Terrorism

Can You Trust Trump to Use Domestic Terrorism Resources to Go After White Supremacists?

The threat of domestic terrorism is frequently used to crack down on dissent.

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thivierr/flickr

If you think Donald Trump coddles white supremacists, would you trust his Department of Justice to go after white supremacist violence?

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) seems to.

The same SPLC that has warned of a Trump advisor downplaying white supremacist violence, the same SPLC that says the president is responsible for a resurgence in white supremacism, is pushing the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Mich.) that would provide more resources for the FBI to investigate domestic terror. The bill's introductory findings refer to a spate of right-wing violence, but by and large the provisions themselves are up to the FBI to interpret.

The FBI, meanwhile, seems far more likely to go after "black identity extremists" (BIEs), a term it created this year to cover what it perceives as politically motivated anti-police violence by African Americans.

"The problem isn't that the FBI doesn't have enough laws on the books or resources to tackle white supremacist violence, it's that they choose to disproportionately investigate BIEs or eco-terrorists instead," says Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. "Therefore this bill might not change the equation as the senators intend, but only provide more resources for abusive and wasteful surveillance and investigations of political dissent and protest activity."

There are a few measures in the legislation that could be useful, if the FBI made a good-faith effort to implement them. Its data reporting provisions, for example, could help illuminate how the bureau uses its resources. And the bill would require the feds to assess the threat posed by "White supremacist infiltration and recruitment of law enforcement officers and members of the Armed Forces." Such infiltration is a serious problem: A classified 2015 FBI report found that there were often links between the law enforcement community and white supremacists under terror investigation.

But you have to balance those measures against the FBI's long and storied history of targeting dissent under the guise of counterterrorism. German notes that the agency spent years claiming eco-terrorists were the top domestic terror threat, "even though there are no U.S. deaths appropriately attributed" to any environmental activist group.

Yet while many Democrats, and even some Republicans, insist they understand the threat President Trump poses to democratic norms, they continue to support measures that accumulate power in the executive branch.

Meanwhile, the Senate is trying to make it easier for the feds to spy on Black Lives Matter (or "black identity extremist") activists, teen sexters, and all other kinds of boogeyman. The latest Section 702 "reauthorization" is actually an expansion of warrantless surveillance powers. The bill passed committee by an overwhelming bipartisan majority.

Lawmakers worried about how Trump could abuse his authority ought to be limiting, not expanding, the power that makes the person who occupies the presidency so dangerous. And they ought to understand that authoritarianism flourishes in the name of fighting terrorism, abroad as well as at home.

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17 responses to “Can You Trust Trump to Use Domestic Terrorism Resources to Go After White Supremacists?

  1. “The problem isn’t that the FBI doesn’t have enough laws on the books or resources to tackle white supremacist violence, it’s that they choose to disproportionately investigate BIEs or eco-terrorists instead,” says Michael German

    They’ve all read Rainbow Six, Mr. German. They all know where the REAL threat is coming from.

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  2. It’s getting difficult to take the claims of “white supremacist infiltration” very serious when we’re defining the statements “It’s okay to be white” and “You don’t have to apologize for being white” as racist symbols of white supremacy worthy of calling law enforcement.

  3. No, but I trust the good people at the FBI to use these powers responsibly.

    Also, we’re supposed to go along with a guy named German giving cover for white supremacist hate groups? Please, Ed.

  4. In what respect are existing laws inadequate when it comes to domestic terrorism?

    If anything, existing laws seem to go a tad overboard in limiting civil liberties.

    1. Yeah I’m kinda sick of anti-terrorism laws at this point.

      We already have a great many restrictions placed on us in the name of fighting terrorism and/or fighting drugs.

      Maybe some are reasonable, most are likely bullshit. But if the FBI can’t do its job with the laws that we currently have, then it’s not the fault of too few laws.

      1. It’s a bullshit thing, where if something happens, it is justification that system is not working and more needs to be done. If things DO get rolled back, and something happens then whoever rolled back any of these laws will be held accountable in the court of public opinion for the deaths of those individuals.

        Combine this with the fact that something will always happen, maybe not often but eventually, and we have a slow road to hell until people are finally willing to yell STOP.

      2. None of them are reasonable, because they restrict our rights.

    2. There’s still domestic terrorism and hate groups, ergo

      1. I don’t see concern about Jews Harvey Weinstein and Lisa Bloom producing a mini-series condemning George Zimmerman for saving his own life when Travon was on top of him pounding his head into the concrete. Never forget that a White man was put on trial for saving his own life.

  5. SPLC that says the president is responsible for a resurgence in white supremacism

    Journalism is more at fault, imo.

    1. (((Journalism)))

    2. And a snow tire salesman just told me this winter will be the worst in decades. Same dynamic.

  6. The SPLC is itself a hate group:

    Anti-hate group Southern Poverty Law Center blamed for inspiring gun attack on Family Research Council

    Quote:
    In August 2012, a Washington area man guided by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate map” that cited FRC, entered the group’s headquarters and shot a security guard. The guard survived and the shooter, a volunteer with a gay group, pleaded guilty to domestic terrorism.

  7. I’m sure that with a lot of effort, the FBI will get both of them.

  8. Therefore this bill might not change the equation as the senators intend, but only provide more resources for abusive and wasteful surveillance and investigations of political dissent and protest activity.

    Wait a minute .. there might be something to that …

  9. German notes that the agency spent years claiming eco-terrorists were the top domestic terror threat, “even though there are no U.S. deaths appropriately attributed” to any environmental activist group.

    Quite the red herring. By that standard, the KKK could throw threatening notes wrapped around bricks through windows and burn crosses on lawns to their hearts content and still evade the terrorist label.

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