FBI Director Issues Warning on ‘Increasingly Concerning’ Terrorist Threat
FBI Director Issues Warning on ‘Increasingly Concerning’ Terrorist Threat

By Jack Phillips

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday warned that foreign terrorist groups are again looking to attack the United States in an “increasingly concerning” way.

In a speech at the American Bar Association luncheon in Washington, the FBI director said the agency is attempting to prevent an attack on U.S. soil via terrorist groups such as ISIS-K, or Islamic State Khorasan.

“Foreign terrorists, including ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their adherents, have renewed calls for attacks against Jewish communities here in the United States and across the West in statements and propaganda,” Mr. Wray said at the event Tuesday. He then made reference to a terrorist attack claimed by ISIS in Moscow, Russia, that left more than 140 people dead.

“The foreign terrorist threat and the potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland, like the ISIS-K attack we saw at the Russia Concert Hall a couple weeks ago, is now increasingly concerning. Oct. 7 and the conflict that’s followed will feed a pipeline of radicalization and mobilization for years to come,” he stated.

It comes as the FBI announced that it had arrested an 18-year-old Idaho man for allegedly plotting to carry out a terrorist attack on local churches. The man, identified in court documents as Alexander Mercurio, is accused of telling an FBI informant about his alleged plans and that he wanted to launch an attack last Sunday, April 7, but was thwarted by officials.

“The defendant allegedly pledged loyalty to ISIS and sought to attack people attending churches in Idaho, a truly horrific plan which was detected and thwarted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force,” the FBI director said in a statement earlier this week.

Several months ago, another 18-year-old, Humzah Mashkoor from Colorado, was charged with providing support to ISIS after he allegedly plotted to travel to the Middle East and join the terrorist group.

ISIS rose to prominence during the Syrian civil war that started in the early 2010s following the “Arab Spring” uprisings across the Middle East. The group—which promoted gruesome execution videos on social media—was able to capture significant territory in Syria and Iraq before U.S. forces as well as Russian and Syrian forces drove the group out of the area.

Chinese Cyberattacks

The FBI director also made reference to cyberattacks carried out by China, Russia, and North Korea in recent days.

The Chinese regime “plays the long game,” he said. “To put it simply, the Chinese Communist Party is throwing its whole government at undermining the security and economy of the rule-of-law world,” added the director, noting that the CCP’s hacking program is significantly larger than the U.S.’s and any other country’s cybersecurity efforts.

Meanwhile, the CCP’s “mafia-like” tactics and nature make it particularly significant, he added. He used the potential threat posed by China to call for more funding and for the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the United States to collect information from non-citizens who live overseas and who use American-based platforms without using a warrant.

“The Russian government continues to invest heavily in their cyber operations, in part because they see cyber as an asymmetric weapon to keep up with us,” Mr. Wray said at the event, adding that it will continue to “target critical infrastructure” such as underwater cables and industrial systems.

“We’ve seen Russia conducting reconnaissance on the U.S. energy sector” since the Ukraine war started, Mr. Wray said.

Drinking Water

Several weeks ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and national security adviser Jake Sullivan sent a letter to states warning about possible cyberattacks targeting drinking water and sewage systems across the U.S. They made note of recent efforts carried out by Chinese and Iranian hackers.

“These attacks have the potential to disrupt the critical lifeline of clean and safe drinking water, as well as impose significant costs on affected communities,” their letter stated.

In one recent incident, alleged Iranian government-backed hackers disabled a controller at a Pennsylvania water facility, while a Chinese state-backed group called “Volt Typhoon” was able to compromise technology at “multiple critical infrastructure systems, including drinking water, in the United States and its territories,” they warned.

The letter, dated March 19, called on governors to back efforts to ensure that all water systems in their states can discover and deal with any significant vulnerabilities and make plans to respond and recover from cybersecurity incidents.

Chinese hacking warnings were issued in February after AT&T and Cricket wireless services went down for about 12 hours across the U.S., leaving potentially millions with the inability to make phone calls, send text messages, or use their phones without WiFi Internet available.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote that if China targets U.S. infrastructure amid an attack targeting Taiwan, “it will be 100 times worse.”

“And it won’t be just cell service they hit; it will be your power, your water, and your bank,” he wrote at the time.

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