The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is blunt — “We are witnessing the internationalization of the white supremacist movement,” the anti-hate organization said in a report released last week. It linked growing racist hate to “surging violence in the United States, Europe and beyond.”
The report was released the same day as a joint hearing on “white nationalist terrorism at home and abroad” by the House Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs subcommittees.
“White supremacy is a transnational terrorist threat that has already begun to engulf us all . . . and our government has failed to take sufficient measures to also address this rising threat,” Sharon Nazarian, an ADL senior vice president, told the hearing. “Simply, white nationalism is a threat of growing lethality with similar global ambitions and a murderous strategy to achieve those ends.”
The ADL says between 2009 and 2018 there were 427 killings in the United States by extremists — 73 percent by right-wingers, 23 percent by Islamist extremists and 3 percent by left-wingers.
“White supremacist extremism is currently the most lethal form of extremism in the U.S.,” with the racists “responsible for at least 50 deaths in 2018,” Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of international training and education at American University’s School of Education, testified. Even more troubling is “the pace of white nationalist terror attacks is also rapidly increasing,” she added. “In the four weeks after the El Paso shooting that killed 22 people, 40 individuals were arrested for plotting mass shootings, a dozen of which were definitively linked to white supremacist ideology.”
The deployment of FBI field agents working on counterterrorism does not reflect increasing domestic terrorism. Eighty percent of them work on international terrorism, Michael C. McGarrity, assistant director for the FBI’s counterterrorism division, told a House hearing in May. The Sept. 18 hearing was followed by another one Friday by House Oversight subcommittees that examined the “transnational terrorist threat” of white supremacy. So far, the Homeland Security Committee has had four hearings on white nationalism since Democrats won control of the House this year, including the joint session with Foreign Affairs. Oversight has had three and Judiciary one. In the Republican controlled Senate, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a domestic terrorist hearing on Wednesday.
By contrast, President Trump has provided cover for white racists, perhaps never more repugnant than his remark about “very fine people on both sides” of Charlottesville demonstrations that resulted in the 2017 murder by car of Heather Heyer. Neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. was convicted in her homicide.
“After sounding the alarm for almost a decade, this year we have finally been able to hold hearings on the threat posed by domestic terrorism,” Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told the Federal Insider.
The inability by Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration “to see the severity of this very real threat was inexcusable and has left the country vulnerable.”
Trump’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did issue an anti-terrorism strategy report Friday that deals with white racist violence. That issue, however, apparently wasn’t important enough to be included in the executive summary, which is all many people read.
If readers get to page nine of the 34-page draft document, they will learn that “white supremacist violent extremism . . . is one of the most potent forces driving domestic terrorism. . . .White supremacist violent extremists have adopted an increasingly transnational outlook in recent years.”
Current law provides the FBI more tools to fight international terrorism than domestic extremism, according to McGarrity, which leads to the disparity in the deployment of field agents. Nazarian called on Congress to consider creating a domestic terrorism statute that would not violate civil rights. She also said the State Department should consider designating white supremacist groups abroad as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
“Our federal legal system currently lacks the means to prosecute a white supremacist terrorist as a terrorist,” Nazarian said.
But more can be done now, according to another hearing witness, Christian Picciolini, founder of the Free Radicals Project and author of “Breaking Hate: Confronting the New Culture of Extremism.”
“Adequate terrorism laws already exist to thwart and prosecute (white nationalist) terrorists,” he said, adding that government priorities don’t “provide for the proper focus, resources, funding” to adequately fight them.
Picciolini knows about white racists because he was one. He is a former neo-Nazi skinhead.
“The United States is losing vital ground in a battle we have yet to acknowledge exists,” he told lawmakers. “White nationalists have spent decades building alliances with their counterparts overseas,” developing sophisticated online operations and receiving material support from foreign allies.
“They trade in digital currency, use social media and encrypted platforms to communicate, share ideas and resources, lure new sympathizers, and plan attacks,” Picciolini added.
He left committee members with this ominous warning: “White nationalism is a fast-growing global movement whose members are preparing for a coming ‘race war,’ while simultaneously trying to initiate one. . . . Keeping Americans safe requires a strategy that redefines the threats we face.”