Wednesday, December 13, 2023

FBI Issues Public Safety Warning for the Holidays

FBI Issues Public Safety Warning for the Holidays 

The FBI and two other federal agencies issued a public safety warning on Dec. 12, highlighting potential threats to the U.S. during the upcoming Christmas and New Year's holidays.

The bureau, along with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and National Counterterrorism Center, cited the ongoing Israel–Hamas war as a potential trigger for attacks. However, the agencies didn't point to any specific plot.

“FBI and DHS assess that ongoing tensions related to the conflict between Israel and Hamas likely heighten the threat of lone actor violence targeting large public gatherings throughout the winter, including holiday-related, faith-based, New Year’s Eve, and First Amendment-protected events related to the conflict,” the three agencies said in a statement.

“Although this announcement is not in response to any specific plotting activity, these targets likely remain attractive to lone actors inspired by a range of ideologies due to their accessibility and symbolic nature.”

Both the DHS and the FBI issued similar warnings in October after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that left more than 1,200 civilians dead in Israel, sparking the current conflict in the country. FBI Director Christopher Wray has repeatedly warned about possible terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, inspired by Hamas.

The statement warns that "lone actors" could seek to carry out acts of violence at high-profile events, religious locations, large gatherings, and other locations throughout the winter.

"Such gatherings could become a convenient target for those inspired to commit violence against Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Arab communities," it reads, noting that "calls for violence may increase in the days leading up to the holidays and before other notable events this winter."

"Factors that could further exacerbate the threat of violence include escalations in the conflict between Israel and Hamas and notable instances of violence in the Homeland inspiring copycat or retaliatory attacks. We therefore urge everyone to remain vigilant and to report any threats of violence or suspicious activity to law enforcement."

In addition to the increase in terror threats, officials also made note of a surge in recent "hoax bomb threats and active shooter threats targeting synagogues around the United States, likely intended to disrupt services and intimidate congregants," according to the statement.

Aside from the three agencies, the U.S. State Department issued a "worldwide caution" alert for U.S. citizens who are traveling abroad, coming just days after the Oct. 7 attacks.
"Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution," it reads.

Wray Warning

During a Senate hearing earlier in December, Mr. Wray was asked about alleged threats facing the United States.
"What I would say that is unique about the environment that we're in right now in my career is that while there may have been times over the years where individual threats could have been higher here or there than where they may be right now, 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," the FBI director said, responding to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Mr. Graham made reference to a "blinking red lights analogy about 9/11 ... all the lights were blinking red before 9/11, apparently."

He then asked the FBI director, "Would you say there's multiple blinking red lights out there?"

Mr. Wray answered, "I see blinking red lights everywhere."

Weeks before, on Oct. 31, the FBI chief said Hamas's actions "will serve as an inspiration the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago."

“This is not a time for panic, but it is a time for vigilance,” Mr. Wray said. “You often hear the expression if you see something, say something. ... That’s never been more true than now.”

He was referring to a slogan that has often been used at U.S. transportation hubs since the 9/11 attacks.

Opinion Poll

The warning comes as a wartime opinion poll carried out among Palestinians published on Dec. 13 shows a rise in support for Hamas, which appears to have ticked up even in the devastated Gaza Strip, and an overwhelming rejection of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. Nearly 90 percent said he must resign.

Washington has called for the West Bank-based PA to eventually assume control of Gaza and run both territories as a precursor to statehood. U.S. officials have said that the Palestinian Authority must be revitalized, without letting on whether this would mean leadership changes.

The PA administers pockets of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and had governed Gaza until a takeover by Hamas in 2007. The Palestinians haven't held elections since 2006, when Hamas won a parliamentary majority.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

No comments:

Post a Comment