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FBI steps up surveillance of Syrians in U.S.

Aug. 31, 2013 at 12:04 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- The FBI is increasing surveillance of Syrians in the United States to guard against retaliation for any military strikes in Syria, government officials said.

Authorities warned federal, state and local government agencies and private companies that military action in Syria could trigger cyberattacks, The New York Times reported Saturday. Officials spoke anonymously because operations are ongoing, The Times said.

One senior federal official said the FBI was "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," the official said.

The FBI interviewed nearly 1,000 Libyans two years ago during the conflict that ended the regime of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, but some officials are concerned that type of intelligence gathering yields few results, the Times said.

Authorities said there is concern Iran could use the Syrian conflict to step up its efforts to sponsor terrorist activities, the Times reported.

"In case of a U.S. military strike against Syria, the flames of outrage of the region's revolutionaries will point toward the Zionist regime," Mansur Haqiqatpur, a member of the Iranian Parliament said, the Fars News agency reported.

Officials are concerned about the prospect of terrorist strikes against Israel and the United States in reaction to military intervention in Syria.

During the current crisis, "the new element here is the cyberattack," one U.S. official told the times.

A group that calls itself the Syrian Electronic Army recently claimed responsibility for cyber attacks on The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Financial Times Web sites, the Times reported.

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