AUSTIN (KXAN) – The impression that terrorism is a world away is overshadowed by a much more insidious reality, says the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations who made a stop in Central Texas Thursday.
James Comey told an audience of UT Intelligence Studies students and faculty that as ISIS loses ground in Syria and Iraq, the worst of the worst radical elements will flee to Western Europe, a gateway to America. For now, he says it’s a watching game.
“The future we worry about every day is how do we spot them and stop them as they flow out, bent on continuing the global jihad by taking the fight to innocent people in those regions?” Comey said calling Europe the frontline of the FBI’s and US allies’ efforts to stop those people before they kill in Western Europe or kill here.
Scarier still for Comey is the hidden threat he concedes keeps him up at night: homegrown terrorists. He referred to isolated people of all ages and backgrounds who scour the internet looking how to give their life meaning. He zeroed in on a subset dedicated to what he called hyper-violence as a way to stand out. This group, he says, is nearly impossible to identify.
Right now, Comey says the FBI is dealing with a thousand cases like this.
“Where is someone on the spectrum of consuming the poison [of hyper-violent internet videos and messages] and acting on the poison? What makes this so hard for us is, how do we see them? and how do we assess them?” Comey asked rhetorically.
Including the American killed in this week’s London attack, 95 Americans have been killed by Jihadist elements according to terrorism experts since 9-11—including the attacks in San Bernadino and Orlando.
The other rising challenge for the FBI is how to catch computer hackers. To help do that, Comey says today’s bureau is focused on luring talented cyber analysts from the private sector.
“We’re trying to figure out, should cyber squads in the FBI be different? Does everybody need a gun?” Comey asked pointing out analysts in training also now spend 10 weeks co-training with agent candidates at the FBI’s facility in Quantico, Virginia.
And politics weren’t forgotten. One student asked Comey if the FBI changed its practices after the public’s reaction to Comey’s announcement of the FBI’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails just days before last November’s election.
“I’m not going to talk about it,” said Comey plainly, drawing laughter from the UT audience.