As a record number of known, suspected terrorists have been apprehended attempting to enter the U.S. and a record number of antisemitic incidents have occurred in the U.S., the president and the director of the FBI have admitted it’s more likely than ever that a terrorist act could be committed on U.S. soil.
In an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday night, when asked if the threat of terrorism in the United States has increased because of conflict in the Middle East, President Joe Biden replied, “yes.”
Biden also said he met with Department of Homeland Security and FBI officials “for the better part of an hour to discuss how we make sure that we prevent a lone wolf and/or any coordinated effort to try to do what was done in synagogues before, do what was done to Jews in the street. We’re making a major effort to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Speaking to police chiefs at the International Police Chiefs Association in San Diego on Saturday, FBI Director Christopher Wray echoed similar sentiments. He said after the attack on Israel by the Islamic terrorist group Hamas, “In this heightened environment, there’s no question we’re seeing an increase in reported threats, and we’ve got to be on the lookout, especially for lone actors who may take inspiration from recent events to commit violence of their own.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray says a terrorist threat is more likely to occur on US soil. This is after a record number of known, suspected terrorists have been apprehended at US borders, with the majority at the northern border https://t.co/gKpAhAzYzTand as a record number… pic.twitter.com/UKpoWjLToj
— Bethany Blankley (@BethanyBlankley) October 16, 2023
Wray also expressed support for Israel, saying, “History has been witness to anti-Semitic and other forms of violent extremism for far too long. Whether that be from foreign terrorist organizations, or those inspired by them, or domestic violent extremists motivated by their own racial animus, the targeting of a community because of their faith is completely unacceptable. We remain committed to continue confronting those threats – both here in the United States and overseas.”
Wray made similar remarks while on a call with reporters on Sunday. However, he was more specific, saying there’s a possibility that members of Hamas or other terrorist groups could commit a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
“The threat is very much ongoing and in fact, the threat picture continues to evolve,” Wray said, according to CBS News. “Here in the U.S., we cannot and do not discount the possibility that Hamas or other foreign terrorist organizations could exploit the conflict to call on their supporters to conduct attacks on our own soil.”
He’s also maintained that the FBI was “moving quickly to mitigate” potential terrorist threats.
Their acknowledgements came after the greatest number of known and suspected terrorists were apprehended attempting to enter the U.S. in fiscal 2023. The majority were apprehended at the northern border, 432, compared to 227 at the southwest border. Combined, 659 apprehended represents the greatest number in recorded history.
However, law enforcement officials have explained to The Center Square that the 659 apprehended simply means more are coming through. It’s the ones who aren’t caught who are coming from countries that sponsor terrorism that worry them.
The KST data doesn’t include gotaways, which are believed to also include KSTs. “Gotaways” is the official U.S. Customs and Border Patrol term that refers to those who illegally enter the U.S. between ports of entry, don’t return to Mexico or Canada, and are not apprehended. They total at least nearly 1.7 million since January 2021.
With people illegally entering the U.S. from over 170 countries, former ICE Chief Tom Homan told The Center Square some of these countries they are coming from are sponsors of terrorism.
“If you don’t think a single one of the 1.7 million [gotaways] is coming from a country that sponsors terrorism, then you’re ignoring the data,” he said. “That’s what makes this a huge national security issue.”
Biden’s and Wray’s remarks also came after a record number of antisemitic incidents were reported last year against Jewish Americans, Jewish institutions, houses of worship, and Jewish students attending U.S. colleges and K-12 schools nationwide.
The southwest region saw an 87% increase in antisemitic incidents last year, with more than half of them being reported in the Houston, Texas, area.
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