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FLASH ALERT: FBI DIRECTOR WARNS OF INCREASED DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM THREATS IN THE US

Kiara Alexander, Victoria Valová, Ignacio Minuesa, Chloe Woodbine, Extremism Team

Elena Alice Rossetti, Brantley Williams, Editor; Evan Beachler, Senior Editor

November 2, 2023


Flag Of The FBI[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to US federal, state, and local law enforcement, US residents, and Jewish and Muslim communities after the FBI director Christopher A. Wray’s statement to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on October 31, 2023. The FBI director advised of the dangerous implications the volatile situation in the Middle East has on US soil. Wray recalled that the Hamas-perpetrated attack on October 7 would inspire other terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and ISIS, to conduct copycat attacks. These organizations have called for attacks against Americans and the West in the wake of the conflict. He claimed that Iran, as the world’s largest State-sponsor of terrorism, has mounted assassination attempts on current and former US government officials. Wray underlined that the FBI’s 56 field offices are working closely with federal, state, and local partners through the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) to combat these and other threats, including cyber-attacks, economic espionage, violent crime, and narcotics trafficking. The statement ends by highlighting the crucial role of FBI authorities and the importance of the FISA 702 act, which allows the FBI to collect, analyze, and appropriately share foreign intelligence information about national security threats[2] to defend the US from cyber attacks coming from China or Iran.[3]


CTG is on HIGH alert for the safety of US law enforcement, civilians, Jewish communities, and Muslim communities, as the rising threat of domestic and international terrorism poses a significant risk to national security. An attack on US soil is VERY LIKELY to materialize, ALMOST CERTAINLY as a result of the growing threats made by al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS, and Hamas against the US and the West. The persistent calls for mobilization from Middle Eastern Islamist terrorist organizations will ALMOST CERTAINLY accelerate individuals' progression through the Pathway to Violence, resulting in attack planning and execution. Domestic violent extremists are VERY LIKELY to continue drawing inspiration from Middle Eastern Islamist terrorist organizations and will VERY LIKELY carry out attacks targeting Jews and Muslims in the US. Islamist terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS, and Hamas, have LIKELY begun to plot attacks against Jewish communities and Americans, LIKELY by obtaining weapons, funds, and intelligence. Attacks on US infrastructure and assassination attempts of US military and government personnel abroad will ALMOST CERTAINLY continue, VERY LIKELY as a result of the Iranian government's sponsorship. The US intelligence community, FBI, military, and government personnel will ALMOST CERTAINLY remain on high alert and will ALMOST CERTAINLY closely monitor threats of attacks on US soil and abroad.


On October 31, FBI director Wray spoke to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) on rising national security concerns, stating that Hamas is the greatest terror threat since ISIS. The recent attack on Israel by Hamas has heightened the fear of future terrorist attacks occurring on US soil. Wray claims the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel is likely to motivate other terrorist groups and individuals to commit similar attacks on the US. Al-Qaeda is calling for action against the US, its most specific threat in the past five years. ISIS called for its supporters to attack Jewish communities in the US and Europe. Hezbollah has voiced its support for Hamas and Iran as the Iranian government continues to target US bases overseas.


Wray notes the imminent threat of domestic extremism as recent attacks against the Jewish and Muslim communities continue to grow, harming national security. On October 14, an Illinois landlord attacked Muslim tenants, a mother, and her 6-year-old son, fatally stabbing the child. Law enforcement stated that the Israel-Hamas war inspired the attack, charging the attacker with a hate crime.[4] Online threats of university students, including those against the Jewish students at Cornell University, New York, illustrate a growing risk of violence inspired by the war.[5] Law enforcement arrested a Jordanian national living in Texas on October 19, charging him with unlawful possession of a firearm that he used to train with for a potential attack. Court documents believe the suspect “spoke of martyrdom in support of a religious cause” and was “studying how to build bombs and posted online about his support for killing Jews.”[6]


The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas is almost certainly fueling the mobilization of terrorist organizations abroad to harm those supporting the Israeli government. Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS, and Hamas are almost certainly continuing to call on individuals to support their cause against the West, with the US very likely being the main target of aggression. These groups are likely to attack US military bases overseas, primarily in Al Tanf and the Al-Omar oil field base in Syria, or will take hostage US military personnel and government officials in Middle Eastern countries to gain leverage over the US government to cease cooperation with Israel. Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS, and Hamas will almost certainly attack US military bases on a smaller scale, but more frequently, shift attention off of Israel and towards their own security concerns.


