The U.S. Justice Department has charged 60 people this year with terrorism-related crimes, an unprecedented number that officials attribute to a heightened threat from the Islamic State and the influence of social media on potential recruits, the Washington Post reports. In the last two weeks, prosecutors charged three people and convicted two others on terrorism-linked charges. Charged was Enrique Marquez, a friend of Syed Farook, the gunman who was killed in a firefight with police after the San Bernardino shooting rampage. Also charged was Mohamed Elshinawy, a Maryland man accused of receiving $8,700 from the Islamic State overseas and planning to use it to carry out attacks in the U.S. He told prosecutors a childhood friend connected him through social media with an Islamic State operative.
Jalil Aziz, a Pennsylvania man, was charged with providing support to the Islamic State by spreading its propaganda on social media and for helping the group's supporters travel to Syria to fight. Aziz also encouraged other Islamic State supporters to use U.S.-based encrypted messaging applications, prosecutors said. “The common connection we're seeing is — in almost every case — a tie to social media,” said John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security. He said many cases involve young people, who are at ease building relationships online. More than 55 percent of those charged are under 25 years old. Most troubling, he said, about one-third are 21 or younger. “That's not the same age demographic that we saw with al-Qaeda,” he said. Islamic State supporters inside the U.S., inspired by its leaders' calls to attack where they reside, are increasingly plotting or attempting to carry out attacks domestically, officials said. In 2015 alone, prosecutors brought more than 15 such cases.