Top FBI and Homeland Security officials warn of higher terrorism threat in US


WASHINGTON – The FBI’s director and the secretary of homeland security told Congress Tuesday that the United States faces increased threats from extremists amid the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“We assess that the actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He further elaborated that the terror threat in the U.S. has increased because of Hamas’ recent attacks, which killed 1,400 people and led to the kidnapping of over 200 others in Israel.

The panel hearing explored the increasing calls for attacks against Americans both at home and abroad by multiple foreign terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah.

Wray revealed that the FBI has “multiple ongoing investigations into individuals affiliated with the foreign terrorist organization,” referring to Hamas. The agency is scrutinizing its intelligence to assess how the threat from Hamas may be evolving.

“We’re continuing to scrutinize our intelligence to assess how the threat may be evolving,” Wray added.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that there has been an increase in reports of threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab American communities and institutions, exacerbating a pre-existing rise in antisemitism both globally and in the United States.

After the Hamas attacks, other terrorist organizations have leveraged the conflict for propaganda.

“We’ve seen it from Al-Qaeda affiliates, almost every single one. We’ve also seen it from ISIS, which ideologically isn’t aligned with a group like Hamas,” Christine Abizaid, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told senators.

A heated moment in the hearing came when Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MIssouri, questioned Mayorkas about a DHS employee who had made extreme comments against Israel and its supporters. The employee, Nejwa Ali, had posted inflammatory remarks and images online, including a fake graphic of a Hamas paraglider with a machine gun flying into Israel.

Hawley questioned why she had not been fired and whether she had adjudicated any cases involving Israelis seeking asylum. The secretary responded that the individual had been placed on administrative leave but could not speak to an ongoing personnel matter.

Hawley retorted that Mayorkas’s response was “despicable.”

Mayorkas, who is Jewish, was clearly angry.

“Number one, what I found despicable is the implication that this language, tremendously odious, actually could be emblematic of the sentiments of the 260,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security,” Mayorkas said.

“Number two, Senator Hawley takes an adversarial approach to me in this question, and perhaps he doesn’t know my own background,” the secretary continued. “Perhaps he does not know that I am the child of a Holocaust survivor. Perhaps he does not know that my mother lost almost all her family at the hands of the Nazis. And so I find his adversarial tone to be entirely misplaced. I find it to be disrespectful of me and my heritage.”

Mayorkas said that the DHS is allocating funds through a non-profit security grant program to enhance the safety of religious sites.

“Jewish leaders tell me that their congregants are scared to go to synagogue,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire.

“From the senseless murder of a six-year-old boy in Illinois to over 300 recorded anti-Semitic incidents between October 7 and October 23, hate and the threat of hate-based violence is exploding across the country,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, said.

Mayorkas said his department and the FBI were collaborating on various initiatives.

“We’re sharing intelligence and information with law enforcement agencies at the state, local, tribal, territorial, and campus levels,” the secretary said.