Former FBI special agent: the Bureau still underestimates the threat posed by White supremacists

Former FBI special agent: the Bureau still underestimates the threat posed by White supremacists

Right-wing media outlets have a long history of pretending that White supremacists, White nationalists and neo-Nazis don’t pose as great a terrorist threat in the United States as radical far-right Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS (Islamic State, Iraq and Syria). But in fact, White power groups have been responsible for a long list of terrorist attacks in recent years — and the 18-year-old suspect in a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York on Saturday, May 14, according to investigators, is a White supremacist who targeted his victims specifically because they were Black and embraced the Great Replacement conspiracy theory (which claims that government officials are trying to “replace” Whites with non-Whites).

Following the Buffalo massacre, Michael German — a former FBI special agent who infiltrated White supremacist groups during the 1990s — is arguing that the Federal Bureau of Investigation still doesn’t fully recognize the scope of the threat posed by White supremacist and White nationalist groups.

German, now a fellow with the Brennan Center at the New York University Law School, told The Guardian, “U.S. law enforcement is failing, as it long has, to provide victimized communities like Buffalo’s with equal protection under the law. They are not actually investigating the crimes that occur.”

In 2020, former FBI Director Christopher Wray, during testimony before Congress, told lawmakers that “racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists” had surpassed jihadists as the greatest terrorist threat in the U.S. German, however, believes that the FBI could be going after White power extremists more aggressively.

German told The Guardian, “White supremacists kill far more Americans than anybody else the FBI designates as domestic terrorists, yet the Bureau still doesn’t document the crimes and fatalities that occur. I think that’s a reflection of lack of concern for the victims of that violence.”


The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in recent years, have repeatedly issued threat assessments about the dangers that White supremacists and extreme militia groups pose. In March 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an unclassified threat assessment describing an “elevated threat” coming from far-right White groups. Wray, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee that month, described the January 6, 2001 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building as an act of domestic terrorism — and he rejects the false claim that that the left-wing Antifa movement had anything to do with that attack.

Nonetheless, German has a problem with the way the FBI typically describes violent attacks by White supremacists and White nationalists. The FBI, according to German, will use terms like “racially motivated violent extremism” and “hate crimes,” failing to give groups described that way the level of comprehensive surveillance given to suspected jihadists following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The former FBI special agent noted that the Buffalo shooter, before the attack, had announced a “murder/suicide” mission. German told The Guardian, “Can you imagine if the Buffalo shooter had been Muslim, and he was telling his friends he was enamored with Osama bin Laden? You have to think the response would have been different.”

In 2006, Guardian reporter Ed Pilkington noted, an internal intelligence assessment at the FBI found that a “White supremacist presence among law enforcement personnel is a concern.”

German told The Guardian, “We fail to recognize how foundational White supremacism is to our culture…. If there had been an internal FBI report that ISIS had infiltrated U.S. law enforcement, you’d expect a nationwide attempt to get to the bottom of it.”

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