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Jack Reed: US now faces a ‘much more diffuse terrorist threat’

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s two U.S. senators are both expressing alarm about the murder of four Marines in Chattanooga, as investigators warn it may be a case of domestic terrorism.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was in a hearing with the committee’s chairman, John McCain, when they were informed about the attack Thursday. He offered his condolences to the victims’ families on Friday.

Reed said he expects to receive more information about the probe into the shooting next week, once investigators have conducted a “very, very thorough” examination of, among other things, the accused killer’s electronic communications and his alleged travels to Jordan.

“It reminds us this threat that we’re facing is not simply from organized terrorist groups overseas, but it is from individuals,” Reed said.

Both Reed and his fellow Democratic senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, said terrorist groups are increasingly using the Internet and social media to spread propaganda and recruit followers in the west.

“This is one of the most challenging aspects of the evolution, unfortunately, of these terror groups across the world,” Reed said.

As another example, Reed pointed to the incident last month where officers shot a terror suspect in Massachusetts, then later arrested a Rhode Island man in connection with the same alleged plot.

“It’s a threat that has been transformed from the initial, very well-coordinated, practiced routines of al-Qaeda to this much more diffuse terrorist threat, and we have to be prepared to counter it,” he said.

Whitehouse made a similar point, though he also noted that the U.S. has had serious domestic terrorism since at least the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh.

“What we’re concerned about now is the Internet outreach, by ISIL particularly, to try to encourage Americans who are interested in their propaganda to undertake small, direct, violent acts,” Whitehouse said on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. “And if it turns out that this guy was responding to that we’ve got a real problem.”

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