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Ignore FBI director's urgent warning about terrorist threats at our own peril

OpinionIgnore FBI director's urgent warning about terrorist threats at our own peril

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During the annual congressional briefing on the top “worldwide threats” facing the United States, FBI Director Christopher Wray recently issued a warning that terrorist threats have reached a “whole other level” from the already heightened situation. 

Wray revealed that the intelligence community has not seen the type of threat of terrorist attacks that is emerging now “in a long, long time,” calling the threat actors “a veritable rogue’s gallery of foreign terrorist organizations. 

As a former senior analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, I participated in the development of the Intelligence Community’s Annual Threat Assessments, the kind that Director Wray and five other top U.S. intelligence briefed to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees this week. My analysis of the 2024 unclassified threat assessment and the testimonies delivered by the Directors of National Intelligence, FBI, CIA, DIA, NSA, and Assistant Secretary of State Department, suggest that there is a growing likelihood that there could be a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the coming months. Here’s why:

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FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on threats to the homeland, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

Even the unclassified versions of last week’s Congressional testimonies as well as the written report outlining the worldwide threats sounded very alarming. Consider the following statement made by Wray. “The threats from homegrown violent extremists that is jihadist-inspired, extremists, domestic violent extremists, foreign terrorist organizations, and state-sponsored terrorist organizations all being elevated at one time since October 7, though, that threat has gone to a whole other level.” 

“Even before October 7, I would have told this committee that we were at a heightened threat level from a terrorism perspective — in the sense that it’s the first time I’ve seen in a long, long time,” he said. Under pressure from Senator Rubio to specify whether U.S. intelligence is concerned about a “particular network,” Wray identified ISIS. “Some of the overseas facilitators of the smuggling network have ISIS ties,” he said, adding that “other terrorist organizations” were connected to these facilitators.

Wray also indicated that he had to be “a little bit careful about how far I can go in an open session.” The content of the classified version of this report, which is typically classified above top secret and includes highly sensitive compartmented codeword intelligence, is highly likely even more alarming, because it includes a lot of details about the threat but cannot be briefed in the open session. 

“The written IC report states that “U.S. persons and interests at home and abroad will face an ideologically diverse threat from terrorism.” It reveals that terrorists seek to conduct “chemical, biological and radioactive” attacks against U.S. persons and interests at home and abroad. The attacks are being prepared in “small cells” or by “individuals inspired by foreign terrorist organizations and violent extremist ideologies.”

IN ISRAEL’S FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL AGAINST TECH SAVVY HAMAS TERRORISTS BIDEN SEEKS TO MICROMANAGE THE WAR

Iran military parade

An Iranian military truck carries surface-to-air missiles past a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a parade on the occasion of the country’s annual army day on April 18, 2018, in Tehran. – President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran “does not intend any aggression” against its neighbors but will continue to produce all the weapons it needs for its defence. (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images) (ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

The report called out “deliberate biological threats” and “chemical warfare” as threats likely to increase in the future. It also assessed that Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea “probably maintain the capability to produce and use pathogens and toxins.” While the report didn’t make any assessments suggesting that these state actors, which are the top adversaries of the United States, would share their WMD know-how with non-state actors and terrorists that seek to strike the U.S. homeland, I don’t rule out such possibility. 

President Biden’s policies have pushed our biggest and most malign foes together. Although China and Russia are probably less likely to share chemical, biological, and radiological expertise with the terrorists, Iran, which routinely trains and equips its proxy forces as a matter of doctrine, will almost certainly be willing to facilitate such attacks on the homeland through surrogates. Besides, Tehran has been developing clandestine networks within our country for more than a decade. Iranian operatives seek to target former and current U.S. officials as retaliation for the killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani in January 2020, according to the 2024 IC Threat Assessment. Iran already has attempted to conduct lethal operations in the United States. 

Hamas terrorists in Gaza

Palestinian Hamas terrorists are seen during a military show in the Bani Suheila district on July 20, 2017 in Gaza City, Gaza. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Iran already has demonstrated capability and will to conduct chemical attacks inside our country using water management facilities. In November, Iranian government-linked cyber hackers conducted intrusions into the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa outside of Pittsburgh, using Israeli-made technology. The operators, however, quickly discovered the attack and switched water pumping operations to manual mode, having avoided the disaster. While this particular attack did not cause major disruptions, the attack did affect multiple states.

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ISIS militants with flag

ISIS in its former “caliphate” capital of Raqqa, Syria (AP)

Wray blamed the unprotected Southern Border for the dramatic increase in terror threats. “We have had dangerous individuals entering the United States,” he said. Indeed, on President Biden’s watch, illegal migrants have been pouring into the country in record numbers. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, thousands of so called ‘special interest aliens’ have recently entered the country. These are individuals who pose greater national security risk than other illegal migrants.

At the end of 2023, migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border hit a record high, according to Pew Research Center. In November, the intelligence unit of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) San Diego Field Office issued a warning in a memo to its staff that individuals “inspired by, or reacting to, the current Israel-Hamas conflict may attempt to travel to or from the area of hostilities in the Middle East via circuitous transit across the Southwest border.”

Migrant captured by Border Patrol

U.S. Border Patrol agents capture a migrant near the U.S. and Mexico border fence in Calexico, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Last November, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified to the Senate that the Islamic Republic could attack the United States “with little to no warning.” Another recent report warned that Iranian operatives have identified 298 American strategic security assets and institutions, placing them on the target list for future attacks. Iranian operatives and surrogates are also targeting U.S. security and law enforcement personnel for attacks, kidnappings and assassinations.

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The FBI Director issued a similar warning in December, when he told Congress that he has never seen so many elevated terror-related threats all at the same time. He compared the threat environment with that of pre-9/11 terrorist attacks on our country. “I see blinking lights everywhere I turn,” he said.

Evidently, the lights continue to flash red, even more rapidly, to this day. And yet President Biden and his team are yet to shut down what has become the key access point through which terrorist actors are flooding the U.S. homeland, which they are hell-bent to set on fire.

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