U.S. authorities have warned that the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, may have a passport printing machine that was used to help its followers infiltrate American borders with fake passports, according to an intelligence report cited by ABC News.
According to a 17-page Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Intelligence Report, issued to law enforcement agencies last week and reportedly obtained by ABC News, ISIS may be printing authentic looking passports for its followers in Syria. The militant group, it is suspected, may have gained access to the printing machine and several blank passports after taking over the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor, which is home to a passport office, according to the report. ISIS also controls the Syrian city of Raqqa, which has another passport office.
"Since more than 17 months [have] passed since Raqqa and Deir ez-Zour fell to ISIS, it is possible that individuals from Syria with passports 'issued' in these ISIS controlled cities or who had passport blanks, may have traveled to the U.S.," the report said, according to ABC News. The report added that the primary source of the information was rated at "moderate confidence" -- the second-highest rating given for source assessments.
On Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey addressed the fake passport issue publicly for the first time. "The intelligence community is concerned that they [ISIS] have the ability, the capability to manufacture fraudulent passports, which is a concern in any setting," Comey reportedly said.
John Cohen, a former Department of Homeland Security intelligence official and ABC News consultant, reportedly said: "If ISIS has been able to acquire legitimate passports or machines that create legitimate passports, this would represent a major security risk in the United States."
The issue of fake Syrian passports came to the spotlight in Europe last month after authorities found that two suicide bombers involved in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks entered Europe with fake passports, along with a group of Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS violence. ISIS claimed responsibility for the shootings and suicide bombing in the French capital that killed 130 people and injured hundreds.
After the Paris attacks, more than two dozen U.S. governors openly opposed the resettlement of Syrian refugees to their states out of fear that ISIS militants would enter the U.S. with the waves of refugees fleeing civil war in Syria.
The federal government has pledged to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to the country this fiscal year. Since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, the U.S. has resettled nearly 2,000 Syrian refugees, dispersing them across the country, mostly to areas with already large Syrian communities.
According to ABC News Thursday, the U.S. intelligence report pointed to an incident where a Syrian passport discovered in Turkey was printed with a designator number that indicated it was printed in an ISIS-controlled area earlier this year.
“If ISIS ability to produce passports is not controlled, their operations will continue to increase and expand outside of their operational controlled areas,” the HIS stated in its report, according to ABC News.
Last month, ISIS released a video threatening Washington, D.C., with terror attacks. Militants wearing scarves spoke to the camera in the video, threatening that the U.S. would “suffer the same fate” as France. The U.S. is part of a coalition that has been conducting airstrikes in Syria targeting ISIS since 2014.
"We say to the states that part in the crusader campaign that, by God, you will have a day God willing, like France's and by God, as we struck France in the center of its abode in Paris, then we swear that we will strike America at its center in Washington," one militant reportedly said in the video.