By Kristina Wong - 06/25/14 01:45 PM EDT
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Wednesday that the White House failed to act on intelligence showing that Sunni extremist group the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria (ISIS) was gaining strength prior to its advance in Iraq.
Rogers said the White House has been receiving the same intelligence on the group that he has for the last three years, as ISIS established a foothold in Eastern Syria and began gaining strength, but had done nothing.
“It was very clear to me years ago that ISIS was pooling up in a dangerous way — building training camps, drawing in jihadists from around the world. We saw all of that happening. We talked for a long time — nothing happened to disrupt that,” he said.
“Then we saw them cross the border and go into Fallujah, nothing happened. That was six or eight months ago. ... Not responding is a decision,” he said.
Rogers said the group now could be even better situated to attack the U.S. than al Qaeda was before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“This al Qaeda threat is getting worse by the day, not better by the day,” he said. “And the fact that they hold a billion in cash and gold bullion, and if you think about 9/11 took about $200,000 and maybe a year and a half of planning — that’s a lot of dangerous cash laying in the kitty.”
ISIS has raided banks in Iraq and also is believed to have gained currency through kidnappings and extortion, though administration officials have suggested stories that it has hundreds of millions in assets are inflating the figures.
Rogers said there is a chance that ISIS will team up to work with al Qaeda’s core or other dangerous affiliates to attack the United States.
Despite analysis that a break between ISIS and core al Qaeda occurred last year because ISIS was too brutal, he said the break occurred due to reconcilable differences such as when to attack Western targets outside the region.
“That split where [ISIS was] decertified [as al-Qaeda], I would look at it as two organized crime families in Chicago. At the end of the day, their goals and intentions are exactly the same,” said Rogers.
Specifically, Rogers said he feared ISIS could team up with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, which officials believe poses the biggest threat to the U.S.
Already, Al Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria that split with ISIS last year, is now reaching out to AQAP, Rogers said.
And AQAP’s leadership is looking for ways to “try to have a success and an external operation,” he said.
“So you have all of these new relationships happening in a way that’s really concerning,” he said.