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FBI Director Comey Says Homegrown Terrorists A Problem Everywhere

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
In this photo taken Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, FBI Director James B. Comey speaks at a news conference during a visit to Seattle.

The Pacific Northwest isn’t immune to home grown terrorists. That’s what FBI director James Comey told reporters during a stop in Seattle.

Comey, who’s been in his position for a year, is visiting all 56 FBI field offices.Comey says counterterroism remains a top priority for the FBI, but the threat has morphed somewhat since 9/11. A big concern now is what he calls home grown violent extremists.

“People who don’t need to go meet somebody from al-Qaeda or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) but who, through the wonders of the Internet, can get all the propaganda they need to get jacked up and the training they need to engage in their own misguided effort,” Comey said.

Comey says there are about a dozen Americans fighting with ISIL. Comey wouldn’t say if any are from the Northwest, but he did say, "There’s no particular demographic, no particular national origin, no particular geography; they are attracted, unfortunately, from all parts of this great country of ours.”

Comey, who is serving a 10-year term, says he believes the FBI is striking the right balance between fighting terrorism on the one hand and protecting innocent people’s privacy rights on the other.

He says he keeps a copy of the request, written in the 1960s, from J. Edgar Hoover to wiretap Martin Luther King, Jr.’s phone.

“Hoover’s request is just a paragraph or two saying King’s a communist,” Comey said.

The authorization was signed by Robert F. Kennedy, who was the attorney general at the time.

In contrast, Comey says today the FBI must submit a sworn stack of affidavits to get a wiretap approved. He says it’s a “pain in the neck,” but worth it, because it makes the FBI more accountable.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.