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FBI Looking Into Thousands of Terror Investigations Worldwide, Warns 'Threat Escalating' in US

Christopher Wray

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday that agents are conducting thousands of terror investigations around the world.

"Right now, as I sit here, we're currently investigating about 5,000 terrorism cases across America and around the world and about a thousand of those cases are homegrown violent extremists and they are in all 50 states," Wray said.

Wray appeared alongside Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at a hearing about security threats held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

He said the threat of a large-scale, big city attack still exists from groups like al Qaeda and ISIS, but homegrown terrorists are an even larger concern.

"National security remains the FBI's top priority and counterterrorism is still a paramount concern. That threat has changed significantly since 9/11," Wray said.

Wray added, "We have 1,000 active investigations of domestic terrorism. We have accessed it's a steady serious threat. It's something we take very seriously."

Wray also testified about the threat of terrorists using drones and he said the "threat is escalating in the United States." 

"While there has been no successful malicious use of UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) by terrorists in the United States to date, terrorist groups could easily export their battlefield experiences to use weaponized UAS outside the conflict zone," Wray said.

"The FBI assesses that given their retail availability, lack of verified identification requirement to procure, general ease of use, and prior use overseas, UAS will be used to facilitate an attack in the United States against a vulnerable target, such as a mass gathering," Wray warned.

Cyberthreats from Russia and China Are Hitting America Hard

Meanwhile, Nielsen testified that Americans are now facing a "pandemic" of threats from cyber-spies and cyber-thieves around the world.

Nielsen says the "viral spread" of malicious software has created "a worldwide outbreak of cyberattacks and cyber vulnerabilities."

"With weeks to go until the midterms, top of mind for most Americans is the Russian interference in our 2016 elections. This was a direct attack on our democracy," she said. "We should not, cannot and will not tolerate such attacks, nor let them happen again."

Nielsen says that by Election Day, the Department of Homeland Security will have deployed "security sensors" to state systems around the country, covering 90 percent of registered voters.

"We will be out in full force and hosting a virtual, nationwide 'situation room' to assist our partners," Nielsen adds.

Nielsen told lawmakers that there were two types of threats to American election security: hacking or disruption of election infrastructure, which includes voter registration lists or voting machines, and influence campaigns.

"China absolutely is on an unprecedented – or exerting unprecedented effort to influence American opinion," Nielsen said. "We have not seen to date any Chinese attempts to compromise election infrastructure."

Wray also testified, "China in many ways represents the broadest, most complicated, most long-term counterintelligence threat we face. Russia is in many ways fighting to stay relevant after the fall of the Soviet Union. They're fighting today's fight. China's is fighting tomorrow's fight."

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