As technology advances, so does terrorists’ use of technology to communicate—both to inspire and recruit. The widespread use of technology propagates the persistent terrorist message to attack U.S. interests whether in the homeland or abroad. As the threat to harm Western interests evolves, we must adapt and confront the challenges, relying heavily on the strength of our federal, state, local, and international partnerships.
We continue to identify individuals who seek to join the ranks of foreign fighters traveling in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, commonly known as ISIL, and also homegrown violent extremists who may aspire to attack the United States from within. These threats remain among the highest priorities for the FBI and the Intelligence Community as a whole.
ISIL has proven relentless in its violent campaign to rule and has aggressively promoted its hateful message, attracting like-minded extremists to include Westerners. To an even greater degree than al-Qa’ida or other foreign terrorist organizations, ISIL has persistently used the Internet to communicate. From a homeland perspective, it is ISIL’s widespread reach through the Internet and social media which is most concerning, as ISIL has aggressively employed this technology for its nefarious strategy. ISIL blends traditional media platforms, glossy photos, in-depth articles, and social media campaigns that can go viral in a matter of seconds. No matter the format, the message of radicalization spreads faster than we imagined just a few years ago.
Unlike other groups, ISIL has constructed a narrative that touches on all facets of life—from career opportunities to family life to a sense of community. The message isn’t tailored solely to those who are overtly expressing symptoms of radicalization. It is seen by many who click through the Internet every day, receive social media push notifications, and participate in social networks. Ultimately, many of these individuals are seeking a sense of belonging.
As a communication medium, social media is a critical tool for terror groups to exploit. There is no set profile for the susceptible consumer of this propaganda. However, one trend continues to rise—the inspired youth. We’ve seen certain children and young adults drawn deeper into the ISIL narrative. These individuals are often comfortable with virtual communication platforms, especially social media networks.
With the widespread horizontal distribution of social media, terrorists can identify vulnerable individuals of all ages in the United States—spot, assess, recruit, and radicalize—either to travel or to conduct a homeland attack. The foreign terrorist now has direct access into the United States like never before. The FBI is using all lawful investigative techniques and methods to combat the threat these individuals may pose to the United States. In conjunction with our domestic and foreign partners, we are rigorously collecting and analyzing intelligence as it pertains to the ongoing threat posed by foreign terrorist organizations and homegrown violent extremists. In partnership with our many federal, state, and local agencies assigned to Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country, we remain vigilant to ensure the safety of the American public. Be assured, the FBI continues to pursue increased efficiencies and information-sharing processes, as well as technological and other methods to help stay ahead of threats to the homeland.