In response to Senator Collins, Director Wray called identifying domestic terrorists the FBI’s “highest counterterrorism priority.”
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Washington, D.C.—At a hearing to review the fiscal year 2019 budget request for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray about the Bureau’s efforts to keep Americans safe by preventing domestic terrorism and cybersecurity attacks.
Senator Collins acknowledged the difficulty of identifying domestic terrorists and asked Director Wray to describe the steps the FBI is taking to intervene before they commit acts of violence.
“A major challenge for the FBI is homegrown extremists in every state in the nation who have been inspired by ISIS or al Qaeda or similar groups and radicalize no longer by travelling to training camps but via the Internet, through videos or private chatrooms or other means,” said Senator Collins. “How is the FBI countering that threat?”
“You’ve put your finger on what I would call…our highest counterterrorism priority at the moment,” responded Director Wray. “We have about 1,000 investigations into exactly the kind of people you’re describing covering all 50 states as I’m sitting here right now."
Director Wray continued by saying that the FBI is working to refine its ability to recognize red flags for individuals who are becoming radicalized before they mobilize. Part of the FBI’s strategy includes partnering with state and local law enforcement who are knowledgeable about their communities and comparing best practices with the FBI’s counterparts among U.S. allies.
Senator Collins referenced the “No Fly, No Buy” legislation she introduced earlier this year, which would prevent individuals who are on the No Fly List or the Selectee List from purchasing firearms while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. She asked Director Wray if he agreed with this policy. Director Wray expressed his shared goal of “keeping guns out of the wrong hands” and promised to take a closer look at Senator Collins’ bill.
Senator Collins also asked Director Wray how the FBI is “responding to the growing cybersecurity threat from both state and non-state actors, particularly with regard to our critical infrastructure, such as the electric grid.”
“We're doing a number of things, both on the enforcement and investigation side, but also on the outreach and communications side,” Director Wray explained. “I talk about this when I meet with the private sector—how we can better get them timely, actionable, relevant information so that they can take the steps to—to harden their infrastructure.”
In addition to passing along threat information to those who oversee critical infrastructure, Director Wray said the FBI maintains a 24-hour, 24/7 cyber watch, and every FBI field office has a cyber taskforce. Director Wray also assured Senator Collins that the FBI works closely in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.