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James Foley's execution is "attack on our country," White House says

This undated image posted on a militant website on Jan. 4, 2014 shows Shakir Waheib, a senior member of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), left, next to a burning police vehicle in Iraq's Anbar Province.


When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (known as ISIS or ISIL) executed American journalist James Foley, it represented an "attack on our country," a White House official told reporters Friday.

"Absolutely, when you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack, against our country and an American citizen," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes (the brother of CBS News President David Rhodes) said, when asked if he agreed with Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA who is now a national security analyst for CBS News.

Morrell said on "CBS This Morning" earlier in the week that Foley's execution was the group's "first terrorist attack against the United States."

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday said that ISIS is "beyond just a terrorist group" and "beyond anything that we've seen."

However, Rhodes on Friday said that there's no evidence so far that ISIS is planning an attack against the U.S. on the scale of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

"We have not seen them focus on that type of planning," Rhodes said. "That doesn't mean we're not going to be very mindful that they could quickly pivot to target Western attacks outside of the region."

ISIS has "a cadre of fighters who are clearly willing to do horrific things," he added, as well as a "significant stream of funding that they've acquired over the last year or two... If they show plotting against the United States, we'll be prepared to deal with that as necessary."

Within Iraq, Rhodes said that the U.S. has seen ISIS "seek to advance too close to our facilities, certainly too close for our own comfort."

On Thursday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that ISIS must not only be contained, but "will eventually have to be defeated."

Rhodes on Friday said, "It is going to take time, a long time, to fully evict them from the communities where they operate."

The U.S. can do things, he said, such as support and "give space" for security forces in Iraq to take the fight directly to ISIS.