FBI claims it thwarted ISIS-inspired July 4 attacks
Speaking with reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC, Comey attributed the lack of terror attacks to a string of arrests that local and government officials made in the weeks preceding Independence Day.
Nearly a dozen people were arrested across the US for allegedly trying to provide material support to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) or preparing to carry out deadly attacks inspired by the extremist group.
"I do believe our work disrupted efforts to kill people likely in connection with July 4th," Comey said, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, a separate source who went unnamed told Reuters that “multiple overseas plots” were also stymied by law enforcement. Another US security source told the news agency that some individuals who were arrested were using encrypted messaging to communicate with militants from IS.
Encrypted communications have been targeted by law enforcement ever since consumer technology companies like Apple and Google began providing the option on their devices. Despite privacy concerns, officials have argued they need access to encrypted messages to halt terrorist attacks.
The FBI chief himself declined to provide many details at all, however, saying that the fact that some of them were focused on July 4 was “as specific as I can get.”
Comey also noted that attacks are unpredictable and that IS’ social media presence is influence people’s desire to inflict violence.
"It's actually hard to figure out when they're trying to kill somebody," he said, according to NBC News. "And you cannot say, 'Well, we've got to do it on the Fourth.' Because you know you have people who are motivated to kill people, and they are unreliable in terms of when they're going to act."
At least 49 people have been charged in connection with aiding IS in 2015, CNN reported.
Before the July 4 weekend, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement in the wake of terror attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia, saying, “particularly with the upcoming July 4 holiday here in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI continue to communicate with state and local law enforcement about what we know and see.”
“We are encouraging all law enforcement to be vigilant and prepared,” the statement continued. “We will also adjust security measures, seen and unseen, as necessary to protect the American people.”