November 1, 2018


Trump Admin Says It's Open to Suggestions to Prevent Far-Right Violence. Here Are a Few. (Michael German and Faiza Patel, October 31, 2018, Just Security)

First, words matter. President Donald Trump's own words, obviously, but also those of government officials investigating these acts of violence. When law enforcement officials have enough information about motive - as they surely do in these cases - they should make clear that they are treating the cases as terrorism. [...]

Perhaps more importantly, the FBI should investigate these crimes with the urgency and priority that is the hallmark of "international" terrorism investigations. In the aftermath of an attack committed by a Muslim (whether an American citizen or foreign-born), no stone is left unturned to ensure there is no broader plot. For attacks on minorities, law enforcement officials often quickly announce that the perpetrator was acting alone and highlight mental illness as a possible factor. While that may well be true in some cases, the communities attacked deserve to know that all avenues of investigation have been explored, and it is the FBI's job to give them that reassurance.

The FBI should also reorient its mission to ensure that it pays enough attention to threats to minority communities. Since 9/11, counterterrorism has been the FBI's No. 1 priority. Civil rights enforcement - which includes hate crimes, the charges typically levied in cases such as the Pittsburgh synagogue attack - ranks far lower, fifth on the Bureau's priority list. These crimes should be treated equally seriously.

Data from 2010, the most recent publicly available, show that just a few hundred agents are assigned to domestic terrorism, out of several thousand assigned to counterterrorism duties. FBI Director Christopher Wray recently claimed that the Bureau had approximately 1,000 open domestic terrorism investigations. But that doesn't tell us how many of those investigations or prosecutions target minorities as perpetrators rather than as the victims, a particularly important question given the Bureau's long history of suspicion of these very communities (from Hoover's targeting of civil rights groups up through the FBI's fantasy "Black Identity Extremist" movement).

And if the White House doesn't act, Congress should not stand idly by. Since 9/11, it has held scores of hearings on the threat from ISIS and al-Qaeda but has mostly ignored the danger posed by violent far-right movements. 

Posted by at November 1, 2018 4:18 AM