The day after a criminal complaint was unsealed in federal court in New York charging three Brooklyn residents with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), FBI Assistant Director Michael Steinbach (seen in the below photo) briefed a congressional subcommittee on the dynamic threat posed by foreign fighters traveling in support of ISIL and the continued threat to America posed by homegrown violent extremists.
According to Steinbach, the conflict in Syria and Iraq is currently the most attractive overseas theater for Western-based extremists who want to engage in violence. The Bureau estimates upwards of 150 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to join extremist groups, and it also has to consider the influence of groups like ISIL on individuals located in the U.S. who could be inspired (particularly through the Internet and social media) to commit acts of violence. “It is this blending of homegrown violent extremism with the foreign fighter ideology that is today’s latest adaptation of the threat,” said Steinbach.
Given the global nature of these threats, Steinbach said that “regular engagement with our domestic and foreign partners concerning foreign fighters is critical,” and that—with these partners—we collect and analyze intelligence information related to the ongoing threat posed by ISIL and other foreign terrorist organizations. In addition to using a variety of investigative techniques and methods to combat these threats, the FBI recognizes its responsibility to share information concerning ongoing or emerging threats quickly with our local and state partners—and our Joint Terrorism Task Forces located in each of our 56 field offices serve as a “vital mechanism” for doing just that.
Steinbach was joined at the hearing—held before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations—by two of the Bureau’s local law enforcement partners: Charlotte (North Carolina) Police Chief Rodney Monroe and Hennepin County (Minnesota) Sheriff Richard Stanek.