President Barack Obama said in an interview with CBS News on Thursday night that the U.S. was safe from a terrorist attack by the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, encouraging the American people to “feel confident” that they are safe and well-defended.
“The threat is real — we have to be vigilant,” he told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell at the White House. “But we also can’t panic, and we can’t respond out of fear. [ISIS] is not going to pose an existential threat to us.”
He added: “They are a dangerous organization like al-Qaeda was, but we have hardened our defenses.”
His remarks to CBS come less than three weeks after ISIS militants killed 130 people in a string of attacks across Paris, and a day after 28-year-old Syed Rizwan Farook — who had been in touch with extremists — and his wife Tashfeen Malik fatally shot 14 at a social-work center in San Bernardino, Calif.
Support for ISIS in the U.S. has amplified to “unprecedented” levels, according to a study released earlier this month by extremism experts at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
However, Obama told CBS News that counterterrorism efforts have impeded the mobilization of many ISIS sympathizers.
“We have hardened our defenses,” he said. “If you look at the number of successful terrorist attacks that have occurred, we have disrupted a lot of them.”
The President also clarified the term “no boots on the ground” with regard to U.S. military activity against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
“When I said ‘no boots on the ground,’ I think the American people understood generally we are not going to do an Iraq-style invasion of Iraq or Syria with battalions that are moving across the desert,” he said to CBS News.