Wray says FBI domestic terrorism caseload has 'exploded' since last year

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday testified to a Senate committee that his agency’s domestic terrorism caseload had “exploded” since early 2020, in particular cases involving racially or ethnically motivated crimes.

“Since the spring of 2020, so for the past 16, 18 months or so, we have more than doubled our domestic terrorism caseload from about 1,000 to around 2,700 investigations, and we have surged personnel to match, more than doubling the amount of people working that threat than the year before,” Wray testified during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on threats to the homeland. 

“Certainly, the domestic terrorism caseload has exploded, and meanwhile the international terrorism caseload hasn’t subsided,” Wray said later during questioning from senators. 

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Wray noted that the “biggest chunk” of racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism the FBI tracks is now “favoring white supremacy.”

“We collect information about that threat. We have, as you say, prioritized that threat at a national threat priority level,” Wray said. 

Wray’s testimony came a year after he testified to the House Homeland Security Committee that racially motivated violent extremism was the main issue pursued within FBI domestic terrorism cases. 

It also came as the FBI continues to respond to and investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, an issue Wray noted in his written testimony the FBI perceives as domestic terrorism.

Social media was used to help organize the Jan. 6 incident. Wray stressed Tuesday that the use of social media has transformed domestic terrorism and helped connect those who previously might not have posed a threat. 

“Some of these same people before might have been stewing away in the basement or the attic in one part of the country and not communicating with each other, but today terrorism moves at the speed of social media,” Wray said. 

“You have the ability of lone actors disgruntled in one part of the country to spin up similar, like-minded individuals in other parts of the country and urge them into action or inspire them into action,” he added.