The FBI is tracking 850 potential domestic terrorists as white supremacy cases jump

McGarrity discusses domestic terrorists
Assistant Director, Michael McGarrity, head of the FBI's counter-terrorism division. Screen capture by CBS News via YouTube video

The FBI has news that President Donald Trump may not like to acknowledge: Domestic terrorists have caused more death and destruction than international terrorists in recent years.

The agency is currently investigating nearly 850 people across the U.S. as potential domestic terrorists. The number of investigations surrounding white supremacists, white nationalists, and other racist groups has risen dramatically in recent months, federal law authorities said Wednesday, ABC News reports.

And the threat of domestic terrorism in the U.S. is changing in significant ways, McGarrity told the panel, CNN reports.

“The FBI assesses domestic terrorists collectively pose a persistant and evolving threatof violence and economic harm to the united states,” acccording to Michael McGarrity,the FBI’s assistant director for counter-terrorism, who testified before a House panel Wednesday. “In fact, there have been more arrests and deaths in the United States caused by domestic terrorists than international terrorists in recent years.”

The spread of hatred and extremist ideology has been fueled by social media, meaning “that mobilization to violence is much quicker” than in previous years, McGarrity said. And domestic terrorism, with its roots in racist extremism, anti-government extremism, or environmental extremism, is vastly different than “homegrown terrorism,” which is fueled by groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda, he explained.

In April, a 19-year-old man in California allegedly waged a deadly attack on a synagogue near San Diego. Authorities say they believe he took to the social media to spout white supremacist and anti-Semitic messages. Just a few months earlier, another extremist killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s believed that the extremist involved in this massacre was also radicalized online.

Senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice also testified at the hearing, which centered around the serious threat domestic terrorism poses in the U.S. That point was amplified by two attacks that occurred in California just prior to the meeting, and another attack in the state that was fortunately foiled. Religion appeared to be a motivating factor in each case.

But some positive change is happening, McGarrity told the panel.

Authorities in the U.S. are seeing a “tide change” because many social media companies are tightening the way they police their own content.

Of the 850 domestic terrorism investigations the FBI is currently conducting inside the U.S., about 40 percent pinpoint subjects who promote racist ideologies. “A significant majority” of them are white supremacists or white nationalists. A vast majority of the other cases involved extremists who promote anti-government or anti-authority sentiments, McGarrity said.

But he also testified that the number of ongoing domestic terrorism investigations has dropped over the past six months. In September 2017, FBI Director Chris Wray testified that the agency was conducting about 1,000 domestic terror probes.

But even so, one federal law enforcement official told ABC News that while the number of domestic terrorism investigations has declined in the past six months, the number of investigations surrounding white supremacists, white nationalists and other racially motivated individuals has actually increased during this time period.

And “the velocity” of domestic terrorism cases “is much quicker than it’s ever been,” McGarrity told the panel. The internet is speeding up the radicalization process and it’s making it much more difficult for authorities to find them.

Lone offenders, those who self-radicalized online and have access to weapons are the deadliest domestic threats in the U.S., McGarrity told the panel. Some of these lone offenders, like “MAGA bomber” Cesar Sayoc, say that Trump’s virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric inspired them to carry out their terrible acts. And Malcolm Nance, an expert on national security and counter-terrorism noted on the MSNBC program AM Joy last February that Trump’s hateful rhetoric and Twitter rants fire up right-wing extremists.

But the FBI’s information shows just how ignorant Trump and his supporters are. He’s terrorizing immigrants when its those in our homeland he should be worrying about.

Featured image courtesy of the video above