The director of the FBI has elevated its assessment of the threat posed by racially motivated violent extremists in the United States to a “national threat priority” for fiscal year 2020.
On Wednesday (February 5), Christopher Wray said the agency now places the risk of violence from such groups “on the same footing” as threats posed by foreign terrorist organizations, such as ISIS and its sympathisers.
"Not only is the terror threat diverse — it's unrelenting," Wray said at an oversight hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
Domestic terrorists, often fueled by racial or religious hatred, make up a “huge chunk” of the FBI’s domestic terrorism investigations, Wray said through statements he made before the Senate Homeland Security Committee last November. He said a majority of those attacks are “fueled by some type of white supremacy.”
On Wednesday, Wray said fighting domestic terrorism and its “close cousin,” hate crimes, are at the “top of the priority list” for the FBI.
Racially-motivated violent extremists were the primary source of violence in 2018 and 2019 and have been the most deadly of all domestic extremists, he said.
Wray has indicated that both white supremacy driven domestic terrorists as well as those motivated by foreign terrorist organizations spur equal concern. The threat from both are serious because they are frequently “lone actors” who become self-radicalized through the internet and focus on “soft targets” like public gatherings, houses of worship and retail areas.
Disturbing rhetoric can soon move to violence, he 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."
According to CBS News, federal law enforcement officials have previously faced criticism that they’ve been too slow in their response to the increased risk posed by white supremacists and other racially-motivated violent extremists.
During his State of the Union address on Tuesday night (February 4), President Trump mentioned the fight against “radical Islamic terrorism’ but did not mention white supremacists.
(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)