NEW YORK - In a sit-down interview with FOX 5 NY, a day after FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress that the threat level in the US is at a "whole new level," the head of the FBI in New York says his office is at a state of alarm equal to what New York experienced right after 9/11.
James Smith is the Assistant Director in charge of the New York Field Office, and warns that not only do we face Americans radicalizing themselves to carry out violence, but that foreign groups no longer need to come to the U.S. and are recruiting Americans to radicalize. He says first contact is often made via social media.
"We’re running down every lead that’s out there because we don’t know what we don’t know." Smith told us.
While Smith says there is no credible threat at this time, he points to recent events nationally and here in New York showing hate is translating into threats - if not outright violence.
The number of hate crimes being reported - targeting Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities has shot upwards. And countless protests over the war are taking place throughout the city - in some cases, agitators have been accused of inciting violence.
"When you bring violence in with that hate speech or threat - well then it becomes a crime," Smith said.
Smith’s advice to New Yorkers is to go about our lives while adapting to this new reality, which no longer means just saying something when we see something when we’re outside. He says now it also means we need to say something if people we know whether at work, at home or at a house of worship of any denomination - show signs of being radicalized.
"Somebody just doesn’t wake up and become radicalized because of a bad dream," Smith said. "99 percent of the acts that happen out there is because people they know did not report that someone they know is progressing in radicalization."
The FBI’s New York office wants the public to know how to contact them:
By calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or by sending tips to tips.FBI.gov
Smith says when it comes to preventing violence the public is their most valuable partner.
"There’s a lot of mass shootings not only in the FBI but law-enforcement have stopped. There’s hundreds if not thousands of them out there. The public doesn’t hear about them because we stopped them before they took place because somebody called in," Smith said.