“Today’s terrorism threat is everywhere, coast to coast, north, south, east, west,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told CBS This Morning in an interview aired Tuesday, the seventeenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
While noting that “we’re safer” than we were in 2001, Wray said that terrorism has “evolved.”
“I think the threat, today’s terrorism threat, still includes sleeper cells, Al Qaeda, all the kind of major terrorist organizations that you would think of,” Wray told CBS, “but we’re also very focused now on homegrown violent extremists, which are people who are largely here already, in the United States.”
According to Wray, of the FBI’s nearly 5,000 terrorism investigations within the past year, 1,000 have been homegrown violent extremists.
The Bureau has thwarted a number of terrorist attacks recently, including one aimed at the San Francisco pier, another at a Miami mall, and two more that targeted Fourth of July celebrations in Cleveland and Minnesota. In all, the FBI has made about 120 terrorism-related arrests in the past year, Wray said, and the threat isn’t just in big cities.
“Terrorism today moves at the speed of social media,” said Wray.
In terms of working with major social media companies to prevent radicalization, Wray said, “We’re getting much better cooperation than we used to.”
“I think there’s a view that this is a shared threat,” he added. “We all have kids. We all have family members. We all have potential victims.”
The Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes the FBI as well as other government agencies, deals with roughly 15,000 tips per year, CBS reports. That’s around 40 tips per day, or two per hour.
Still, Wray said the country is “dramatically better positioned” for handling terrorist attacks, compared to where we were in 2001.
After 9/11, the FBI reinvented itself, transforming from a law enforcement agency into a national security organization able to prevent, as well as prosecute, attacks on the United States. “The FBI is a totally different kind of organization in a lot of ways,” said Wray.