The United States is in a heightened threat level since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which has “sharpened the focus” of terrorist threats to the country, Biden officials said at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday.
“I feel very strongly that we are in a heightened threat environment,” Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, told the committee.
Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), the committee chair, underlined that point, but pinned the blame on the Biden administration.
“This is one of the most dangerous times in the history of the United States,” he said. “Without question, the homeland is less safe under this president.”
Wray and the other officials said the Israel-Hamas war threatens to inspire domestic and international terrorism, something federal agencies have been saying since the fighting began more than a month ago.
“Although the terrorism threat in the United States has remained heightened throughout 2023, Hamas’s attack on Israel, along with other recent events, have sharpened the focus of potential attacks on targeted individuals and institutions perceived as symbolic of or tied to the conflict,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
Wray said the FBI continues to monitor threats across the country, many of which are directed toward Jewish and Muslim individuals and institutions.
“Terrorist organizations worldwide, as well as individuals attracted to violence, have praised Hamas’s horrific attack on Israeli civilians,” Wray said. “We have seen violent extremists across ideologies seeking to target Jewish and Muslim people and institutions through physical assaults, bomb threats, and online calls for mass casualty attacks.”
“Our top concern stems from lone offenders inspired by — or reacting to — the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, as they pose the most likely threat to Americans, especially Jewish, Muslim, and Arab American communities in the United States,” Wray added.
National Counterterrorism Director Christine Abizaid said several federal departments are working together to keep Americans safe, with the National Counterterrorism Center providing intelligence across federal and local law enforcement agencies.
“We continue to closely monitor, evaluate, and take appropriate actions with respect to potential threats to the United States in the wake of the 7 October Hamas attacks against Israel and the resulting regional tensions,” Abizaid said.
“We are sharing relevant information with our federal state, local, and international law enforcement, intelligence, defense, and homeland security partners to ensure they are prepared for any threats.”
Wray said the “biggest chunk” of the rise in threats were those targeting the Jewish community.
He added the FBI is “very intensely doubling down” on its monitoring of threats to the Jewish community, and to ensure the safety of all Americans.