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FBI Director sets out the scale of the current terrorism threat

FBI Director Christopher Wray used the recent Utah National Security and Anti-Terrorism Conference as a platform to set out the FBI's view of the current terrorism threat.

During the speech, Mr. Wray said:

“We continue to worry about the threat posed by foreign terrorist organizations like al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is nothing if not patient. They still want to carry out large-scale, spectacular attacks in our country. But in the near term, they’re also focused on small-scale attacks targeting American interests overseas, to increase their chance of success. And we’re particularly worried about the threat to the homeland from al Qaeda’s affiliates, like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al Qaeda in Syria.”

“We’re also worried about groups like ISIS. ISIS has lost territory and leadership, but their innovative use of social media to recruit supporters and inspire attacks means they continue to pose a significant threat. They continue to encourage their supporters to take action wherever they are. No need to train with us or get our approval before you kill in our name, they say. And we’ve seen the results of this in recent attacks across Europe. We’re also increasingly concerned about ISIS affiliates in Africa and Asia, where they’ve attempted attacks against locations known to be gathering spots for Americans and Westerners.”

“But the primary terrorist threat to the homeland today, without question, is homegrown violent extremists. That’s what keeps us up at night - and no doubt many of you, too. The FBI defines a homegrown violent extremist as someone based here in the United States, who has been inspired by the global jihadist movement. They’ve radicalized here, in most cases, and most of them haven’t actually traveled outside our borders. And these folks are typically not collaborating directly with a foreign terrorist organization.”

Mr. Wray confirmed that the FBI is currently investigating about 5,000 terrorism cases across America and around the world. About 1,000 of these cases are homegrown violent extremists.

“The HVE threat is a new constant, and it has created a new set of challenges: a much greater number of potential threats, each with far fewer “dots” to “connect,” and much less time in which to prevent or disrupt an attack,” said Mr. Wray.

The threat of domestic terrorism was also highlighted:

“Finally, in addition to the threats from al Qaeda, ISIS, and HVEs, we’re keeping our eye on the threat of domestic terrorism,” said Mr. Wray. “We define that as attacks carried out by people inspired by, or associated with, US-based movements that promote violent extremist ideologies. That’s everything from militias and anarchist groups to race supremacist groups and environmental extremists. Right now, we’re investigating about a thousand domestic terrorism cases.”

Read the full speech.

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