House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said Tuesday that the United States should be on a “high state of alert” as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches.
On CNN’s “The Situation Room,” McCaul was asked whether the U.S. should take special precautions for this year’s Sept. 11, due to threats from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“Sadly and unfortunately, the answer is yes,” McCaul said. “They take anniversaries very seriously in terms of choosing when to attack in the United States.”
Asked if it’s time for the U.S. to raise its threat level as the United Kingdom has, McCaul said, “I do think the prime minister of the U.K. is moving in the right direction. I would encourage the president to do so."
The U.K., however, has to deal with a “larger threat” from Islamic extremists simply because of its proximity to their locations, he added.
McCaul said the top priority for the Obama administration right now is to properly identify those fighting with these militant groups overseas to ensure they don’t travel to the homeland.
According to briefings McCaul said he has received, between 100 and 200 U.S. citizens are believed to be joining the fight in Iraq and Syria. He said that range might not be completely accurate because of a lack of intelligence on the ground.
McCaul’s comments come after a video surfaced Tuesday purporting to show the beheading of another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff. ISIS threatened to murder Sotloff after it beheaded fellow American journalist James Foley last month.
Sotloff's death, McCaul said, is even more of a reason for U.S. airstrikes on ISIS in Syria.
“If this is not a wake-up call, what is?” he said. “This policy of containment needs to shift to a policy of defeating them.”
McCaul said President Obama does have the authority under the War Powers Act to launch airstrikes unilaterally in Syria without authorization from Congress.
Last week, Obama said the administration did not have a strategy yet to respond to ISIS in Syria.