Christopher A. Wray
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, D.C.
November 15, 2023

Director Wray's Opening Statement to the House Committee on Homeland Security

As prepared for delivery

Good morning, Chairman Green, Ranking Member Thompson, and members of the committee.

It’s been more than five weeks since Hamas terrorists carried out their brutal attacks against innocent Israelis, dozens of American citizens, and others from around the world, and our collective efforts remain on supporting our partners overseas and seeking the safe return of the hostages. But this hearing, focused on threats to our homeland, is well-timed given the dangerous implications the fluid situation in the Middle East has for our homeland security.

In a year when the terrorism threat was already elevated, the ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole other level.

Since October 7th, we've seen a rogue’s gallery of foreign terrorist organizations call for attacks against Americans and our allies. Hizballah expressed its support and praise for Hamas and threatened to attack U.S. interests in the Middle East. Al-Qaida issued its most specific call to attack the United States in the last five years. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula called on jihadists to attack Americans and Jewish people everywhere. ISIS urged its followers to target Jewish communities in the United States and Europe.

Given those calls for action, our most immediate concern is that individuals or small groups will draw twisted inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks here at home. That includes homegrown violent extremists inspired by a foreign terrorist organization and domestic violent extremists targeting Jewish Americans or other faith communities, like Muslim Americans.

Across the country, the FBI has been aggressively countering violence by extremists citing the ongoing conflict as inspiration. In Houston, we arrested a man who’d been studying bomb-making and posted about killing Jewish people. Outside Chicago, we’ve got a federal hate crime investigation into the killing of a six-year-old Muslim boy. At Cornell University, we arrested a man who threatened to kill members of that university’s Jewish community. And in Los Angeles, we arrested a man for threatening the CEO and other members of the Anti-Defamation League. I could go on.

On top of the so-called "lone actor" threat, we cannot—and do not—discount the possibility that Hamas or another foreign terrorist organization may exploit the current conflict to conduct attacks here, on our own soil.

We’ve kept our sights on Hamas and have multiple investigations into individuals affiliated with that foreign terrorist organization. And while, historically, our Hamas cases have identified individuals located here who are facilitating and financing terrorism overseas, we continue to scrutinize our intelligence to assess how the threat may be evolving.

But it’s not just Hamas. As the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, the Iranians have directly, or by hiring criminals, mounted assassination attempts against dissidents and high-ranking current and former U.S. officials, including right here on American soil. Or take Hizballah, Iran’s primary strategic partner, which has a history of raising money and seeking to obtain weapons here in the United States. FBI arrests in recent years also indicate that Hizballah has tried to seed operatives, establish infrastructure, and engage in spying here domestically—raising our concern that they may be contingency planning for future operations in the United States.

And while we’re not currently tracking a specific plot, given that disturbing history, we’re keeping a close eye on what impact recent events may have on those terrorist groups’ intentions here in the United States, and how those intentions might evolve. 

Now, I want to be clear: While this is certainly a time for heightened vigilance, it is by no means a time to panic. Americans should continue to be alert and careful, but they shouldn’t stop going about their daily lives.

All across the country, the FBI's men and women are working with urgency and purpose to confront the elevated threat. That means working closely with our federal, state, and local partners through our FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces; taking an even-closer look at existing investigations and canvassing sources to increase awareness across the board; and doing all we can—working with our partners—to protect houses of worship here in the U.S.

Bottom line: We're going to continue to do everything in our power to protect the American people and support our partners in Israel.

Protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism is and remains our number one priority. But as you all know, the range of threats we battle each and every day is enormous.

From cyber attacks, to economic espionage, to violent crime and narcotics trafficking—and everything in between—the problems we tackle are not getting any easier, but we’ve continued to work to outpace our adversaries. We disrupted over 40% more cyber operations last year and arrested over 60% more cybercriminals than the year before. We’ve got 2,000 active investigations across all 56 FBI field offices into China’s relentless efforts to steal our innovation and intellectual property. And over the past two years alone, we’ve seized enough fentanyl to kill 270 million people—that’s more than 80% of Americans.

Just this month, working with our partners, FBI Boston seized nearly 8 million doses of fentanyl- and methamphetamine-laced pills and powder, including nearly 20 pounds of fentanyl-laced pills pressed to look like heart-shaped candy. That’s one of the largest single seizures in New England history, and demonstrates the deadly reach of the cartels trafficking dangerous drugs to every corner of our nation.

I’m incredibly proud of the FBI’s 38,000 skilled and dedicated professionals who tackle all these complex challenges, and I think it’s our shared responsibility to make sure they've got the tools they need to keep us all safe. Indispensable in that toolkit against foreign adversaries are the FBI’s FISA 702 authorities.

I’m happy to talk about all the things the FBI has done over the past couple years to make sure we’re good stewards of our 702 authorities.

But I can tell you, it would be absolutely devastating if the next time an adversary like Iran or China launches a major cyberattack, we don’t see it coming because 702 was allowed to lapse. Or, with the fast-moving situation in the Middle East, imagine if a foreign terrorist organization overseas shifts intentions and directs an operative here who’d been contingency-planning to carry out an attack in our own backyard. And imagine if we’re not able to disrupt that threat because the FBI’s 702 authorities have been so watered-down.

I want to close by thanking you for your continued support of the FBI's men and women who work tirelessly and selflessly to protect their fellow Americans.

Thank you for having me here today. I look forward to your questions.