The Paris terror attacks last November were horrifying, but Islamic State operatives had planned for even more devastation, an in-depth CNN investigation reveals. The news group says it spent months sifting through about 90,000 documents and photos culled from cellphone records, interviews, and European sources looking into the attacks. What they found: that ISIS had hoped for the Paris carnage to be worse than it turned out and had wanted to carry out similar attacks on other targets. Perhaps most frightening, they note, is that the ISIS faction dedicated to planning such strikes is a "highly organized" one. "It's increasingly sophisticated," says a terrorism expert who helped out with the CNN probe. "[ISIS has] set up an intricate, logistical support system … to launch these terrorist attacks."
Among the methods investigators say ISIS is tapping into are increased social media usage and encrypted communications; meticulous and secretive mission-planning, with operatives given info on a limited need-to-know basis; and tips on how to sneak into different countries, including hiding in train bathrooms. The investigators say there were two ISIS operatives—including one who seemed to be obsessed with X-rated websites—who pretended to be Syrian refugees but who never made it to Paris to help out with the attacks (their phony passports were discovered and they were arrested in Greece before the strikes). Meanwhile, a third operative, Abid Tabaouni, was just arrested in July. Also supposedly on last year's hit list, per European investigators: the Netherlands and a bunch of other French targets, including shopping centers and a Parisian supermarket. (Read more ISIS stories.)