(The Center Square) – House lawmakers held a hearing Wednesday about the growing threats to U.S. national security, including the crisis at the southern border, the growing threat of terrorism as well as overseas conflicts that could entangle the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Counterterrorism Director Christine Abizaid testified at the hearing about the danger of worldwide threats.
“Foreign terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS are rebuilding overseas, and they maintain worldwide networks of supporters that could target the homeland,” Mayorkas said in a prepared statement.
The Ukraine and Israel wars as well as a possible invasion of Taiwan also put the U.S. in a difficult position.
“Some of the greatest threats include: an open and lawless Southwest border, ask any border Sheriff or for that matter the mayor of NYC; the rising threat of terrorism; rogue nation-state actors and criminal elements seeking to do us harm; and efforts by foreign adversaries like the Chinese Communist Party to target our critical infrastructure,” House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn, said in his opening remarks at the hearing. “Of course, we also have the wars in Israel and Ukraine, and rising Chinese aggression in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.”
The hearing comes after an effort from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., to impeach Mayorkas narrowly failed in the House of Representatives Monday. Legislators referred it to the Homeland Security Committee, which is often a way of indefinitely tabling legislation.
Mayorkas raised the concern of domestic terrorism in particular, something Wray has also warned about.
“The threat of a ‘lone wolf’ actor attempting to exploit the conflict between Israel and Hamas and incited to violence by an ideology of hate is of particular concern,” Mayorkas testified. “Foreign terrorist organization and lone offender reactions based on perceptions of U.S. support to Israel could further escalate the threat to Jewish, Muslim, and Arab-American communities in the United States and to U.S. government officials. As the conflict endures, graphic visuals will likely continue to circulate online and garner significant media attention, potentially acting as a catalyst for various violent actors who have shared and continue to share this kind of material.”
Wray has raised a similar concern, specifically naming Hamas, the Gaza-based terror group that killed more than 1,400 Israelis in October and took hundreds of hostages, including Americans.
“Our top concern stems from lone offenders inspired by— or reacting to—the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, as they pose the most likely threat to Americans, especially Jewish, Muslim, and Arab-American communities in the United States,” Wray testified. “We have seen an increase in reported threats to Jewish and Muslim people, institutions, and houses of worship here in the United States and are moving quickly to mitigate them.”
Millions of illegal migrants have come into the U.S. since President Joe Biden took office. Notably, hundreds of migrants were flagged as potential terrorists, raising major concerns about how Hamas, Hezbollah or other terror groups could exploit the border to infiltrate the U.S.
As The Center Square previously reported, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s San Diego field office warned earlier this year that Hamas may try to send individuals to the U.S. through the southern border. The northern border, though, has also seen a high number of migrants with suspected terrorist sympathies.
“San Diego Field Office Intelligence Unit (SDFO-FITU) assesses that individuals inspired by, or reacting to, the current Israel-Hamas conflict may attempt travel to or from the area of hostilities in the Middle East via circuitous transit across the Southwest border,” an unclassified document from the office reads.
Mayorkas also pointed to another threat, namely hackers, which can be a lucrative business and also a dangerous weapon.
“Malicious cyber activity targeting the United States has increased since Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine, a trend we expect to continue throughout the duration of the conflict,” he testified. “Within the past three years, we have seen numerous cybersecurity incidents impacting organizations of all sizes and disrupting critical services, from the Russian government’s compromise of the SolarWinds supply chain to the widespread vulnerabilities generated by opensource software like Log4j.
“We believe there is significant under-reporting of ransomware and other cybersecurity incidents, and we assess that ransomware attacks targeting U.S. networks will increase in the near- and long-terms,” he added.