FBI to warn Congress about possible ‘organised attack’ in the US after Russian concert hall shooting

FBI to warn Congress about possible ‘organised attack’ in the US after Russian concert hall shooting

The FBI is set to warn Congress about a possible “organised attack” in the US similar to the one that killed 144 people at a Russian concert hall last month.

“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,” FBI director Christopher Wray is set to tell a House of Representatives panel during a budget hearing on Thursday. “But that is the case as I sit here today. This is not a point when we can let up.”

Mr Wray will tell lawmakers that US officials have previously been worried about the possibility of an attack carried out by an individual or small group inspired by the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, but the FBI is growing increasingly concerned about a more coordinated attack following the concert massacre in Russia.

Of increasing concern “is 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”, Mr Wray will say.

The 22 March attack on a concert hall in suburban Moscow was the deadliest in Russia in 20 years. A branch of the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility, but Russian president Vladimir Putin, without citing evidence, has sought to blame Ukraine.

Mr Wray will argue at the hearing that the FBI needs fiscal support to “tackle these threats” to keep American citizens safe.

“This is a time when we need your support the most – we need all the tools, all the people, and all the resources required to tackle these threats and to keep Americans safe,” he will say.

Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, warns of many threats to the US (AFP via Getty Images)
Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, warns of many threats to the US (AFP via Getty Images)

He also plans to press lawmakers to renew a US surveillance program set to expire this month, calling it an indispensable tool against US adversaries.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which monitors foreign nationals overseas, is set to expire on 19 April.

A modest overhaul of that program was blocked in the House on Wednesday amid concerns from members of both parties that it did not go far enough in curbing the government’s surveillance powers.

“It’s critical in securing our nation, and we’re in crunch time,” Mr Wray plans to say.

It comes after the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice warned in December of rising foreign terror threats in the US in the wake of the Israel-Hamas War.

In a bulletin, the two departments said that groups like al-Qaeda and Isis will likely use the Israel-Hamas war “to increase calls for violence in the US during the holiday season compared to prior years”, warning that the most likely “primary targets” could include churches, synagogues and members of the Jewish community.

That report followed testimony by Mr Wray before the Senate Judiciary Committee where he said the number of threats is at a “whole other level” since Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel, adding, “I’ve never seen a time where all the threats, or so many of the threats, are all elevated all at exactly the same time.”

However, he clarified that there was no specific or credible threat, adding that there is nothing to indicate Hamas has the intent or capability to conduct operations inside the US.

“This is not a time for panic, but it is a time for vigilance,” the FBI director said. “We shouldn’t stop conducting our daily lives, going to schools, houses of worship and so forth. But we should be vigilant.”