The chance of an attack the scale of 9/11 happening again on U.S. soil may have decreased, but the threat is still very real and very worrisome, the head of the FBI said in San Diego Thursday.
“The threat is what we call homegrown violent extremism,” said FBI Director James Comey.
During his visit to San Diego, Comey opened up about the changing threat to America.
"Ten years ago it was not possible for someone to get all of the hateful poisonous propaganda of Al Qaeda and its progeny and the training they needed in their pajamas, in their basement,” he explained.
"Someone no longer needs to be directed by Al Qaeda or its progeny but instead can be self-directed, inspired and trained in a way that's very, very difficult for us to see.”
Today, Comey said it is possible, thanks to the internet, for terrorists to be living amongst us.
“Wherever the internet is available to troubled souls who convince themselves to participate in jihad here in the United States,” he said.
Comey says it's challenging for the FBI because there is a small window of opportunity to spot somebody between that radicalization, self-training and an actual terrorist act.
Plus, he says there is a decrease in their ability to collect electronic surveillance.
"We're going dark. In a lot of ways I can't see the bad guys the way I might have been able to a few years ago that worries me a great deal,” he said.
One of the main reasons, he says he needs everyone to help. Comey says his behavioral analysis unit reports that in nearly every case related to homegrown terror, somebody saw something.
And it's almost always friends and family, who notice a change in behavior but brush it off.
"If you see something that causes the hair to stand up on the back of your neck, just tell us. If it's nothing, no one is ever going to hear about it. That's why we investigate in secret," Comey said. "But if it's something, you may have saved a life.”