House law enforcement chief monitoring terror threat

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Story highlights

  • After an Ohio man's alleged ISIS-inspired plot was foiled by the FBI, King says the U.S. needs to counter radicalization
  • More than just ramping up the U.S. military effort, King pointed to "unemployed 22-year-olds" as the greatest threat
  • King's comments also come after the Paris terror attacks, carried out by young men who were radicalized in prison

Washington (CNN)The House of Representatives' Sergeant at Arms said Thursday that Congress was "never in danger" from a plot by a United States citizen to attack the U.S. Capitol, but that officials are still monitoring the situation.

In an email obtained by CNN that was sent to all House members and staff, Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving says that "law enforcement was diligent from the onset and the FBI was able to quickly identify the threat, investigate, and make an arrest."
"The public, and in particular the Congressional community, was never in danger during the investigation. The United States Capitol Police (USCP) remains in close coordination with the FBI and my office continues to monitor the situation," Irving writes.
    "We will keep you informed of any important developments that may arise."
    Irving also urges the Capitol community to "maintain vigilance and security awareness at all times."
    "I know you have heard it before, but it bears repeating today: if you see something, say something," he adds.
    The email comes just the day after the FBI successfully foiled a plot to attack the U.S. Capitol that was being developed by Christopher Lee Cornell, a 20-year-old Ohioan who was allegedly inspired by ISIS.
    The incident is the latest to highlight the threat posed by radicalized young men used by terrorist groups to carry out attacks in their own countries.
    The terrorists in France last week became increasingly radicalized while in prison before traveling to Yemen, where at least one met with the American jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki, a notorious al Qaeda cleric.
    The brothers' travel to Yemen and intelligence reports that one also traveled to Syria turned the West's worst fears — foreign fighters returning to the West to carry out attacks — into a grisly reality.
    And Maine Sen. Angus King, a member of the Senate's intelligence and armed services committee, said on Thursday echoed intelligence assessments that "lone wolf" terrorists are the "toughest" threat to counter.
    "The real weapons of mass destruction today are unemployed 22-year-olds who fall for this radical ideology and we've got to figure out how to counter that," he said on CNN's "New Day."
    But he disagreed with his Republican colleagues, most notably Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who argue that the U.S. needs to ramp up its military effort against ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
    "We've been in the stamping out business for the last 12 or 13 years and it hasn't worked all that well," King said. "Part of the problem is the more we, the U.S. and the West, are active — particularly with troops on the ground — the more it becomes a recruiting tool for the extremists."
    Instead, King said the U.S. needs to address what he called a "deeper question": figuring out how the U.S. can combat the radical ideology spread increasingly online by extremists like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
    King pointed to a program being developed in the United Kingdom, where officials are working to "de-radicalize or anti-radicalize" their prisons, which can be hotbeds of extremist recruitment.
    Even ISIS, which now controls swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and seeks to inspire the lone wolf attacks U.S. officials are most concerned about, was reportedly formed from an American military prison in Iraq, Camp Bucca, according to The Guardian. There, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi met the men who would years later become the branches of ISIS's senior leadership.
    King stood firm against calls from McCain and other Republican hawks like freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) who are calling on President Barack Obama to escalate the military fight against ISIS. And American troops certainly shouldn't be the ones "rooting them (ISIS) out door to door in Mosul," a city ISIS captured in Iraq.
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    "We are not going to be able to take them out by killing them one at a time. It's not going to work," King said. "We've got to go deeper than just police, FBI, CIA and military. We've got to talk about how do we stop this movement toward radicalization because otherwise this is going to be a 100-year war."
    Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron made it clear in an opinion piece published Thursday that they are closely watching the threat of lone wolfs, vowing not to be "cowed by extremists," whether they come in the shape of terrorist groups or "lone fanatics."
    Reacting to the foiled Ohio plot in an interview with NewsMax, potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry made a quick connection between terrorism and border security, one of his top issues.
    Perry said there is "very good intelligence" that the south Texas border with Mexico could allow "individuals" to come into this country.
    "Americans will sleep better knowing that their government is actual doing their constitutional duty," Perry said.