WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama, who is in Laos attending the ASEAN Summit this week, convened his National Security Council via secure video on Wednesday to weigh options for military intervention in the Bolivian rain forest where U.S. intelligence officials say an uncontacted Amazonian tribe may have become radicalized.
In a statement released by the White House early Wednesday morning, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said “credible intelligence” obtained by U.S. assets operating in the region suggests high-ranking leaders of the Yanaigua tribe have deciphered a copy of the Quran which may have been inadvertently dropped by a hiker more than thirty years ago.
“The threat these individuals pose to the national security of the United States has never been more grave,” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said while speaking at a foreign policy conference in Washington this week. “This is a group that is extremely proficient in guerrilla tactics and jungle-based warfare,” Director Clapper said before adding that the Yanaigua tribe is made up almost entirely of military-aged males.
According to an intelligence report obtained by The Washington Post, the Yanaigua, who number in the high one hundreds, are believed to spend the vast majority of their time hunting and gathering. However, as to what exactly the Yanaigua are gathering, Clapper has said U.S. officials “just don’t know.”
“The worry is they’re gathering materials to construct a weapon of mass destruction which they intend to detonate in a major U.S. city,” an intelligence official speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press told The Post. The official said that in late July, the CIA had attempted to use a reconnaissance drone to get a closer look at the Yanaigua’s activities but had to pull out when tribe members began hurling spears at it.
“We’re well past the point of negotiations,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) told C-SPAN. The Kentucky senator, who has been known to criticize President Obama for being soft on Islamic extremism, said Republican congressional leaders are calling on the Obama administration to authorize a sea-launched cruise missile strike on the Yanaigua. “This isn’t about the president’s legacy, this is about preserving American lives,” McConnell charged.
Amid rising tensions on Capitol Hill over what should be done about the growing threat of Islamic extremism in Bolivia, President Obama told reporters on Wednesday that he is “ready to take the gloves off” in South America. “This is not something that can be brushed aside and left for the next administration to deal with,” Obama said, adding, “The time for action is now.”