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FBI Elevates Threats Posed by White Supremacists

The FBI has raised the threat level of white nationalism, Director Christopher Wray announced on Wednesday. Violent extremism motivated by ethnic, racial, and religious differences will now be treated in the same category as ISIS. The action came after an uptick in Neo-Nazi activity.

Congress has often called on the FBI to do more to counter far-right threats, even as law enforcement has successfully prevented two recent synagogue attacks and the alleged planning of an attack at a pro-gun rally.

Designating far-right extremism as a priority equal to ISIS will unlock more resources for the FBI to combat the growing trend, said Mark Concordia, FBI and New York State counterterrorism instructor and associate professor of criminal justice at Roberts Wesleyan College. The decision is not one the FBI would have made lightly, he said, but rather based on an in-depth analysis of trends in racially motivated hate crimes.

In the spring of 2019, the FBI created the Domestic Terrorism-Hate Crimes Fusion Cell, to facilitate information-sharing between the criminal investigation and terrorism divisions. Since 2001, racially-motivated terrorists have been the most common former of domestic terrorism, Wray said.

“They choose easily accessible weapons — a car, a knife, a gun, maybe an IED they can build crudely off the internet — and they choose soft targets,” Wray said. “That threat is what we assess is the biggest threat to the homeland right now.”

The difficulty in stopping them lies in both the method and location of attack. Wray said domestic terrorists are capable of moving “from rhetoric to violence” in a short manner of time, CBS News reported. “Lone actors” can be turned to violence without guidance from any particular group, such as the Neo-Nazi group The Base, which had eight members arrested in the foiled gun rally plot.

“Soft targets,” such as supermarkets, are commonly indefensible and at the very least unexpected to become the epicenter of a terrorist attack. Synagogues have become popular in extremist crosshairs. Last year, 11 Jewish worshipers were murdered in Pittsburgh. In 2018, hate crime murders peaked, according to CBS News, even as the number of total hate crimes had fallen following a 3-year rise.

In 2019, the FBI apprehended 107 domestic extremists, roughly the same number of international terror-related arrests, Wray said. Sources within the Justice Department reportedly told CBS News reporter Jeff Pegues that more arrests of white supremacists, particularly those with ties to organizations in Europe, Ukraine, and Russia, are coming down the pipe. 

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/racially-motivated-violent-extremism-isis-national-threat-priority-fbi-director-christopher-wray/