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Nearly 200 Jewish synagogues and schools across the United States were the targets of a coordinated swatting effort last week, believed to be orchestrated by foreign actors, as per a confidential FBI memo.
Swatting, a tactic involving misleading or false reports to emergency services to draw a heavily armed response, led to more than 30 FBI field offices mobilizing to investigate the incidents. Assistant FBI Director Cathy Milhoan noted in the memo, “At this time, based on similar language and specific email tradecraft used, it appears the perpetrators of these threats are connected,” adding, “Additionally, these threats appear to be originating from outside of the United States.”
Despite the number of reports, predominantly bomb threats, none were found to be credible. However, the Secure Community Network (SCN), a nonprofit, tracked 199 threats to Jewish institutions over two days, with the majority in California and Arizona. SCN CEO Michael Masters emphasized the severity of these actions, stating, “The alarming volume of swatting incidents and false bomb threats being carried out across the country is a major concern for the safety and security of the Jewish community in North America, as well as law enforcement.” He further highlighted the real and potentially deadly consequences of such pranks.
This wave of harassment and attacks isn’t isolated but part of an increasing trend of hate crimes in the US, which, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray, has risen by 60 percent since October. In his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Wray pointed out that the Jewish community faces the largest share of these threats, though other groups, including Muslims, are also targeted. The incidents underscore the ongoing challenge of addressing and preventing hate crimes and ensuring the safety of vulnerable communities in the US.