More than 10 people inspired by Islamic State militants were arrested in suspected terrorism-related plots during the four to six weeks leading up to the Fourth of July holiday, FBI Director James Comey said Thursday.
“I do believe that our work disrupted efforts to kill people, likely in connection with July 4th,” Comey said in a briefing session with reporters at FBI Headquarters.
Comey said the arrests underscored Islamic State’s ability to use the Internet in “recruiting, directing and motivating” people to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States.
Comey did not identify or provide details about the people arrested and he acknowledged that it was unclear whether any would have struck during the holiday. But, he said, “some of them were focusing on the Fourth of July.”
Comey said Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, has far surpassed Al Qaeda as a main terrorism threat to the U.S. both at home and abroad. He referred to Al Qaeda as “your grandfather’s” terrorist organization and noted that it would spend months and sometimes years plotting and funding attacks.
Islamic State, however, identifies and reaches new recruits quickly through the Internet, and works to inspire them to launch attacks. He said the bureau has found Islamic State leaders communicating with potential recruits in all 50 states.
The FBI director said Islamic State is much more Web savvy, and often steers recruits to encrypted email and text communications that law enforcement cannot access.