The threat of white nationalist violence in the U.S. is at least as big a threat as that posed by the Islamic State (ISIS) and similar groups, the FBI revealed Wednesday.
Director Chris Wray told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that there are currently 1,000 open investigations into domestic terrorist groups and another 1,000 probes into groups with radical Islamist ideology.
But the similar numbers did not satisfy some members of the panel, with several complaining of a double standard in how attacks from white supremacists were investigated compared with those carried out by people who identified as having radical Islamist ideology.
The number of attacks carried out by white supremacists were “almost triple” those of those carried out by people who identified with groups such as ISIS, said Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. And government data obtained by The Hill suggests the number of white supremacist attacks compared to those from radical Islamist groups was as many as two to one.
“We have had zero hearings on the threat of domestic terrorists and the threat they pose and our response to it,” McCaskill said, explaining there had been a number of hearings about ISIS, but none about white supremacists.
But said white nationalism is no more or less of a priority for the FBI that threats from terrorist organizations.
“We take both of them very, very seriously,” The Hill reported Wray as saying. “Our focus is on violence and threats of violence against the people of this country. That’s our concern; it’s not ideology.”
Wray also explained domestic and international terrorism was investigated differently, with crimes such as shooting typically classified as terrorism only if there is a link with an international organization or ideology.
“A lot of the [domestic terrorism] cases we bring, we’re able to charge under gun charges, explosive charges, all manner of other crimes,” Wray explained.
“We also work a lot with state and local law enforcement who can sometimes bring straightforward, easy-to-make cases; homicide cases, things like that,” he added.
His comments on the open investigations at the department come as the Department of Justice announced there were “systemic” problems within the FBI that included failure to properly tackle allegations of serious misconduct, and FBI employees failing polygraph tests.