NEW YORK — The FBI has increased its surveillance of Syrians inside the United States in response to concerns that a military strike against the government of President Bashar Assad could lead to terrorist attacks here or against US allies and interests abroad, according to current and former senior US officials.
The government has also taken the unusual step of warning federal agencies and private companies that US military action in Syria could spur cyberattacks, the officials said. There were no such alerts before previous military operations, like the one against Libya in 2011.
The authorities are particularly concerned because Iran — one of Assad’s closest allies — has said there will be reprisals against Israel if the United States attacks Syria. The Iranians have also shown a willingness to sponsor terrorist attacks on American targets, according to the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a continuing operation.
“They’re not starting from scratch — the field offices know what they have in terms of sources and investigations, but this is a directive for them to redouble their efforts and check their traps,” one senior US official said.
Senior national security officials at FBI headquarters in Washington have told the bureau’s field offices in recent days to follow up with sources who have ties to Syrians in an attempt to find talk or evidence of a retaliatory strike, the officials said. And Syrians implicated in continuing investigations will be put under even closer scrutiny, the officials said.
The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have sent out a classified bulletin alerting federal, state, and local law enforcement officials of potential threats created by the Syria conflict, the officials said.
FBI agents are expected to interview hundreds of Syrians in the coming days. During the international campaign against Moammar Khadafy of Libya two years ago, the agency interviewed nearly 1,000 Libyans.