FBI Warns of Potential ‘Coordinated Attack’ in Wake of Russian Massacre


Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… on Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray was scheduled to appear before lawmakers on Capitol Hill and express his bureau’s concerns about the heightened potential for an organized attack that might occur in the United States. In this week’s analysis, we’ll be looking at 1) what was released in advance of Director Wray’s appearance on Thursday, 2) how the FBI’s concerns have been elevated since a tragic attack that occurred in Moscow last month, 3) what the FBI considers the most significant threats to the U.S. homeland, and 4) the bureau’s top concern, based on recent past statements.

Quote of the Week  

“The threats we face as a nation have never been greater or more diverse, and the expectations placed on the FBI have never been higher.”

– FBI Director Christopher Wray

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With all the housekeeping behind us, it’s time to turn our attention toward the FBI, and its latest concerns over the potential for coordinated attacks it fears may be launched against the homeland.

The FBI Warns of Potential Attacks on U.S. Soil

On Thursday, it was announced that FBI Director Christopher Wray planned to express his concerns to lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the heightened potential for an organized attack that the bureau fears might occur in the United States.

The concerns were brought before a House Appropriations subcommittee panel, where Wray was scheduled to testify regarding the FBI’s fiscal year 2025 budget request.

Christopher Wray
Christopher Wray (Credit: Mark Warner/CC 2.0)

“Looking back over my career in law enforcement, I’d be hard pressed to think of a time where so many threats to our public safety and national security were so elevated all at once,” it was announced that Wray would tell lawmakers in advance of the hearing. “But that is the case as I sit here today.”

Heightened Alert Follows Moscow Massacre

The FBI’s concerns follow a massacre that unfolded last month at the Crocus City concert hall outside of Moscow, in an attack that resulted in the deaths of 145 individuals.

Although the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, which is recognized as the deadliest to have occurred in Russia in close to two decades, Russian President Vladimir Putin has continued to make unfounded suggestions that Ukraine may have been involved.

Now, according to Wray, the FBI worries that a similar attack could be planned for U.S. soil, carried out either by an individual or a group, possibly drawing inspiration from the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

Early on Thursday, it was reported that Wray was expected to specifically address “the potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland, akin to the ISIS-K attack we saw at the Russia Concert Hall a couple weeks ago.”

The “Greatest Terrorism Threat to Our Homeland”

Wray’s statements follow several similar assessments the FBI has provided lawmakers in recent months. In November, Wray told the House Committee on Homeland Security that lone actors or small cells consisting of domestic or homegrown violent extremists remain the “greatest terrorism threat to our homeland,” adding that such individuals or groups “lack of a direct connection with an [foreign terrorist organization], ability to rapidly mobilize without detection, and use of encrypted communications pose significant challenges to our ability to proactively identify and disrupt potential violent attacks.”

Christopher Wray (Credit: FBI)

Wray told the Committee in November that the FBI is currently “paying heightened attention to how the events abroad could directly affect and inspire people to commit violence here in the Homeland,” citing terrorist groups and others who had “praised Hamas’ horrific attack on Israeli civilians.”

Wray warned that extremists from varying ideological backgrounds had been observed “seeking to target Jewish and Muslim people and institutions through physical assaults, bomb threats, and online calls for mass casualty attacks.”

What Concerns the FBI the Most

During November’s appearance before members of Congress, Wray expounded on the primary concerns that he says currently have the FBI worried.

“Our top concern stems from lone offenders inspired by—or reacting to—the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, as they pose the most likely threat to Americans, especially Jewish, Muslim, and Arab-American communities in the United States,” Wray told the Committee in November.

During Thursday’s appearance before lawmakers, Wray also was also expected to restate his bureau’s view that a U.S. surveillance program, which will expire this month, is a necessity for defending against such threats. Earlier this week, a version of the program was blocked in the House over bipartisan concerns that it did too little to prevent overreaches in the U.S. government’s surveillance capabilities.

In a statement released prior to Wray’s appearance before Congress, it was said he planned to emphasize that the program remains “critical in securing our nation,” adding that amid the current threats the FBI has identified that “we’re in crunch time.”

That concludes this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief. You can read past editions of The Intelligence Brief at our website, or if you found this installment online, don’t forget to subscribe and get future email editions from us here. Also, if you have a tip or other information you’d like to send along directly to me, you can email me at micah [@] thedebrief [dot] org, or Tweet at me @MicahHanks.

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