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Foreign terrorists targeting US increasingly concerning: FBI director

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(WASHINGTON) — Foreign adversaries and terrorist groups are sharpening their aim at the United States — targeting cyber operations, security and “mafia-like” tactics in an “increasingly concerning” way, FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a speech on Tuesday.

At the American Bar Association luncheon in Washington, D.C., Wray said the agency is working to prevent a coordinated attack from terrorist groups such as ISIS-K, an affiliate of ISIS.

“Foreign terrorists, including ISIS, al-Qaida and their adherents, have renewed calls for attacks against Jewish communities here in the United States and across the West in statements and propaganda,” Wray said. “The foreign terrorist threat and the potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland, like the ISIS-K attack we saw at the Russia Concert Hall a couple weeks ago, is now increasingly concerning. Oct. 7 and the conflict that’s followed will feed a pipeline of radicalization and mobilization for years to come.”

The warning comes as experts predict ISIS will try to carry out an attack on the United States.

“We should believe them when they say that. They’re going to try to do it,” retired Gen. Frank McKenzie told ABC News’ “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz last month.

On Tuesday, Wray also touched on threats both seen and unseen from a bad actors from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

Russia is targeting “underwater cables” that are critical to global communications, he said.

“The Russian government continues to invest heavily in their cyber operations, in part because they see cyber as an asymmetric weapon to keep up with us,” Wray said. “Russia continues to target critical infrastructure — including underwater cables and industrial control systems both in the United States and around the world. Since its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, we’ve seen Russia conducting reconnaissance on the U.S. energy sector. Adding to that concern is that the Russians — like our other adversaries — don’t care if their cyber campaigns affect civilians.”

The Chinese government “plays the long game,” he said.

“To put it simply, [China] is throwing its whole government at undermining the security and economy of the rule-of-law world,” he said.

The Chinese cyber program is larger than any other governments’ programs, Wray said, adding that it outnumbers the United States’ 50 to one. The country’s Chinese cyber threat and “mafia-like” tactics make it particularly worrisome, he added.

He also offered a full-throated defense of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which lays the groundwork for the government to be able to collect the communications of non-Americans overseas who message on U.S.-based platforms without use of a warrant. Section 702 is up for reauthorization in the House this week.

“The consequences of tying our hands are not merely hypothetical,” Wray said.

He also took questions after his speech, in which he blasted House Republicans proposed $500 million cut to the FBI budget.

“China ain’t cutting their budget,” he said.

Cutting the FBI’s budget is a “form of setting us back,” he said.

“Who does cutting the budget help?” he asked. “It helps the violent criminals, the child predators, the Chinese government, cyber hackers and ransomware actors, The cartels … and terrorists. Who does it hurt? It hurts our law enforcement partners, state local law enforcement partners who depend on us every day and all whole host of ways, and ultimately hurts the American people in the neighborhoods.”

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