Domestic terrorist fatalities have outnumbered those from international terrorism attacks in recent years, and the FBI is ‘laser focused on threats from within the country’ as US-based extremists turn to social media to fuel their violent ideologies.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations made 107 domestic terrorism arrests compared to 121 international in fiscal year 2019 and the agency, but director Christopher Wray noted the ‘most lethality here in the homeland has certainly been on the domestic side.’
FBI and National Security officials testified that the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi leaves a vacuum that will be quickly filled and that home-grown violent extremists are still a major threat to domestic security.
‘We see domestic terrorism as [a] persistent, evolving threat,’ FBI Director Christopher Wray testified at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday in Washington DC.
‘International terrorism is very much alive and well and something we need to stay focused on too.’
Americans driven by violent extremist ideologies or personal grievances have become ‘one of the most significant emergent threats’ according to DHS. (L-R) Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray, acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Russell Travers and DHS Under Secretary for Intelligence David Glawe
National security officials testified that the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi leaves a vacuum that will be quickly filled and home-grown violent extremists are still a major threat
FBI believes encrypted messaging services as well as internet forums and social media platforms have only helped inspire racially and ethnically-motivated crimes
Encrypted messaging services as well as internet forums and platforms have only helped inspire racially and ethnically-motivated crimes, they believe.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan called ‘the prevalent trend of Americans driven by violent extremist ideologies or personal grievances’ one of the ‘most significant emergent threats’ to national security.
Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and David Glawe, under secretary in charge of DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, shared similar views.
Asked about putting European white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups in a Foreign Terror Organization categorization, Wray said it could help ‘but isn’t going to hit the biggest threat we face here’ – lone ‘self-radicalized terrorists’.
Wray said online communication ‘between U.S.-based neo Nazis and their overseas analogues’ in most cases don’t lead to travel abroad to train.
However the rapid development of technology has helped boost home-grown terrorism.
‘They’re not working together but they’re inspired by each other,’ he warned, adding: ‘Terrorism today moves at the speed of social media.
In August Donald Trump denied white supremacist ideology was behind a recent spree of mass shootings in the US, putting it down to mental illness and social media. Patrick Crusius, 21, (left) is the suspect in the El Paso shooting while Connor Betts, 24, (right) is the suspect in the Dayton shooting
The panel asked for better funding to help the DHS identify potential domestic threats and noted that no federal criminal charge for home-grown terrorists was a problem.
Wray said despite them being ‘laser focused on threats from within the country,’ the FBI had to rely on ‘creative workarounds’ such as bringing forward other federal charges or handing a case to local authorities in order to bring a case against the terrorists.
In August, President Donald Trump agree social media was a problem in the case of a recent spree of mass shootings in the US. But he denied white supremacist ideology was behind them and put the likes of Dayton and El Paso down to mental illness.
Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the ‘threat itself continues to metastasize and will require very close attention in years ahead’.
Meanwhile Chairman Bennie Thompson and other Democrats probed when Trump would finally find a permanent Homeland Security Secretary as former Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection McAleenan covers the role.
‘At no time in my tenure on this committee have I been more concerned about DHS’s ability to ability to carry out its mission,’ Thompson opened the hearing. ‘Beyond the secretary and deputy secretary, eleven components and offices within DHS are operating with acting leaders, and in all but two cases the President has yet to nominate anyone to fill these vacancies.
‘It has been 203 days since the Department last had a confirmed secretary. And even though Acting Secretary McAleenan is leaving tomorrow, the president has yet to announce who his replacement will be. What is the delay?’
McAleenan – the fourth person in the role at the 240,000-member department during President Donald Trump’s admin – said ‘it’s always good to have confirmed leaders’.
However McAleenan, who was not nominated before stepping into the role, added: ‘I’m not worried.’
Chairman Bennie Thompson and other Democrats probed when Trump would finally find a permanent Homeland Security Secretary