In testimony to the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, officials from the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warned about increased security threats following the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7.
Their testimony highlighted the rapidly evolving global threat landscape and the potential consequences for the United States and its communities.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas opened the testimony on a somber note.
“Already, in the weeks since the assessment publication, the world has changed after Hamas terrorists viciously attacked thousands of innocent men, women, and children in Israel on October 7, 2023, brutally murdering, wounding, and taking hostages of all ages,” he said.
US domestic threats on the rise
The terrorist attack sent shock waves across the world, but it also had implications for the United States.
“Since this department’s inception, the threat landscape our department is charged with confronting continues to evolve,” Mayorkas said. “Although the terrorism threat in the United States has remained heightened throughout 2023, Hamas’s attack on Israel, along with other recent events, have sharpened the focus of potential attacks on targeted individuals and institutions perceived as symbolic of or tied to the conflict.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray highlighted the growing threats on US soil.
“While we work to assist our Israeli colleagues and understand the global implications of the ongoing conflict in Israel, we are paying heightened attention to how the events abroad could directly affect and inspire people to commit violence here in the homeland,” he said.
“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 said.Christine Abizaid, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said: “We continue to closely monitor, evaluate, and take appropriate actions with respect to potential threats to the United States in the wake of the 7 October Hamas attacks against Israel and the resulting regional tensions.”“Since 7 October, there have been increased threats to these communities worldwide, and some attacks and violent exploitation of protests, primarily driven by overall heightened tensions and individuals engaging in violent extremist attacks,” she said.Michael Masters, national director and CEO of Secure Community Network (SCN), said: “Today’s testimonies should be cause for vigilance, preparation, and communication, not fear or retreat. We have seen historic increases in antisemitic threats and incidents. But this does not mean we will accept them. We will not tolerate hate, violence, or terror – nor should we resign ourselves to living less Jewish lives. Instead, we have the tools in place to empower the Jewish community in safety and security. These tools – from training to intelligence tracking to resources and guidance – are designed precisely to serve Jewish institutions in times like these.”SCN reported an unprecedented uptick in incident reports.“The 772 incident reports SCN logged in October marks the highest of any month in our nearly 20-year history, a 192% increase from October 2022,” its report said.There have been about 3,500 incident reports between January and October this year, SCN reported, surpassing the 2,551 incidents in all of 2022, SCN reported.