WASHINGTON – FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday expressed deep concern for rising violence in the U.S. driven by an array of domestic grievances, from election-related disputes to lingering anger following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark abortion-rights case Roe v. Wade.
“I feel like everyday I’m getting briefed on somebody throwing a molotov cocktail at someone for some issue,” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s crazy.”
Describing an unusually volatile environment, Wray lamented that law enforcement officers have been increasingly targeted, with an “alarming” number killed in ambush attacks.
“It is a dangerous world out there,” the director told lawmakers.
He called election and politically-motivated violence “almost a 365-day phenomenon,” an outgrowth of the country’s deep divide. Of the Supreme Court’s recent abortion decision, he said tensions continue to run high.
“I believe we have seen an uptick in that category,” the director said, referring to violence associated with the abortion decision, warning that such acts would not be tolerated.
“I don’t care what side of the issue you are on,” Wray said. “You don’t get to use violence or threats of violence” to address disputes.
Later Thursday, federal authorities unveiled criminal charges against a 25-year-old Michigan man accused of setting fire to a Planned Parenthood building in Kalamazoo.
Prosecutors said Joshua Brereton was identified as the man in a July 31 surveillance video who “breached a fence surrounding the building, used a combustible fuel to ignite the exterior bushes of the building, lit a fireplace starter log, and then threw the burning log onto the roof of the building, ultimately starting two separate fires.”
Before the fire, Brereton allegedly posted a video to his YouTube channel in which he referred to abortion as “genocide.”
While Wray said that domestic extremists represent the most lethal threat to the country, he remained concerned about the continuing risk posed by international terrorists, including al-Qaida, even after a weekend U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri in Afghanistan.
Nearly a year after the chaotic withdraw of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, Wray said he worried about the loss of intelligence sources and the possible reconstitution of al-Qaida, despite al-Zawahri’s death.
Asked his reaction to the news that al-Zawahri was ultimately tracked to a Taliban-controlled guesthouse in the Afghan capital of Kabul so soon after the U.S. withdraw, Wray said: “Not surprised, but disappointed.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pressed Wray on what such a close association of al-Qaida and the Taliban might mean for the U.S. and its allies.
“Nothing good,” Wray said.
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