The FBI is working to keep the nation safe from terrorists, but it’s also struggling to keep tabs on some of the more insidious forms of extremism.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, FBI Director James Comey warned that the agency’s efforts are not only focused on stopping terrorists, it’s now focused on rooting out “radicalization of Americans” that are linked to extremist ideology.
He noted that the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts have not slowed, and there are still people in the United States who could use help.
The FBI director said the agency is still working to develop a strategy that can identify and prosecute people who support terrorist organizations, but the effort is “moving faster than ever.”
He also noted that in the last decade, the FBI has arrested more than 5,000 people who have pledged allegiance to extremist groups.
But there’s no telling how effective the new strategy will be.
The latest data from the FBI show that there have been fewer than 8,000 terror plots or plots to commit terrorist acts since 2009.
The bureau’s counterterrorism program is “still at the very beginning stages,” Comey said, referring to the phase of the investigation that began in 2009.
Comey also noted in the tweet that he had been briefed on some recent terrorist plots and said the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community were working together to identify those people and “bring them to justice.”
He said the “tactical and strategic nature of our efforts” are in the spotlight, and “the FBI is trying to figure out how to do this without creating unnecessary collateral damage.”
The FBI and intelligence agencies continue to focus their efforts on the “extremist ideology,” Comey added, though he did not say who exactly was considered a “terrorist.”
Some counterterrorism experts say that while the bureau’s efforts have slowed down, the agency has been working diligently to stop radicalization of American Muslims.
The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI both said in a joint statement that they have made significant strides in tracking and stopping the radicalization and recruitment of people who are linked with terror groups.
“We continue to identify and disrupt those individuals who may pose a threat to our communities, and we will continue to do so,” the statement said.
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, FBI Deputy Director Robert Mackey said the bureau is focusing its efforts on a number of groups including foreign fighters and Islamic State supporters who are known to the bureau for their “extraspecies” or other affiliations.
The former FBI counter-terrorism chief said the counterterrorism effort is also focused on recruiting young Muslims, but “it’s a lot more nuanced than the rhetoric.”
But in a tweet on Thursday morning, Comey suggested that the U-turn on the fight against terror is not an end in itself, but rather a step in the right direction.
“The FBI’s terrorism and radicalization prevention efforts are being reined in by a lot of folks on Capitol Hill,” he wrote.
“And we are making progress in identifying those who are likely to be the next terror threat, not only because they’re young, but because they are Muslim.”
“While I’m pleased to see the FBI taking more time to take this work seriously, I hope the American people take it seriously, too,” Comey tweeted.