Protecting the United States from terrorist attacks is the FBI’s number one priority. The Bureau employs a variety of disciplines and works closely with a range of partners to neutralize terrorist cells and operatives here in the U.S., help dismantle extremist networks worldwide, and cut off financing and other forms of support provided to foreign terrorist organizations by terrorist sympathizers. In particular, the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) across the country are essential to the nation’s success in combatting terrorism. These JTTFs bring federal, state, and local agencies together on one team, allowing members to leverage one another’s skills, authorities, and accesses to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks across the country. The JTTFs also build relationships between the community and law enforcement on the front line, which is particularly important to combatting terrorism.
International terrorism: Perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with designated foreign terrorist organizations or nations (state-sponsored).
--for example, the December 2, 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, CA, that killed 14 people and wounded 22 which involved a married couple who radicalized for some time prior to the attack and were inspired by multiple extremist ideologies and foreign terrorist organizations.
Domestic terrorism: Perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with primarily U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.
--for example, the June 8, 2014 Las Vegas shooting, during which two police officers inside a restaurant were killed in an ambush-style attack, which was committed by a married couple who held anti-government views and who intended to use the shooting to start a revolution.
The FBI is committed to remaining agile in its approach to the terrorism threat, which has continued to evolve significantly since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on U.S. soil. The threat landscape has expanded considerably, though it is important to note that the more traditional threat posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates is still present and active. The threat of domestic terrorism also remains persistent overall, with actors crossing the line from First Amendment protected rights to committing crimes to further their political agenda.
Three factors have contributed to the evolution of the terrorism threat landscape:
- The Internet: International and domestic actors have developed an extensive presence on the Internet through messaging platforms and online images, videos, and publications, which facilitate the groups’ ability to radicalize and recruit individuals receptive to extremist messaging. Such message is constantly available to people participating in social networks dedicated to various causes, particular younger people comfortable with communicating in the social media environment.
- Use of Social Media: In addition to using the Internet, social media has allowed both international and domestic terrorists to gain unprecedented, virtual access to people living in the U.S. in an effort to enable homeland attacks. ISIS, in particular, encourages sympathizers to carry out simple attacks where they are located against targets—in particular, soft targets—or to travel to ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria and join its ranks as foreign fighters. This message has resonated with supporters in the U.S. and abroad, and several recent attackers have claimed to be acting on ISIS’ behalf.
- Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs): The FBI, however, can’t focus solely on the terrorist threat emanating from overseas—we also must identify those sympathizers who have radicalized and become HVEs within the U.S. and aspire to attack our nation from within. HVEs are defined by the Bureau as global-jihad-inspired individuals who are based in the U.S., have been radicalized primarily in the U.S., and are not directly collaborating with a foreign terrorist organization. Currently, the FBI is investigating suspected HVEs in every state.
It is important for people to protect themselves both online and in-person, and to report any suspicious activity they encounter. The simplest way to accomplish this is to:
- Remain aware of your surroundings;
- Refrain from oversharing personal information; and
- Say something if you see something.
Additional information regarding how to report suspicious activity and protect the community is available via the resources below.
Nationwide SAR Initiative (NSI): The Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative is a joint collaborative effort by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement partners. This initiative provides law enforcement with another tool to help prevent terrorism and other related criminal activity by establishing a national capacity for gathering, documenting, processing, analyzing, and sharing SAR information.
Community Preparedness Tools: Businesses are encouraged to connect, plan, train, and report. Applying these four steps prior to an incident or attack can help better prepare businesses and their employees to proactively think about the role they play in the safety and security of their businesses and communities.
The Contact Us section of the FBI’s website provides detailed contact information, such as relevant phone numbers and the addresses of the FBI’s local and international offices. You can also submit a tip online.
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