WASHINGTON - ISIS supporters are threatening to launch attacks on the west this holiday season – in one case using a propaganda poster depicting the Washington National Cathedral on fire with an armed militant standing in front of the building.
The poster says, “Wait for us, we meet at Christmas in New York…soon.” Clearly, whoever created the image botched the location of the cathedral.
The poster was made public by The Site Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist organizations. The group said the image was shared Thursday in a pro-ISIS channel of a social media app.
Chris Rodriguez, D.C.’s Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), said the purpose of propaganda like this is to scare people and make ISIS seem more relevant. He said while this is not a credible threat, law enforcement and Washington National Cathedral staff are aware of it.
Rodriguez said D.C. officials are working to identify threats to the city around the clock.
“People are watching for threats,” Rodriguez said. “We take them very seriously and we are already at heightened state of security because it is the holiday season.”
He said it is common for ISIS and pro-ISIS groups to recycle this kind of propaganda over the holidays, especially now as the terror group is experiencing major defeats.
“Around the world, ISIS is on the retreat, but there have been small attacks that happened most recently in New York, which was an ISIS-inspired attack,” Rodriguez said. “And so they are trying to play on those successes and trying to scare the public.”
Rodriguez is new to his job in D.C., but previously served in the CIA for over a decade.
“What I would say to the residents of the District is you need to be out there, enjoy the holidays, be with your family and friends and know that there is a dedicated workforce behind you looking at all these threats on a daily basis,” he said.
D.C. police told FOX 5 that the department is monitoring the situation and New York officials said Friday there are no credible threats to the city.
Rodriguez said the best advice for people – be alert, pay attention to suspicious objects and behavior, and if you see something, say something. That phrase is used a lot, but he said he has seen how tips from the public can save lives.
Rodriguez has created the HSEMA Public Safety Bulletin, which will provide residents with information about identifying and responding to threats as different situations arise. To access those alerts, go to hsema.dc.gov/page/public-safety-bulletins