FBI Director Christopher Wray on Rising Violence in the United States and Domestic Terrorism

In 2020, there was a 29% increase in murders in the United States, nearly 5,000 more people killed than the previous year. FBI Director Christopher Wray pointed to the pandemic, repeat offenders and the rise in young people committing violent crimes as reasons for the rise in a interview with 60 Minutes this week.

“And we’re seeing an alarming frequency of some of the worst of the worst returning to the streets,” Wray told correspondent Scott Pelley. “We are working very hard with our partners, state and local law enforcement partners, through task forces, task forces across the country. And through rapid deployment teams to try to combat against violent crime in specific hotspots. Last year, I believe we arrested something like 15,000 violent gang members across the country. And part of what drives us to pursue this mission is our deep belief that the most sacred duty of law enforcement is to ensure that people can live free from fear in their own homes and neighborhoods.

“But Mr. Director, some people are at home living in fear that the police will come through the door with a no-knock warrant,” Pelley replied, “And I wonder how the FBI can help reduce police brutality, which is also happening in our country?”

“Well, we take very seriously our responsibility to both protect the American people and uphold the Constitution,” Wray said. “And that includes where it happens, prosecuting police misconduct if it violates federal criminal law.”

Wray, who has been director of the FBI since 2017, said violence against police officers is also increasing.

“Violence against law enforcement in this country is one of the biggest things that I don’t think gets enough attention,” Wray said. “Last year, officers were killed at a rate of nearly one every five days.”

In 2021, 73 police officers were killed, a 59% increase in police killings. Wray said some were targeted just because they were police officers.

“Some of that has to do with the violent crime problem as a whole. But one of the things we’ve seen in the last year is that an alarming percentage of the 73 law enforcement officers killed in the exercise of duty last year were killed by things like being ambushed — or shot while on patrol,” Wray told Pelley. “Wearing the badge shouldn’t make you a target.”

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Pelley also asked Wray about the Bureau’s response to the Capitol attack. The FBI has been criticized for not developing intelligence that could have predicted the assault.

“Over 800 people have now been charged. Officers in field offices across the United States are committed to this. And we take this extremely seriously,” Wray told Pelley.

“The criticism of the FBI after Jan. 6 was that these people’s plans were on social media and the FBI didn’t see it,” Pelley said.

“At the FBI, we shared information through a variety of intelligence products for a solid year through January 6, which increased the potential for violent extremism,” Wray said. “What we don’t have, to my knowledge, is intelligence that thousands of people were going to physically storm the US Capitol in the middle of the constitutional process.”

“You can bet we’ve been looking closely at how we can be even more pre-emptive, even more aggressive, even more reactive to make sure we prevent something like this from ever happening again,” Wray continued. “And you can be sure, Americans can be sure, the FBI is fiercely determined to do our part with the other agencies to make sure this never happens again.”

“One of the things you’ve learned is that these militias can organize and mobilize,” Pelley said.

“And that’s part of a larger phenomenon that we’ve seen over the past two years, of a variety of anti-government, anti-authority violent extremists,” Wray said. “But much of the domestic terrorist threat we face does not come from well-organized, structured traditional groups. In many ways, the toughest and most significant terrorist threat that Americans face here in their country of origin is from what is mostly isolated actors or people conspiring with one or two other people and using crude methods of attack, gun, knife, car So if you think about the he phrase many Americans have heard about connecting the dots, for the guy you describe, there aren’t many dots to connect.”

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