The director of the FBI told a congressional committee that his agency is currently pursuing 1,000 investigations into “domestic terrorists” — including far-right extremists and anti-abortion activists.
Christopher Wray told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that, in addition to those domestic terrorism investigations, the FBI had an additional 1,000 investigations into suspected “lone wolves” in all 50 states.
In recent years there has been significant overlap between “lone wolves” and those who could qualify as far-right domestic terrorists, including white supremacist mass-murderer Dylan Roof, James Alex Fields Jr., who allegedly murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville last August, and misogynistic mass-murderer Elliot Rodger.
“There are not many dots to connect with some of these people,” Wray said. “They pick soft targets, they use easy-to-use weapons; you know, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), cars, knives, guns.”
A second law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that those the FBI considered “domestic terrorists” included right-wing extremists, anti-abortion and animal-rights activists willing to use violence, and left-wing militants. So-called “Black Identity Extremists” also fall in that category.
In an August 2017 report, the FBI said that “it is very likely incidents of alleged police abuse against African-Americans since then have continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically-motivated, violent criminal activity within the Black Identity Movement.” The report mentions both the police shootings in Baton Rouge and Dallas in July 2016. In both those cases the shooters, Gavin Eugene Long and Micah Johnson, respectively, had ties to extremist groups.
However, statistics previously gathered by ThinkProgress show that, when it comes to law-enforcement, far-right extremists have consistently posed a much more significant threat. Between 2007 and 2017, at least 33 officers were shot by individuals actively involved or affiliated with far-right extremism, including white supremacists, sovereign citizens and lone wolves — a number that far exceeds those killed by Black or leftist extremists.
“[African-American extremism is] not anywhere close to the far-right. You have to keep it in perspective,” Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) previously told ThinkProgress. It’s fine to act on it but it doesn’t take away from the dangers of right-wing extremism.”
What’s more, the FBI’s focus on “Black Identity Extremists” is being used to monitor and arrests Black activists involved with Black Lives Matter. Last Friday, the Guardian reported on how Rakem Balogun, a Black Lives Matter activist and advocate for black gun owners from Dallas, was forced to spend five months in prison because the FBI believed he was a threat to law enforcement.
In testimony, the FBI admitted that they had no evidence about Balogun making specific threats toward police apart from anti-police statements on his Facebook page. The FBI also admitted that it had first learned about Balogun via Infowars.
“It’s tyranny at its finest,” Balogun said. “I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone.”