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FBI Says Domestic Terrorism Caseload Nearly Tripled Since Spring 2020

FBI Says Domestic Terrorism Caseload Nearly Tripled Since Spring 2020

Federal law enforcement has been warning for some time about the increase in domestic terrorism, including specifically addressing the threats from white supremacist groups and anti-government militia groups. In a new statement to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, FBI Director Christopher Wray discusses how the FBI has changed in the two decades since the attacks on 9/11/2001, and what their current focuses are.

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 21: FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on terror threats to the U.S. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on September 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)

Specifically, Wray addressed multiple types of terrorism, foreign and domestic, the motivating factors, and how the agency is working to address them. One particular concern is the rapid growth of domestic extremism. Wray says that the FBI has had to “surge resources” to domestic terrorism cases in the past year or so, increasing personnel on that front by 260%.

He addresses the attack on the U.S. Capitol specifically:

First and foremost, I want to assure you, your staff, and the American people that the FBI has deployed our full investigative resources and is working closely with our federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial partners to aggressively pursue those involved in criminal activity during the events of January 6, 2021. We are working hard to identify those responsible for the violence and destruction of property at the U.S. Capitol building…The American people should rest assured that we will continue to work to hold accountable those individuals who participated in the violent breach of the Capitol on January 6th and any others who attempt to use violence to intimidate, coerce, or influence the American people or affect the conduct of our government.

He says that the FBI isn’t neglecting FTOs — Foreign Terrorist Organizations — and that there’s specific concern that ISIS or al-Qaeda could attempt another large-scale attack in the U.S., and this is being monitored.

Importantly, however, our increased focus on domestic terrorism is not at the expense of our work on other terrorism threats. We continue to monitor potential threats by foreign terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS, which have never stopped expressing their intent to carry out large-scale attacks like9/11 here in the United States.

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Wray says that the domestic terror threat has evolved over the past few years, shifting from being primarily white supremacist in nature to being largely anti-government. (Wray does not indicate that the two are mutually exclusive.)

The top threats we face from DVEs are from those we categorize as Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists (“RMVEs”) and Anti-Government or Anti-Authority Violent Extremists. While RMVEs who advocate for the superiority of the white race were the primary source of lethal attacks perpetrated by DVEs in 2018 and 2019, Anti-Government or Anti-Authority Violent Extremists – specifically, Militia Violent Extremists and Anarchist Violent Extremists – were responsible for three of the four lethal DVE attacks in 2020. Notably, this included the first lethal attack committed by an Anarchist Violent Extremist in over 20 years.

Wray’s full statement is available here (PDF).

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