FBI Director Concerned About QAnon’s Potential for Violence

The FBI remains “concerned” about the far-right QAnon conspiracy movement’s potential for violence and will soon release an unclassified threat assessment about the group, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday. The FBI views QAnon as a “set of complex conspiracy theories largely promoted online which has sort of morphed into more of a movement,” Wray testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing about worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 14, 2021.”And we’re concerned about the potential that [people’s vulnerability to QAnon] can lead to violence. And where it is an inspiration for federal crime, we’re going to aggressively pursue it,” Wray said. Wray made the comments during a hearing on the U.S. intelligence community’s annual assessment of global threats, which warned that the U.S. and its allies will face “a diverse array of threats” over the coming year. CIA Director William Burns and other top intelligence officials also testified during Wednesday’s hearing. The QAnon movement emerged in 2017 when an anonymous poster on the 4chan messaging board began writing about then-President Donald Trump’s alleged secret battle with a “deep state” cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. It has since grown into a global movement that boasts millions of followers and promotes an assortment of conspiracy theories. FILE – Jacob Anthony Chansley, who also goes by the name Jake Angeli, a QAnon follower, speaks to supporters of then-President Donald Trump outside of the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, in Phoenix, Nov. 5, 2020.In 2019, the FILE – A man in a QAnon shirt confront U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.But researchers have identified a much higher level of QAnon participation. According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, 37 QAnon supporters were among the Capitol rioters who have been arrested. Including the 37 rioters, START has identified 71 QAnon supporters who have committed ideologically motivated crimes. “Everyone in our data at a minimum made public statements in support of the conspiracy theory. And if that doesn’t count as self-identification as a supporter, then I don’t know what does,” said Michael Jensen, principal investigator for the program. Asked how Wray arrived at the figure, an FBI spokeswoman said the bureau did not have anything to add to his comment. Jensen said Wray’s concerns about QAnon’s potential for violence are “justified.” “However, it is important to note that risk of violence from QAnon supporters is likely not as great as it is from other types of domestic extremists, including white nationalists, who are responsible for dozens of attacks and hundreds of hate crimes every year,” he said in an email. 

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