham's Center on National Security, Karen Greenberg, joins Hari Sreenivasan with more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    Monday marks the first full year since ISIS declared the caliphate, an Islamic State, part of the justification for its terror campaign across the Middle East.

    Just this week, ISIS claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait, and is suspected of an attack in France.

    The Justice Department has estimated at least 2,700 Westerners have traveled to join ISIS in the fighting in Syria, including some from the U.S.

    Now, a new study from Fordham University Law School shows arrests in the U.S. for allegedly supporting ISIS are growing. Since last March of 2014, federal prosecutors have charged 56 people for supporting ISIS. Law enforcement killed three other suspects.

    Fordham researchers say most of the accused are U.S. citizens. More than 60 percent of those charged are 21 or younger, and more than 80 percent of the cases involved recruitment with social media.

    I'm joined now by the head of that study, the Director of Fordham's Center on National Security, Karen Greenberg.

    So, first, I want to ask, what do we see about the patterns of these people who have been accused and charged but not yet found guilty?

  • KAREN GREENBERG, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL:

    There are basically three categories of individuals being charged — those who want to facilitate and recruit others to join ISIS, those who want to go abroad as foreign fighters to join the caliphate, and those who want to commit some kind of domestic terror attack in the United States.

    And the patterns are largely that these are increasingly young men and women who are drawn to ISIS for a variety of reasons, who are from an exceptionally broad background.

    There's no way to say a particular ethnic group or national origin or religion or anything initially is what motivates these individuals.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, a lot of these cases have material support as one of the charges that they have. What is material support in this day and age?

  • KAREN GREENBERG:

    Well, material support is a very broad category that is used more and more by law enforcement since 9/11, for if you want to give — it could be anything from money to providing yourself to a foreign cause of a designated foreign terrorist organization.

    And it's extremely broad, and, therefore, very popular among law enforcement. For some, it's overly broad.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You know, I don't have to be an ACLU lawyer to say there's a shift from reacting to terror attacks to preventing terror attacks encroach on other freedoms of how I want to express myself.

  • KAREN GREENBERG:

    The interesting thing about the ISIS case is, is the question: Are these the same or different from the 550 prior cases of terrorism-related arrests that we saw since 9/11? And to some extent, these feel a little different.

    And you're right. If it's about expression, if it's about doing very little, if it's about being led by the FBI towards many pieces of the incipient crime, that's one thing.

    But there does seem to be some kind of new element here, a new feeling and that's why we did the study.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And one of the new elements was social media. So many of these individuals are lured through social media. I'm wondering, does law enforcement use that same social media to catch them?

  • KAREN GREENBERG:

    Well, that's what we need to find out more about. They've talked about using social media for a counter-narrative.

    They've talked about using social media to identify them. And you'll see that in the complaints they point to Twitter. They point to Facebook.

    They point to a variety of different apps, Instagram, for example, as ways they found these individuals and then were alerted to them and began to track them and follow them.

    So, it's important both in the recruitment and in the deterring.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Karen Greenberg, Fordham Center on National Security — thanks so much.

  • KAREN GREENBERG:

    Thank you.

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