The largest annual gathering of FBI agents — FBI National Academy Associates — will meet this weekend in Quebec City. A year-and-half ago it was the site of a deadly mass shooting, when six Muslim worshipers were killed at a local mosque by Alexandre Bissonnette. The subsequent investigation found that Bissonnette was obsessed with far-right causes, regularly visiting the Twitter account of Richard Spencer, David Duke and Alex Jones, to name but a few.
You’d think then, that the conference would be a fitting location for the FBI to talk about the growing dangers associated with far-right violence. But it seems the opposite is true.
According to VICE News, the headline speaker for this year’s conference is Dale Yeager, the CEO of Seraph Inc., a private consulting firm for law enforcement, who will use his keynote speech to talk about “Radical Left-Wing Gangs in America”, which focuses on the dangers that groups like antifa pose with “their violent actions against civilians and police agencies in the U.S. and Canada.”
Yeager, who has reportedly spent more than 40 years warning about the dangers of left-wing extremism, does not believe there has been any uptick in white supremacist violence, and that the far-left, which he described as “despis[ing] Western civilization and liberal democracy,” is squarely to blame for the growing political violence in the U.S.
But Yeager’s thesis is completely wrong. Not only are far-right extremists a major threat, but they are specifically dangerous to the very law enforcement communities that Yeager is trying to help.
A March analysis by ThinkProgress showed that, between 2007 and 2017, at least 33 police officers were killed by individuals involved or affiliated with the far-right. They include Neo-Nazi Richard Poplawski, who ambushed and killed three Pittsburgh police officers with an AK-47 in 2009, and Lloyd Barrus, who wounded a Montana deputy sheriff during a high-speed pursuit in 2017 before making a U-turn to head him off.
Incidents such as the Charlottesville attack in 2017, the massacre of nine black worshipers at a South Carolina church in 2015 and numerous other thwarted plots also have the FBI on alert — despite what Yeager might profess.
In May, the agency’s director, Christopher Wray, told the Senate Appropriations Committee that it was pursuing over 1,000 investigations into “domestic terrorists”, including far-right extremists and anti-abortion groups. A 2017 bulletin by the FBI and Homeland Security warned that “the white supremacist extremist movement would likely continue to pose a lethal threat of violence.”
In April of last year, the Government Accountability Office noted that violence by far-right extremists has exceeded that caused by “radical Islamist violent extremists” in the last 15 years. One individual heavily involved with the militia movement (who asked not to be named), even recently told this reporter that he regarded Nazis and white supremacists as just as much a threat, if not more so, than antifa.
None of that however, seems to matter to Yeager nor, it seems, to Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen, who echoed Trump’s infamous argument of blaming “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville last year. “It’s not that one side is right and one side is wrong,” she told NBC News on Thursday. “Anybody that is advocating violence, we need to work to mitigate.”
The FBI stressed that Dale Yeager’s positions are his own and are not those of the FBI or the conference.