Washington — The head of the FBI will tell Congress Wednesday that federal law enforcement officials have launched “multiple investigations into individuals affiliated” with Hamas since the terrorist grouplast month, according to excerpts of prepared remarks obtained by CBS News.
FBI Director Christopher Wray is set to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, alongside Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Christine Abizaid, director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
“In a year when the terrorism threat was already elevated, the ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole other level. Since Oct. 7th, we’ve seen a rogue’s gallery of foreign terrorist organizations call for attacks against Americans and our allies,” Wray is expected to tell the committee, “Given those calls for action, our most immediate concern is that individuals or small groups will draw twisted inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks here at home.”
Since the Hamas attacks on Israel — and Israel’s subsequent strikes against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip — the FBI directorthe U.S. intelligence community has been most concerned about lone-wolf style assailants, inspired by the terrorist group, targeting Western nations — and this after Hamas, al-Qaeda, and ISIS have issued calls to action.
Last month, Wray told a Senate committee that while Americans need not alter their daily lives due to the increased threats, “it is a time to be concerned.”
He is expected to echo those sentiments on Wednesday and tell House members that “Americans should continue to be alert and careful, but they shouldn’t stop going about their daily lives.”
Federal officials like Wray have stressed in recent weeks that there is no specific credible threat against the U.S., and no indication that Hamas yet has the capacity to launch an attack on U.S. soil.
Still, over the last month, the FBI and Justice Department — alongside other federal, state, and local law enforcement partners —with heightened vigilance for any potential threats from inspired lone wolf actors and individuals motivated by antisemitism, Islamophobia or anti-Arab hate.
Earlier this month, a 20-year-old Jordanian national living in Texasillegally obtained firearms and trained with others of a “radical mindset” to “possibly commit an attack.” The man was arrested in Houston on Oct. 19 after investigators said he had been “conducting physical training,” and “trained with weapons to possibly commit an attack,” according to earlier court documents.
He has pleaded not guilty to one federal count of unlawful possession of a firearm, and he was ordered to remain detained pending trial, in part because the judge said the defendant allegedly “made statements to others that support the killing of individuals of particular religious faiths.”
Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland and other officials convened meetings with leaders of Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, South Asian and Hindu communities, along with law enforcement officials, to discuss the increased threat landscape across the U.S.
“The Justice Department is committed to protecting our communities from hate-fueled violence. The Department will continue bringing together stakeholders to support our shared goal of preventing, disrupting, and prosecuting illegal acts of hate fueled by antisemitism, Islamophobia, or anti-Arab bias,” Garland said.
The Justice Department also opened a federal hate crimes investigation into ain a Chicago suburb which killed Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Palestinian boy, and wounded his mother. Authorities arrested and charged the victims’ landlord, saying the attack was motivated by anti-Muslim hate.
The suspect has also pleaded not guilty to state-level murder and hate crime charges.
The FBI in recent weeks arrested numerous individuals for violent threats allegedly motivated by hate, including a Florida man who authorities said threatened to kill members of a Jewish organization in New York, a Nevada manwith threatening Sen. Jacky Rosen in antisemitic messages, and a student at Cornell called for the death of Jewish people in violent social media posts.
Wray’s expected testimony Wednesday also comes as a December deadline looms for the reauthorizationthat U.S. officials have deemed vital for national security.
Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), U.S. agencies are authorized to collect, via telecommunications providers, electronic data — including phone calls, text messages and emails — of foreigners overseas, even if those communications involve U.S. citizens. Those records can then be searched for information related to national security investigations.
The provision is set to expire in December absent congressional action, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been critical of past misuses of the authority and have pushed for reforms.
“With the fast-moving situation in the Middle East, imagine if a foreign terrorist organization overseas shifts intentions and directs an operative here who’d been contingency planning to carry out an attack in our own backyard. And imagine if we’re not able to disrupt that threat because the FBI’s 702 authorities have been so watered down,” Wray is expected to tell Congress in his remarks, according to excerpts obtained by CBS News.
And while much of law enforcement’s focus has been on the conflict’s effects inside the U.S., the Justice Department is working with Israel to disrupt Hamas’ funding by focusing on its use of cryptocurrency. According to Garland, the department offered to work with Israeli counterparts to identify and target material support to Hamas.