Despite their recent years’ efforts addressing terrorist threats from abroad, the FBI is now shifting its focus to fighting domestic terror threats.
According to an unnamed Bureau official, arrests related to domestic terrorism in the current fiscal year, which began on 1 October, are at 66, exceeding international terrorism arrests, now at 63. The official told media that the Internet is central and constantly growing as a source of radicalization for both domestic and international-based terrorism. With current technology, “homegrown violent extremists” can radicalize in a shorter time-frame and become threats more quickly.
Another factor of radicalization and terrorism is inspiration from other attacks, a disturbing fact seen since the late 1990s. Since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, for instance, more than 100 copycat plots and attacks have taken place.
These reports on domestic terror threats come shortly after a statement delivered by the FBI’s Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Michael McGarrity at a House hearing in May. According to McGarrity, the FBI has 850 open domestic terrorism investigations. Domestic terror takes many forms. Investigations are generally focused on suspects involved in violence related to anti-government views, environmental extremism, and abortion-related beliefs. Some forty percent of the open cases, however, deal with racially motivated violent extremism.
Still, it is worth noting that the primary focus of the FBI as an organization is clearly on foreign terror related crimes. The Bureau has about 5,000 terrorism-related investigations open, which means those 850 cases are just seventeen percent of the total terror interests of the agency. Recent cases prosecuted by the Justice Department show that the threat of foreign militant groups on U.S. soil remains substantial.