The execution of American journalist James Foley by ISIS represents a terrorist attack against the United States, a White House official told reporters Friday, adding that the organization could “pivot” to attacks on the scale of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack,” White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters. ”That represents a terrorist attack against our country, against an American citizen, and I think all of us have the Foley family in our thoughts and prayers.”
Rhodes also defended President Obama’s oft-repeated description of ISIS as a junior varsity team. “I think what the president was speaking to a few months ago was the fact of the after is, you have many different groups operating across the middle east and North Africa,” Rhodes said. ”As we shift from a situation in which the counter-terrorism threat principally emanated from al Qaeda core, we are going to need to evaluate which of these groups pose a threat to the United States, which of these groups pose a threat to our personnel in the region, and which of these groups are more localized militia type forces that are potentially dangerous but can be handled by local security forces.”
Asked if ISIS could carry out a 9/11-style attack, Rhodes said that the group doesn’t appear to be planning one. “To date, we have not seen them focus on that type of planning, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be very mindful that they could quickly aim to pivot to attacks against Western targets outside of the region,” he said. “If they show the intent or they show plotting against the United States, we’ll be prepared to deal with that as necessary.”