FBI’s Wray and MI5’s McCallum say terrorism suspects encourage each other online

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LONDON — Many domestic terrorism cases now have an international component, as would-be killers “encourage” and draw inspiration from racist or neo-Nazi attacks abroad, the FBI chief and his British counterpart said on Friday.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, speaking to reporters alongside Ken McCallum, director general of Britain’s homeland security agency MI5, said their agencies had spent decades developing tip-sharing systems to handle international terrorism cases, but that “muscle memory” is now underway. applied to domestic terrorism investigations.

“Travel and technology,” Wray said, “have really blurred the lines between foreign and domestic threats.”

The FBI director said the frequently quoted phrase of ‘connecting the dots’ to stop a terrorist attack has taken on a new kind of urgency for many investigators because attackers can mobilize so quickly and are often not part of it. of a large well-established network. .

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In many cases of terrorism, Wray said, “you’re talking about actors largely on their own, maybe one or two other people who don’t have to do a lot of plotting, who don’t need to have lots of money…don’t need to do a lot of training, and whose targets are pretty much everywhere.

As a result, Wray continues, “there are very few dots there, compared to, say, the 9/11 model of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell. …with fewer dots and much less time to connect those dots, it could be that Ken’s people have one dot and we have the other dot, and if we’re not super locked in, we’re going to miss the one frame who is out there and it has to happen fast.

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McCallum said that in Britain, investigations involving individuals motivated by racism, neo-Nazism or related hateful ideologies account for around 20% of terrorism cases. Many of those affected are young.

“Racist neo-Nazi groups place a greater emphasis on underage workload, a more obsessive interest in weapons – in many cases even before some sort of attack is planned,” McCallum said. . “There is a kind of weaponry per se interest, so it creates a very difficult cocktail of risks that we have to manage very carefully.”

Wray noted that while racist violence has generally been categorized as a domestic terrorist threat, increasingly perpetrators appear to be drawing inspiration, often through social media, from people in foreign countries who have carried out their own terrorist attacks. .

In the recent Buffalo supermarket shooting in which a young white man allegedly targeted black shoppers in a supermarket, the suspect’s handwriting showed his admiration for a 2019 gunman who killed 51 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Another frequent inspiration for such attacks is a 2011 shooting in Oslo by a far-right extremist that killed 77 people.

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“You have people who may not be conspiring or colluding, but actually inspiring or encouraging each other,” Wray said. “You can see that for example with the attack in New Zealand, the attack in Norway, in a certain sense you see an attack in the United States that inspires someone else to attack elsewhere.”

These inspiring international connections mean the FBI and MI5 must constantly “compare notes on what they see”, the FBI director said.

The two security chiefs spoke to reporters as Wray wrapped up several days of meetings in London with various British law enforcement and intelligence officials.

On Wednesday, Wray and McCallum delivered rare joint speeches to sound the alarm to British business circles about the danger Chinese hacking and covert influence operations pose to the long-term interests of Western businesses.

McCallum said the Chinese spying issue is high on the agenda of the intelligence-sharing alliance known as the Five Eyes, which includes the US, UK, Canada , Australia and New Zealand.

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