Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday echoed the stark warning floating around federal agencies that the United States faces a heightened level of terrorism threats amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.
“We are definitely in a heightened threat environment, and we are proceeding with vigilance,” Mayorkas told CNN.
Mayorkas doubled down on comments made earlier this week by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who claimed the bureau has seen an elevated threat environment from foreign terrorist organizations for “a whole host of reasons.”
“I’ve never seen a time where all the threats, or so many of the threats, are all elevated, all at exactly the same time,” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. “That’s what makes this environment that we’re in now so fraught.”
He noted that such warnings include the vulnerability of the U.S.-Mexico border as authorities deal with a historic influx of illegal immigration crossings under the Biden administration.
“There’s a lot of discussion about numbers — and numbers are important — but let’s not forget that it didn’t take a big number of people on 9/11 to kill 3,000 people,” Wray said. “So while numbers are important, numbers don’t tell the whole story. And we have seen an increase in so-called KSTs, Known or Suspected Terrorists, attempting to cross over the last five years.”
Iran — “the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism” — has tried to carry out multiple assassinations on U.S. soil while launching cyberattacks against children’s hospitals around the nation over the last couple of years, according to Wray. He also pointed out China is a significant contributor to the fentanyl epidemic that has killed tens of thousands of Americans per year, and that Russia is conducting aggressive cyberattacks against the U.S. regularly.
Wray said that he sees “blinking lights everywhere,” a visual that Mayorkas said he witnessed himself.
“We have seen episodes of violence in this country that speak tragically to that reality,” Mayorkas said. “We are also doing something about it.”
Mayorkas said the two federal law enforcement agencies have been working hand-in-hand to disseminate information to the private sector and the general public about mitigating threats.
U.S. officials reportedly issued the security guidance measures to Jewish and Islamic communities as threats have increased since October 7 after Hamas terrorized the Jewish state of Israel.
Recommendations reportedly include faith leaders “developing a security plan, putting an individual or a committee in charge of security, completing risk assessment, coordinating with local community and identifying available resources,” according to Reuters.
Mayorkas joined Attorney General Merrick Garland to speak with faith leaders about how they can guard against security threats.
“We are meeting today at a time when the fear so many communities are facing is palpable,” Garland said in opening remarks.
Ryan Saavedra contributed to this report.