Director Wray's Opening Statement to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
As prepared for delivery
Good morning, Chairman Peters, Ranking Member Paul, and members of the committee.
Discussions about the most-pressing national security threats and what we’re doing to tackle them are always important, but this year’s hearing is especially well-timed given the dangerous implications the very fluid situation in the Middle East has for our homeland security.The reality is that the terrorism threat has been elevated throughout 2023, but 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 the horrific terrorist attacks committed by Hamas against innocent people in Israel a few weeks ago, we’ve been working around the clock to support our partners there and to protect Americans here at home.
We assess that the actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate years ago. In just the past few weeks, multiple foreign terrorist organizations have called for attacks against Americans and the West. Al-Qaeda issued its most specific call to attack the United States in the last five years. ISIS urged its followers to target Jewish communities in the United States and Europe. Hizballah has publicly expressed its support for Hamas and threatened to attack U.S. interests in the Middle East. And we’ve seen an increase in attacks on U.S. military bases overseas carried out by militia groups backed by Iran.
Here in the United States, our most immediate concern is that violent extremists—individuals or small groups—will draw inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks against Americans going about their daily lives. That includes not just homegrown violent extremists inspired by a foreign terrorist organization but also domestic violent extremists targeting Jewish or Muslim communities. We’ve seen that already with the individual we arrested last week in Houston, who’d been studying how to build bombs and posted online about his support for killing Jews. And with the tragic killing of a 6-year-old Muslim boy in Illinois in what we’re investigating as a federal hate crime.
But as I said a few moments ago, on top of the HVE and DVE threat, we also 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 ongoing 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 Hamas’ terrorism overseas, we’re continuing 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, for instance, have directly, or by hiring criminals, mounted assassination attempts against dissidents and high-ranking current and former U.S. government officials, including right here on American soil. And, along those lines, Hizballah, Iran’s primary strategic partner, has a history of seeding operatives and infrastructure, obtaining money and weapons, and spying in this country going back years.
Given that disturbing history, we’re keeping a close eye on what impact recent events may have on those groups’ intentions here in the United States and how those intentions might evolve. For example, the cyber targeting of American interests and critical infrastructure that we already see—conducted by Iran and non-state actors alike—will likely get worse if the conflict expands, as will the threat of kinetic attacks.
But across the country, in each and every one of the FBI’s 56 field offices, we’re addressing these threats with a sense of urgency. That means working closely with our federal, state, and local partners through our FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces, to ensure that together, we stay laser-focused on mitigating threats. Taking an even closer look at existing investigations and canvassing our sources to improve our intelligence and then sharing that information with our partners. And doing all we can—working with our partners—to protect all houses of worship and people of all faiths here in the U.S.
Bottom line, we will 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. And none of the problems we tackle are getting any easier.
But we’ve continued to work to outpace our adversaries by disrupting over 40% more cyber operations last year and arresting over 60% more cyber criminals than the year before. We’re aggressively working to protect America’s economic security from China’s relentless efforts to steal our innovation and intellectual property, with around 2,000 active investigations across all 56 FBI field offices.
And over the past two years, we’ve seized enough fentanyl to kill 270 million people—that’s more than 80% of Americans. I’m incredibly proud of the FBI’s 38,000 skilled and dedicated employees who tackle these complex challenges to protect their fellow Americans.
Which leads me to my final point—I think it’s our responsibility to make sure that the FBI’s men and women have the tools they need to keep us all safe. And indispensable in that toolkit against foreign adversaries are the FBI’s FISA 702 authorities.
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, one of our most important tools, was allowed to lapse. Or with everything going on in the world, imagine if a foreign terrorist overseas directs an operative to carry out an attack in our own backyard, but we’re not able to disrupt it because the FBI’s authorities have been so watered down. So I’m happy to talk more about all the things the FBI has done to make sure we are good stewards of our vital 702 authorities.
But I want to close by thanking you again for having me here today, and I’m happy to answer any questions you have.