F.B.I. Ramps Up Investigations of Hamas

Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, said on Wednesday that the bureau had opened a slew of investigations into Hamas as it tries to thwart potential attacks and stymie financial support for the militant group.

“We also have a large number of tips and leads related specifically to Hamas and radicalization and recruitment,” Mr. Wray said in testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security about worldwide threats to the United States. “We are urgently running down every tip and lead.”

He added, “We cannot — and do not — discount the possibility that Hamas or another foreign terrorist organization may exploit the current conflict to conduct attacks here, on our own soil.”

Mr. Wray’s comments reflected rising concern among senior F.B.I. officials that Hamas’s brazen assault on Israel last month that left about 1,200 dead could inspire similar attacks, including in the United States, as well as provide the terrorist organization with more financial backing.

In the past, Hamas has not been a top priority for American intelligence agencies and federal law enforcement. Indeed, the White House’s 2022 national security strategy refers to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda but makes no mention of Hamas, an indication that the United States has typically not considered the group a direct threat.

Since the Hamas attack, Mr. Wray said, “we’ve seen a rogue’s gallery of foreign terrorist organizations call for attacks against Americans and our allies,” naming Hezbollah, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

He added, “We’ve kept our sights on Hamas and have multiple investigations into individuals affiliated with that foreign terrorist organization.”

Among those killed on Oct. 7 were about three dozen American citizens, with another 10 unaccounted for. It is unclear how many Americans were among those that Hamas and other Palestinian groups kidnapped that day and ferried back to Gaza. The Israeli government is still trying to identify human remains. So far, 859 Israeli civilians slain in the attack have been identified.

Mr. Wray also pointed to the threat from Hamas in urging lawmakers to reauthorize a key surveillance tool, known as Section 702, which is set to expire by the end of this year. All of the intelligence on the group that is gathered from electronic surveillance, as opposed to human informants, was assembled using that particular section of the law, he said.

It would be “a wildly irresponsible risk” if Congress did not reauthorize it, he added.

Mr. Wray reiterated concerns he had raised during a hearing last month with senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, in which he noted the escalating threats against Jews and Muslims in the United States.

Of particular concern are attacks from violent extremists or lone actors in the United States fueled by calls to violence, Mr. Wray said on Wednesday, pointing to “homegrown violent extremists inspired by a foreign terrorist organization, and domestic violent extremists targeting Jewish Americans or other faith communities, like Muslim Americans.”

Mr. Wray added that the “biggest chunk of the threats that have been reported, by a good margin,” had been to the Jewish community, including synagogues and Jewish leaders.

Last month, Mr. Wray, citing statistics from 2022, noted that despite representing less than 3 percent of the American population, Jews were the target of about 60 percent of the religious-based hate crimes.

Although Mr. Wray had a mostly friendly reception on Wednesday, Clay Higgins, a Republican congressman from Louisiana, took aim at the director and peddled a conspiratorial claim that has circulated in right-wing circles about the F.B.I.’s role on Jan. 6.

In a heated exchange, Mr. Wray said neither F.B.I. agents nor informants had orchestrated the violence on Jan. 6 at the Capitol. “The answer is, emphatically not,” Mr. Wray said, his temper rising.

Mr. Higgins was not satisfied.

“Your day is coming, Mr. Wray,” he said.

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