Lead Authority to Combat Far-Right Extremism Unclear

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI apparently each consider far-right radicalism a hot potato, low on their respective priority lists, the Daily Beast reports.

Five DHS veterans reportedly say that DHS has long considered such radicalism to be the FBI’s purview, while four FBI veterans say the FBI considers it somewhere between less significant than fighting jihadist terror and “the lowest priority.”

Former DHS Secretary and current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly decided to withdraw funding for organizations focusing on right-wing domestic extremists, Foreign Policy reports. The Trump administration has also cut funding and staff for the interagency Countering Violent Extremism Community Partnership Office and changed its name to the Office of Terrorism Prevention Partnerships.

On Tuesday, October 30, days after a white supremacist killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue and reportedly told police “I just want to kill Jews,” the DHS Advisory Council met via teleconference to exclusively discuss thousands of Central American migrants who reportedly wish to request asylum as the U.S./Mexico border, reports the Daily Beast

Former DHS Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis John Cohen criticized DHS’s focus under the current administration, telling the Daily Beast, “Every time there’s another one of these attacks all we hear is, ‘Oh, this is shocking, this is horrible, our prayers are with the people, who would have imagined this ever would have happened?’ I think that was the exact quote from the president—‘This was unimaginable.’ No, it’s very imaginable because it’s happening on a regular basis in this country. We’re just not doing enough to stop it.”

Officially, the FBI states its “top priority remains protecting the United States from terrorist attacks, both international and domestic.” But according to former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi, federal terrorism laws result in a higher focus on overseas groups. “A white supremacist group is by definition a group that thinks whites are better. Ok. Where’s the federal law there? If I’m heading a field office, which I have, I’m not putting resources on the thought police; I’m putting resources on somebody who says ‘I’m going to go to heaven if I blow up this building’ and is advocating violence,” Figliuzzi said to the Daily Beast.

As of September, the Department of Justice has prosecuted 63 domestic terrorism cases in the current fiscal year, down about 9 percent from the same period in 2017, and from more than 100 prosecutions from all of 2016, according to data gathered by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse

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