FBI Director Warns Congress of ‘Diverse’ Threats to US From ‘Myriad Sources’

Chase Smith
By Chase Smith
April 11, 2024Congress
FBI Director Warns Congress of ‘Diverse’ Threats to US From ‘Myriad Sources’
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 11, 2024. (Julia Nikhinson/Getty Images)

In testimony to the House Appropriations Committee Thursday afternoon, FBI Director Christopher Wray outlined a concerning landscape of threats against the United States, stressing the challenges posed by a mix of nation-states, hostile foreign intelligence services, criminals, and technology-driven exploits.

According to Mr. Wray, the United States faces an unprecedented range of dangers, from homegrown violent extremists and cyberattacks to the sexual exploitation of children online and human trafficking.

“As I look back over my career in law enforcement, I would be hard-pressed to think of a time where so many threats to our public safety and national security were so elevated all at once,” Mr. Wray said in his opening remarks. “That is the case as I sit here today. And while we have always found ways at the FBI to innovate and make the most with what we have, this is by no means a time to let up, or dial back. This is a time when we need your support the most. We need all the tools, all the people and all the resources required to tackle these threats and to keep Americans safe.”

The agency’s budget request proposal, which Mr. Wray presented to the appropriations committee, outlines $11.3 billion in proposed spending.

“Our adversaries are not scaling back their efforts because of the constrained budget environment,” Mr. Wray wrote in his prepared remarks. “In fact, threat actors may try to take advantage of federal budget reductions to conduct nefarious activities. The FBI cannot afford to be playing catch-up to the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”), Hamas, and transnational organized criminals coming across the border, and cyber actors. With the requested resources, the FBI will have the talent, tools, and authorities to do more to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution.”

Complex Terror Threats

Mr. Wray identified terrorism, both international and domestic, as the FBI’s top priority. He detailed a persistent and complex terrorism threat landscape, highlighted by recent global incidents such as the attack at a concert venue in Russia and the elevated risks from lone actors or small cells who are radicalized online.

“The threat from terrorism is as persistent and complex as ever,” Mr. Wray said in prepared remarks. “As we saw in October with the devastating attack in Israel, terrorist actors are still very intent on using violence and brutality to spread their ideologies. We are in an environment where the threats from international terrorism (IT), domestic terrorism (DT), and state sponsored terrorism are all simultaneously elevated.”

The two main threats Mr. Wray brought up in his prepared remarks were lone offender threats from domestic violent extremists (DVEs) and homegrown violent extremists (HVEs).

DVEs, the agency says, are individuals based and operating mostly within the United States without inspiration or direction from foreign groups, while HVEs can be actors of any nationality who are motivated by foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) but act independently of them.

Mr. Wray said these actors are turning focus on “accessible targets” such as “civilians, law enforcement and the military, symbols or members of the U.S. government, houses of worship, retail locations, and public mass gatherings.”

Mr. Wray pointed to an increase in domestic terrorism investigations, which has more than doubled since spring 2020, alongside the significant number of international terrorism investigations.

According to Mr. Wray’s remarks, at the end of fiscal year 2023, the agency was conducting approximately 2,700 domestic terrorism investigations and approximately 4,000 international terrorism investigations.

Mr. Wray said the “top domestic terrorism threat” comes from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists.

International Terrorism and Global Proxies

On the international front, Mr. Wray highlighted the ongoing threat posed by FTOs, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and their continuous efforts to inspire attacks within the United States.

Mr. Wray also brought up the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas and its implications on the U.S. homeland.

“There was already a heightened risk of violence in the United States before October 7. Since then, we’ve seen a rogue gallery of foreign terrorist organizations call for attacks against Americans and our allies.

Mr. Wray said terrorist organizations worldwide have praised Hamas’s attack on Israeli civilians, and extremists across ideologies seek to target Jewish and Muslim people through physical assaults, bomb threats, and online calls for mass casualty attacks.

“Presently, we have no information to indicate that Hamas has the intent or capability to conduct operations inside the United States, though we cannot, and do not, discount that possibility, but we are especially concerned about the possibility of Hamas supporters engaging in violence on the group’s behalf,” Mr. Wray added in his written remarks submitted to the committee.

Despite losing physical territories, ISIS remains a significant concern due to its adept use of social media to recruit and radicalize individuals for violence.

“But now, increasingly concerning is the potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland, akin to the ISIS-K attack we saw at the Russian concert hall just a couple of weeks ago,” Mr. Wray told the committee.

ISIS-K, an offshoot of the terrorist group based mostly in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack near Russia’s capital last month.

Mr. Wray also addressed concerns regarding Iran and its proxies, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Lebanese Hizballah, emphasizing their efforts to plan and execute attacks against the United States and its allies.

“Hizballah has sent operatives to build terrorist infrastructure worldwide,” Mr. Wray said in the prepared remarks. “The arrests of individuals in the United States allegedly linked to Hizballah’s main overseas terrorist arm, and their intelligence-collection and -procurement efforts, demonstrate Hizballah’s interest in long-term contingency planning activities here in the Homeland. Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has also threatened retaliation for the death of IRGC-QF Commander Qassem Soleimani.”

Soleimani was killed in an airstrike directed by then-President Donald Trump in 2020 in Iraq.

Call for FBI Support

Mr. Wray also brought up the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and its importance to the agency. House conservatives on April 10 tanked a procedural vote to advance a surveillance power reauthorization bill in protest of its lack of warrant requirements.

“An absolutely indispensable tool that Congress can give us in our fight against foreign adversaries is the reauthorization of section 702. of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Mr. Wray told the committee. “It is critical in securing our nation and we are in crunch time with our 702 authority set to expire next week. So let me be clear, failure to reauthorize 702 or gutting it with some new kinds of warrant requirements would be dangerous and put Americans lives at risk.”

Closing his prepared remarks, Mr. Wray stressed the importance of continued collaboration with federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and international partners, and the critical role of information sharing in preventing terrorist attacks.

“In conclusion, the threats we face as a nation have never been greater or more diverse and the expectations placed on the FBI have never been higher,” he said in the prepared remarks. “Our fellow citizens look to the FBI to protect the United States from all of those threats, and the men and women of the FBI continue to meet and exceed those expectations, every day. I want to thank them for their dedicated service. I also want to pledge to this Committee to be good stewards of the resources provided.”

From The Epoch Times

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