The increase in hate crimes for Jewish and Muslim populations within the US and other Western countries will almost certainly rise as a spillover effect of the Israel-Hamas war. The complexity of monitoring domestic extremism will almost certainly pose a challenge for law enforcement to counter homegrown threats before an attack, especially in a large magnitude like the current conflict in Israel. Individuals frustrated by the conflict and their governments' decisions to support or condemn the war are very likely to mobilize when terrorist organizations call for action. Such individuals are likely to show support for extremist groups through online social media platforms, such as Telegram or Gab, likely manifesting into the preparation and execution of an attack on US soil.


CTG has assessed the risk of a potential attack on US soil using the Pathway to Violence matrix. The matrix details the six phases individuals undergo before undertaking violent acts, drawing on studies from academia and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).[7] Domestic and international terrorist groups and lone-wolf attackers will almost certainly conduct substantial research and planning to support potential attacks following active calls for mobilization against the US and the West. CTG’s investigations suggest that the fourth phase of the Pathway to Violence, “preparation,” is very likely underway, with the calls for action and violent ideations circulated by terrorist actors. Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS, and Hamas are almost certainly leveraging the contentious nature of the ongoing conflict and violent acts against Muslims to motivate individuals to take revenge and conduct violent actions. Final signals of an attack will likely include digital and physical reconnaissance of intended targets on social media platforms, but surprise attacks are very likely imminent.


  • CTG recommends that law enforcement increase patrols in areas with high concentrations of Jewish and Muslim communities. This noticeable presence can serve as a deterrent and facilitate a prompt reaction in the event of an attack.

  • CTG recommends that law enforcement personnel partner and actively collaborate with Jewish and Muslim representatives and leaders in these communities to identify specific security measures and needs that will be most efficient in protecting their populations from an imminent attack.

  • CTG recommends that US authorities and civilians remain on high alert for acts of violence motivated by anti-Semitic and Islamophobic sentiment.

  • CTG recommends that US law enforcement remain on high alert and enhance surveillance of Jewish and Muslim sites, synagogues, mosques, and communities.

  • CTG recommends that the public exercise caution and promote a “see something, say something” approach to foster enhanced vigilance.

  • CTG recommends that law enforcement and site moderators monitor online traffic on platforms known for their link to extremism, including Telegram, 4chan, and Gab, for any signs of attack planning or execution.


CTG’s Extremism analytical team will continue to analyze and monitor further developments, including statements, threats, or attacks by terrorist organizations and individuals. These teams will work closely with CTG’s Digital Targeter program, Threat Hunters, and the Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (WATCH) team to gather additional information in real-time and warn the public in the event of a threat escalation or attacks.


CTG assesses that the current threat climate is HIGH, given recent calls for mobilization against the US and the West by international terrorist organizations and homegrown extremists’ attacks on civilians in the US. The calls for action directly elicit followers to undermine national security and carry out violent attacks. The current trend of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim threats and attacks on US universities demonstrates that domestic terrorism will not decrease in momentum in the upcoming months, posing a significant concern for civilian safety.


Analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY of hate-motivated terrorist attacks on US soil, which ALMOST CERTAINLY poses a significant risk to national security. The threat is VERY LIKELY to arise from international terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS, and Hamas, who have made specific threats against the US and the West. Recent events in the Middle East have VERY LIKELY motivated and encouraged domestic violent extremists to plan and carry out attacks in the US.

With an increase of domestic extremism in the US, potential attackers are VERY LIKELY to target Jewish and Muslim communities, ALMOST CERTAINLY highlighting the vulnerability of individuals to radicalization, with recent events serving as examples of this threat. These terrorist organizations will LIKELY inspire more individuals, propelling them to the “preparation” stage of the Pathway to Violence.

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[2] FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE ACT, FISA SECTION 702, https://www.intel.gov/foreign-intelligence-surveillance-act/1237-fisa-section-702

[3] Director Wray's Opening Statement to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, FBI, October 2023, https://www.fbi.gov/news/speeches/director-wrays-opening-statement-to-the-senate-committee-on-homeland-security-and-governmental-affairs

[5] IMMINENT WARNING: Online Threats Show Growing Risk of Anti-Semitic Violence at Cornell, US Campuses, by Victoria Valová, Magdalena Breyer, Ignacio Minuesa, Kiara Alexander, Chloe Woodbine, Lydia Baccino

[6] 20-year-old Jordanian national living in Texas allegedly "trained with weapons to possibly commit an attack," feds say, CBS News, October 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jordanian-texas-weapons-possibly-to-commit-attack/

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