FBI says terrorism threat hits ‘a whole other level’ after Hamas attack

The Hamas attack against Israel has heightened the threat of terrorism to the U.S., FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said in testimony before Congress on Tuesday. He added that the major players involved in terrorism are now calling for attacks on America and its interests.

He said that the threat level has increased since President Biden’s election, but U.S. Law Enforcement is “better equipped to deal with these threats.”

“The threat of an attack on Americans has increased to a new level, due to the war in the Middle East,” said Mr. Wray.

He said that al Qaeda had issued its most specific attack call on the U.S. for years. Leaders of the Islamic State have also ordered their followers to target Jewish communities. Hezbollah has set sights on U.S. targets throughout the Middle East.


Iran has also launched proxy attacks against U.S. military installations.

Mr. Wray testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee along with Christine Abizaid (Director of the National Counterterrorism Center) and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The greatest threat to U.S. national security remains the lone actor or small cell of radicalized individuals using readily accessible weapons to attack “soft target.”

The threat from the Middle East has increased in recent years.

Ms. Abizaid stated that groups like al Qaeda which perpetrated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in the U.S. have less operational capability now, but are trying to use the Hamas’ attack on Israel as a way to recruit and rebuild.

Mr. Wray stated that the threat to Jewish communities is especially pronounced in the U.S.

Before the Hamas attacks, Jewish victims made up 60% of all hate crimes based on religion. Jews make up just 2.4% the total U.S. populace.

Mr. Wray stated that the number of attacks have likely increased since October 7. He said that the number of anti-Muslim crimes is “quite smaller.”

His statement contrasted a growing trend in which “both sides” argue about threats to Muslim, Arab and Jewish communities.

Mr. Wray stated that “pretty much every terrorist group across the board” is responsible for victimizing Jewish communities.

He said, “This group has the scandalous distinction of being specifically targeted and they need our assistance.”

Iran was a major topic of discussion at the hearing. Ms. Abizaid stated that the Islamic Republic remains the largest state sponsor for terrorism.

She said that there is no direct evidence linking Iran and Hamas to the planning of the attack on Oct. 7, but Tehran, along with its proxies in Lebanon such as Hezbollah, are capable of sophisticated attacks against U.S. interest.

Iran and its proxy states are currently trying to create chaos, but they avoid doing anything that could “open up a second front between the United States or Israel.”

Ms. Abizaid stated that “this is a very delicate line to walk.” In the current regional context, the actions of the terrorists could be miscalculated, so we need to pay more attention in the region and watch for signs that this conflict may spread.

She and Mr. Wray both said that Iran’s actions are particularly concerning, given its efforts to assassinate the former National Security Advisor John R. Bolton and kill a U.S. Journalist in New York.

“If that isn’t enough to convince the public that Iran poses a serious threat to America, I don’t know what else would be,” said Mr. Wray.

Security officials called on Congress to renew the snooping power under Section 702 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This allows the eavesdropping and search of communications between Americans as long as their target is an outsider.

It would be devastating if we didn’t detect the next major cyberattack by an adversary such as Iran or China because 702, our most critical tool, had been allowed to expire,” said Mr. Wray.

The Section 702 powers will expire this year and Congress is reluctant to renew them unless there are significant changes.

Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican Senator, said that the FBI “continues to abuse authority under section 702” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. You’d think we would be going after the foreigners. We are targeting Americans with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.