FBI chief calls January 6 Capitol riot ‘domestic terrorism'

Chris Wray also defends bureau's handling of intelligence

FBI Director Chris Wray on Tuesday condemned the January riot at the US Capitol as “domestic terrorism”, as he defended the bureau’s handling of intelligence that indicated there could be violence.

Mr Wray told politicians the information was properly shared with other law enforcement agencies, even though it was raw and unverified.

It was the bureau's most vigorous defence against the suggestion that it had not adequately informed police agencies of a distinct possibility of violence as politicians were gathering to certify the results of the presidential election.

A January 5 report from the agency's Norfolk, Virginia field office told of online posts warning of a “war” in Washington the following day.

But Capitol Police leaders said they were unaware of the report and received no intelligence from the FBI that would have led them to expect the sort of violence that besieged the Capitol.

Five people died in the rioting.

When asked about the handling of the report, Mr Wray told the Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday that it was shared through the bureau's joint terrorism task force, discussed by command and posted on an internet portal available to other agencies.

The information was raw and unverified and, ideally, the bureau would have had more time to try to corroborate it.

“Our folks made the judgment to get that to the relevant people as quickly as possible,” Mr Wray said.

He was expected to be pressed at the hearing on how the agency was confronting a national security threat from white nationalists and violent domestic extremists, and whether the bureau had adequate resources to address those issues.

The violence at the Capitol made it clear that an agency that remade itself after the September 11, 2001 attacks to deal with international terrorism is now struggling to address homegrown violence from white supremacists and other extremists.

President Joe Biden’s administration has given his national intelligence director the task of working with the bureau and the Department of Homeland Security to assess the threat.

“It’s behaviour that we, the [FBI], view as domestic terrorism," Mr Wray said of January 6.

"It’s got no place in our democracy and tolerating it would make a mockery of our nation’s rule of law."

Mr Wray has kept a notably low profile since the Capitol attack.

Although he has briefed politicians privately and shared information with local law enforcement, Tuesday’s hearing was his first public appearance before Congress since before November’s presidential election.

Mr Wray was also likely to face questions about the FBI's investigation into a Russian hack of companies and US government agencies, in which elite hackers injected malware into a software update.

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