FBI chief says US Capitol riot was 'domestic terrorism'

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Nick Allen
·2 min read
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Wray - Shutterstock
Wray - Shutterstock

The head of the FBI last night said the US Capitol riot was "domestic terrorism" and warned of a dramatic increase in white supremacist violence in the United States.

Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, also defended the bureau's handling of advance intelligence that had indicated there would be a "war" at the Capitol on Jan 6.

Giving evidence in Congress, the scene of the siege, Mr Wray also said his agents had found no evidence that anti-Trump groups such as Antifa, or "fake Trump supporters," had been involved as some backers of the former president had suggested.

Mr Wray told the Senate judiciary committee: "I was appalled that you, our country's elected leaders, were victimised right here in these very halls.

"That siege was criminal behaviour, pure and simple. It's behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism."

He said investigations had shown "quite a number of militia, violent extremists" involved, along with "racial" extremists who were "specifically advocating for the superiority of the white race."

Overall, in America, not just relating to the Capitol riot, Mr Wray said his agents were currently investigating about 2,000 domestic terrorism cases. That had gone up from 1,000 in 2017, and 1,400 at the end of last year.

The number of arrests of violent white supremacists had tripled since 2017 when he took over the FBI, he said.

White supremacists were the "biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism portfolio," he added.

Mr Wray said: "Unfortunately, January 6th was not an isolated event. The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now and it is not going away any time soon.

"I've been sounding the alarm about domestic terrorism since, I think, just about my first month on the job."

In 2019 he elevated "racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism " to the same threat level as "ISIS and homegrown violent extremism."

Mr Wray was asked repeatedly about a report on Jan 5 from the FBI's office in Norfolk, Virginia, that warned of online posts predicting a "war" in Washington the following day.

He said the information was "raw" and unverified but was still properly shared with other security agencies.

"It was not just an email," he said. "We did communicate that information in a timely fashion to the Capitol Police and (the Metropolitan Police in Washington) in not one, not two, but three different ways."

He said the outcome was "unacceptable" and the FBI was looking into what could have done differently.