BUFFALO, N.Y. (UPI) — FBI Director James Comey said counterterrorism — especially against the so-called Islamic State — is still the agency’s top priority.
During a press conference after meeting with the local FBI field office in Buffalo, N.Y., and members of local law enforcement agencies Monday, Comey said the Islamic State — also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh — has pushed out “slick” messages to Western audiences in an effort to attract more members.
“The good news is, it appears this message to travel (to Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East for jihad) is finding less resonance in the United States,” he said.
The terrorist organization’s presence on Twitter has also diminished significantly, he added.
Comey updated the public on the FBI’s continuous investigation into terrorist threats, mentioning it opens investigations at all 57 field offices on a regular basis. He added fewer and fewer Americans have been persuaded to travel abroad to fight or support the group in the last year.
“I hope people have realized how screwed up ISIL is,” Comey said, mentioning the added dimension recent attacks in Paris and Brussels present to the threat.
Comey declined to comment in detail on the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails. He also chose not to comment on when exactly the probe would be completed.
When asked whether the FBI was feeling pressure to wrap up the investigation before the party conventions in July, Comey responded:
“No, and the only reason I hesitate is in any investigation of intense public interest, whether it involves a public figure, involves some horrific crime — San Bernardino is a great example — we feel a great sense of urgency to do it well and to do it promptly.”
“I wouldn’t say the concerns are any different in any of the high profile cases,” he said. “And the reason is good people want to know. There’s intense interest in investigations like that. Like a San Bernardino.”
Comey said the FBI always works to do investigations well, and promptly.
“But if we have to choose between the two,” he said, “well, obviously, comes first.”
The conference also saw Comey discussing the issue of data encryption and privacy rights in the investigation of the San Bernardino shooting suspects. The FBI recently cracked an iPhone belonging to one of the suspects, reportedly with the help of an Israeli firm, after insisting it was impossible to get into it without help from its manufacturer — Apple.
“I hope it’s not going to be a battle, but we have to talk about this,” Comey said. “We have a big problem with encryption crashing into public safety. We have to figure out how to deal with this.”
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