The Islamist militant group has "revolutionized" terrorism by
seeking to inspire such small-scale attacks, FBI Director James
Comey said, noting the group uses social media, encrypted
communications and slickly produced propaganda to recruit followers
around the world.
"Your parents' al Qaeda was a very different model than the threat
we face today," Comey told a counterterrorism conference in New
However, he said that while the perpetrators of the Dec. 2 shootings
in San Bernardino, California - Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen
Malik, 29 - had expressed support for "jihad and martyrdom" in
private communications as early as 2013, they never did so publicly
on social media.
He also said authorities believe Mohammed Abdulazeez, the suspect in
July's fatal shooting of four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor in
Chattanooga, Tennessee, was radicalized by militant propaganda.
"To my mind, there's no doubt that the Chattanooga killer was
inspired and motivated by foreign terrorist organization
propaganda," he said, but did not specify any particular group.
Comey said the Federal Bureau of Investigation currently has
"hundreds" of investigations in all 50 U.S. states involving
potential Islamic State-inspired plots.
Islamic State controls wide swaths of Iraq and Syria, where it seeks
to carve out a caliphate. It claimed responsibility for attacks in
Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people.
The group has a three-pronged strategy, Comey said: recruit fighters
to join it in the Middle East, inspire individuals in other
countries to carry out attacks and send out trained operatives to
commit violence in Europe and the United States.
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It has perfected the use of social media, and Twitter in particular,
to contact potential followers, he said.
"Twitter works as a way to sell books, as a way to promote movies,
and it works as a way to crowdsource terrorism – to sell murder,"
Islamic State also frequently employs encrypted communications,
Comey said. He renewed his calls for technology companies to avoid
creating devices and services that cannot be accessed, even with a
proper court order.
But Comey said he is convinced that law enforcement and tech
companies can work together without compromising personal privacy.
"We are not going to break the Internet," he said.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Frances Kerry)
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