FBI Director: The U.S. Is Facing Its Biggest Terrorist Threat Since 9/11

Director James Comey has been testifying before a Senate oversight committee.

During  extensive testimony in a Senate oversight hearing Wednesday, FBI director James Comey gave a startling answer to a question from Senator Lindsey Graham. As reported by CNN, Graham asked Comey if he agreed with the following statement, “There are more terrorist organizations with men, equipment and safe havens, along with desire to attack the American homeland, [than] anytime since 9/11.”

Comey’s reply: “I agree.” 

Comey elaborated on his answer, according to CNN, stating that budget cuts handed down by the Congress have weakened his agency and made it harder to protect the public. The heated budget sequestration of 2013 mandated  $42.7 billion in defense cuts.

When Graham asked Comey whether America could expect “another 9/11 against the homeland” if we could not “destroy” ISIS, Comey responded that this was a “hard question” to answer. He then made an eye-opening statement: “[ISIS’s] ability to have a safe haven from which to gather resources, people, plan and plot increases the risk of their ability to mount a sophisticated attack against the homeland.”

ABC News reported that the FBI director’s testimony regarding Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik — the jihadi couple who killed 14 in an attack at the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2015 — indicated the couple’s rampage was the end of a long road toward radicalization:

The two San Bernardino shooters were radicalized at least two years ago — a year before one of them came to the U.S. on a fiancée visa — and discussed jihad and martyrdom as early as 2013, FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday.

Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee investigators believe that Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were radicalized even before they began their online relationship and that Malik held extremist views before she arrived in the U.S. last year.

The comments suggest that the government’s vetting process apparently failed to detect Malik’s radicalization when she applied for the visa. Comey said he didn’t know enough to say whether weaknesses in the visa process enabled her to enter the U.S.

Comey could not rule out the idea that Farook and Malik had been placed in some kind of arranged marriage by a terrorist group. If they were, he said, “It would be a very, very important thing to know.” 

Photos by Chip Somodevilla / Getty