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White supremacist groups are now one of the most dangerous threats to the United States of America. In fact, White supremacy — as terrorism scholar John Horgan, a Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at Georgia State University puts it — “is far more dispersed and deeply ingrained ideology in Western society.” Over the long-term “it will be far harder to defeat than jihadism.”
The United States Institute of Peace — a federal institution, founded by Congress, tasked with promoting conflict resolution and prevention worldwide — has seen this trend for years now:
The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in the threat presented by the far right. There has been a 250 percent increase in far-right terrorist incidents since 2014. In Western countries, far-right extremism now accounts for 46 percent of attacks and 82 percent of deaths from terrorist attacks. The rise in far-right terrorism is part of a broader rise in political violence (including violent demonstrations and riots) in the West. This rise in political violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum but is rather symptomatic of wider trends. Increasing political polarization and indications of the increased acceptability of political violence across the political spectrum in the United States present a foreboding picture of the future. Unless these trends are addressed, and efforts to remedy the social and political cleavages that have fueled their rise, they could lay the foundations for a further increase in political violence around the globe, particularly if coupled with the continued politicization and mainstreaming of far-right extremist views.
Analysis by The Washington Post of data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies — a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization — revealed that:
Domestic terrorism incidents have soared to new highs in the United States, driven chiefly by White-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right. The surge reflects a growing threat from homegrown terrorism not seen in a quarter-century, with right-wing extremist attacks and plots greatly eclipsing those from the far left…Since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks and 91 fatalities, the data shows. At the same time, attacks and plots ascribed to far-left views accounted for 66 incidents leading to 19 deaths.
Throughout the years, many people tried to raise the alarm on far-right extremist groups, but their efforts were at best ignored and at worst sabotaged. In 2009, Daryl Johnson, then a senior analyst for domestic terrorism at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, wrote a private intelligence report specifically for members of law enforcement.
However, conservative media outlets leaked Johnson’s report, causing a huge uproar because Johnson dared to use the term “right-wing extremism.” The report also warned that American military veterans could be prime targets for domestic extremist recruitment.
Republicans went berserk, demanding an apology on behalf of veterans and calling for Johnson to be fired. Within a year, Johnson’s entire department was dismantled and work on domestic terrorism threats came to a screeching halt.
Toward the end of the Obama administration, however, the Department of Homeland Security awarded grants to groups that countered violent extremism — like those that helped people who wanted to leave neo-Nazi and White supremacist groups — and that tried to prevent Americans from embracing these groups in the first place. In the first weeks of the Trump administration those grants were cancelled.
This threat is made far worse by the fact that — as Daryl Johnson warned in 2009 and the FBI’s Counterterrorism Policy Directive and Policy Guide finally confirmed — “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, White supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers.”
In fact, at least 81 active-duty U.S. military and U.S. veterans face charges as a result of the Capitol riot. These include people like former FBI official and Navy intelligence officer Thomas Caldwell, who gave military-style advice and organized training sessions for the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. (more on these groups in a minute…) He also started a “death list” of his enemies, saying he would get rid of them by “killing them, shooting them, and mutilating their corpses to use them as shields.”
And people like Larry Brock Jr. a guy who, after the election, told his Facebook audience that the United States was “now under occupation by a hostile governing force.” He went on to say that he saw “no distinction between a group of Americans seizing power and governing with complete disregard to the Constitution and an invading force of Chinese communists accomplishing the same objective.” He vowed to protect America “against all enemies foreign and domestic.”
Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found, in an investigation that led to over 50 internal departmental investigations, that “hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers from across the United States are members of Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia groups on Facebook…Almost 150 of the officers they found are involved with violent anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.”
As reported jointly by Buzz Feed and Injustice Watch, The Plain View Project — launched by Philadelphia lawyer Emily Baker-White — “examined the accounts of about 2,900 officers from eight departments across the country and an additional 600 retired officers from those same departments. She compiled posts that represented troubling conduct in a database that is replete with racist imagery and memes, and in some cases long, vitriolic exchanges involving multiple officers.”
“The project sought to compile posts, comments, and other public activity that could undermine public trust in the police and reinforce the views of critics, especially in minority communities, that the police are not there to protect them. Of the pages of officers whom the Plain View researchers could positively identify, about 1 in 5 of the current officers, and 2 in 5 of the retired officers, made public posts or comments that met that threshold – typically by displaying bias, applauding violence, scoffing at due process, or using dehumanizing language. The officers mocked Mexicans, women, and Black people, celebrated the Confederate flag, and showed a man wearing a kaffiyeh scarf in the crosshairs of a gun.”
The good news is that after years of being behind the eight ball, many in the federal government finally caught up with reality, thank God.
In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI admitted far-right extremists, particularly White supremacists, are indeed a huge problem, in a bulletin titled White Supremacists Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence.
That was a start but, in March 2020, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a report that said the FBI had “not taken sufficient action” in regard to ‘homegrown violent extremists.’ Nearly 40 percent of counterterrorism assessments went unaddressed for 18 months after deficiencies were known to the FBI.”
The report continued, “Since September 11, 2001, homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) have carried out over 20 attacks in the United States, some of which occurred after the FBI closed a counterterrorism investigation or assessment on the individual.” Between 2009 and 2017 “at least six attacks committed in the United States by individuals who the FBI had previously assessed or investigated.”
We are happy to report that the FBI took this criticism to heart and started to make serious headway.