Governor's office says purported online Islamic State threat not credible

You might have seen reports of a terror cell in Maryland, but the governor's office says they're not credible.

An online threat claiming that the Islamic State has a terror cell based in Maryland preparing to launch an attack is not credible, the governor's office said Thursday.

Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said officials are aware of the reports and Maryland's director of homeland security has been in touch with federal authorities.

"At this time, there is no credible threat, but the state remains vigilant as a matter of routine," Mayer said.

The purported Islamic State message appeared this week on the website justpaste.it, which allows users to post text anonymously. It claimed that the terrorist group had 71 people in 15 states ready to launch an attack. The post named five of the states: Maryland, Illinois, California, Michigan and Virginia.

The source of the post remained unclear, but the Islamic State has made extensive use of online message boards and social media to spread its message.

The posting followed an attempted attack on an event in Garland, Texas, organized by Pamela Geller, an aggressive campaigner against radical Islam. Officials believe two gunmen — who were killed by a security officer — were inspired by the Islamic State but not necessarily directed by its leaders in Syria and Iraq.

Republican lawmakers referred to the post Thursday on the floor of the Senate after a federal appeals court said a National Security Agency program that collects millions of call records was unlawful. The Republicans pointed to the risk independent terrorists pose to the United States as a reason for continuing the program.

Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, said that the face of terrorism has changed and that people can become radicalized online without the need to directly communicate with a group outside the United States.

"One day there will be an attack that is successful, and the first question out of everyone's mouth is going to be, 'Why didn't we know about it?'" he said. "These people are not playing games."

The Islamic State emerged from al-Qaida's branch in Iraq. Capitalizing on the chaos of Syria's civil war, it has captured a large swath of territory in the two countries. The U.S. military has mounted an air campaign to beat the group back, and on Thursday the Department of Defense said it has started training a small number of Syrian fighters to battle the terrorist group.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the potential for the group to inspire attackers at home is "yet another reason why the defeat of [the Islamic State] is important."

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