Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Tuesday dismissed suggestions that fighters with the Islamic State in Iraqi and Syria (ISIS) are planning to use biological weapons, including the Ebola virus, to attack the United States.
“We've seen no specific credible intelligence that [ISIS] is attempting to use any sort of disease or virus to attack our homeland” Johnson said in remarks to the Association of the United States Army.
Last week, retired Capt. Al Shimkus, a professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, told Forbes that ISIS fighters could infect themselves with the deadly virus to use it as a biological weapon against the West.
“The individual exposed to the Ebola virus would be the carrier,” he said. “In the context of terrorist activity, it doesn’t take much sophistication to go to that next step to use a human being as a carrier.”
Johnson dismissed that theory Tuesday but acknowledged that ISIS remains a “very, very dangerous terrorist organization.” He cited the group’s hold on territory, deft use of social media, financing and repeated threats against the U.S.
“They've called for attacks in the West. And that's why we're taking the fight to them militarily, with airstrikes. We simply have no choice. This is something that has to be confronted,” he said.
The U.S.-led coalition against ISIS launched a new wave of airstrikes this week against the militant group which is threatening to capture the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.
Johnson also said the government and public must remain “vigilant” against possible “lone wolf” attacks.
“We don't mean to unnecessarily burden people in their travel or unnecessarily frighten people, either, with speculation and rumor,” he added. “We have to be responsible.”
The Cabinet secretary delivered his remarks as the Obama administration faces increased pressure to step up its response to the Ebola outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday said it would “rethink” its strategy after confirming that a nurse treating an Ebola patient in Dallas contracted the virus.