Since Hamas attacked Israel a week ago, threats in the United States have increased, FBI Director Christopher Wray and FBI officials warned in a rare phone briefing for media on Sunday.
“The threat is very much ongoing and in fact, the threat picture continues to evolve,” Wray said. “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 said that Jews and Muslims alike, as well as their institutions and houses of worship, have been threatened in the U.S. and told reporters that the bureau is “moving quickly to mitigate” the threats.
Wray, in an address Saturday to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, also noted “an increase in reported threats” and in particular warned that “we’ve got to be on the lookout … for lone actors who may take inspiration from recent events to commit violence of their own.”
He urged police chiefs to “stay vigilant” because as first responders, “you’re often the first to see the signs that someone may be mobilizing to violence.”
Most of the threats, according to senior FBI officials, are not credible, and several have already been resolved. The agency is more worried about a lone assailant who is not on their radars, as Wray stated.
This type of threat is best addressed through tips from the public, the officials said. They told reporters that there have been threats against Muslim facilities as well as Jewish facilities. Threats against Muslim centers are up, although the level of antisemitic threats is also spiking.
The FBI is working through Joint Terrorism Task Forces to mitigate threats and keep these communities safe, Wray said.
The FBI director twice said that he was “horrified…by the brutality committed at the hands of Hamas” and said that countering terrorism is the bureau’s No. 1 priority. “We will not tolerate violence motivated by hate and extremism, he said.
Wray added that the American embassy in Tel Aviv and the bureau’s legal attaché office are collaborating “to locate and identify all Americans who have been impacted in the region, including those who remain unaccounted for.” Specialists in victim services are assisting victims and their families both domestically and internationally, he noted.