Official: FBI increasing focus on domestic terror threats

Official: FBI increasing focus on domestic terror threats
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Despite a focus in recent years on addressing terrorist threats from abroad, an FBI official reportedly told Reuters that the agency is placing a greater focus on domestic violent extremists.

During this fiscal year, there have been 66 domestic terrorism-related arrests, compared to 63 international terrorism arrests, Reuter reports.

The counterterrorism official told Reuters that each of the bureau’s U.S. field offices is connected to a local “joint terrorism task force,” spurring involvement at both a federal and local level.

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Overall, terrorism is “the FBI’s No. 1 priority,” the official said.

This comes after Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Michael McGarrity said at a House hearing in May that the FBI has 850 open domestic terrorism investigations, 40 percent of which are cases of racially motivated violent extremism.

The domestic terrorism cases can involve racially motivated extremism, anti-government attacks, animal rights-related attacks and those surrounding either side of the abortion debate.

Recently, the United States has faced a number of domestic terror incidents, including an attack in Pittsburgh, where a gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in October.

The official told Reuters that the internet is a central source of radicalization for both domestic and international-based terrorism. And 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. Since massacres including the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, more than 100 copycat plots and attacks have taken place.