Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security raised concerns at a Senate hearing Thursday about violent threats from extremists across the ideological spectrum.
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, described the high “lethality” of white supremacists in recent years, echoing recent comments by the department’s acting secretary and the FBI’s director.
Mr. Cuccinelli’s comments are notable because a current senior official recently alleged in a whistleblower complaint that Homeland Security’s leadership played down the threat of white supremacists to align with the Trump White House’s agenda. DHS has denied the whistleblower’s complaint.
“When white supremacists act as terrorists, more people per incident are killed,” Mr. Cuccinelli said at the hearing Thursday before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, responding to questions from Sen. Jacky Rosen (D., Nev.).
“It isn’t a belief; it’s just looking at the data,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.
White supremacists were responsible for the most ideologically inspired extremist homicides in recent years, overtaking salafist and jihadist killings in the U.S., according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. In 2019, white supremacists were responsible for 29 homicides, up from 17 in 2018, according to the center.
The senior DHS official who lodged the whistleblower complaint, Brian Murphy, had alleged that Mr. Cuccinelli directed him to soften language about white supremacists in intelligence assessments, something Mr. Cuccinelli forcefully denied as he responded to Ms. Rosen’s questions.
Mark Zaid, an attorney for Mr. Murphy, said in an email his client stands by his complaint and “is prepared to provide further details in classified settings to the appropriate oversight authorities.” Mr. Zaid said DHS has delayed granting access to classified information for Mr. Murphy’s legal protection.
Senators also asked about civil unrest stemming from racial tensions in recent months across the country. The FBI’s director, Christopher Wray, described it as a challenge tying crimes to particular groups, noting that people involved often adhere to a mishmash of ideologies.
He said anarchist extremists have at times taken advantage of the protests. These extremists, he said, include antifa, a loosely organized activist movement that has sometimes used violence to confront people they see as authoritarian or racist. The FBI is investigating the funding, tactics and logistics of anarchist extremists, he said, adding his agency would pursue all available charges.
Mr. Wray said militia-style groups have also been involved in violence, which the FBI is investigating.
Speaking of the recent unrest, Mr. Wray divided the people involved in three categories: peaceful protesters, which he called the largest bucket; “criminal opportunists” engaged in looting and low-level vandalism; and a third group, which, he said, was perhaps the smallest, involving people who have turned violent, targeting law enforcement, throwing Molotov cocktails and setting government buildings aflame.
A project conducted by researchers at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and Princeton University analyzed more than 10,600 protests between late May and August, most connected to Black Lives Matter or the coronavirus pandemic. About 95% of the protests, about 10,100, were peaceful, the resulting report said. Close to 5%, or 570 events, involved demonstrators engaging in violence, it found.
Republican senators pressed administration officials to take strong actions to crack down on protests that have turned violent and decried the killing and wounding of police officers. Two police officers were wounded in Louisville, Ky., late Wednesday in response to the announcement that a grand jury indicted one police officer involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. The charges were related to endangering Ms. Taylor’s neighbors, not her death—a decision civil-rights activists considered woefully inadequate.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), said he was concerned about people who are repeatedly arrested being released on bail.
Sen. Gary Peters (D., Mich.), the committee’s ranking member, raised concerns that Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of DHS, didn’t appear at the hearing.
Mr. Wolf, who was appointed in his acting role last year, testified to the committee earlier this week as part of that process.
But his refusal to testify to a House committee last week at a similar domestic threat hearing—despite a subpoena—also drew rebukes from Democrats.
Story cited here.