FBI: U.S. Faces Equal Threats from Domestic Extremists and Islamic State

On Wednesday, security officials told Congress that U.S. law enforcement and security agencies believe domestic extremists pose as great of a threat as Islamic State militants. Right-wing extremist activity has been on the rise in recent years, emerging from factors including political polarization and online radicalization. According to The Washington Post, jihadists have killed 107 people in the U.S. and far-right-wing groups have killed 114 individuals since 9/11. The statistics emphasize the importance of Americans and law enforcement groups understanding and countering this rising threat.

Timothy Langan, assistant director and head of the counterintelligence division of the FBI, stated that the agency has elevated its threat of racially motivated domestic terrorists to a level equal to Islamic militants. He also stated that there has been a significant increase in activity among domestic extremists over the last 18 months. In addition, John Cohen, acting undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis in the Department of Homeland Security, stated that racial superiority and hatred towards immigrants were major threat concerns.

These statements all raise the question about possible acts of terrorism within America’s borders by domestic actors. There is an especially large worry over attacks conducted by lone offenders and small groups that have adopted extremist ideology. Racially and ethnically motivated extremists possess a lethal threat to the U.S. as they are likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks against targeted groups of civilians. According to U.S. News, right-wing groups also pose such a great threat due to the high rate of self-radicalization.

Right-wing terrorism first emerged in Western Europe in the 1970s with Neo-fascist movements in Italy. Since then, various groups have developed with differing ideals. According to the FBI, domestic right-wing terrorist groups are characterized by notions of racial supremacy and bastion anti-government and anti-regulation ideas. They organize attacks to draw attention to their cause and push for political change that would advance their agenda. In recent years, their plots have been increasingly present in the United States. Plots such as the Oklahoma City bombing, Charleston church shooting, and Colorado planned-parenthood shooting have been connected to this far-right movement. Many of these groups include militant-militia, Neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups, and other radicals that posses anti-government views.

To counter radicalization and extremism, the FBI has worked closely with tech companies to try and prevent online recruitment. Social media and the internet play an increasingly large role in radicalization as it is often used as an agenda-pushing platform for extremist groups through which they can display violent acts of behavior. Hopefully, a strategic partnership with these companies will better regulate their content when it comes to the dissemination of radical propaganda.

Right-wing extremists are not only on the rise in the United States but rather in many nations across the globe. There is cooperation occurring on an international scale as security institutions target trans-national terrorist networks. It is important to target these groups as a unity rather than a group of radicalized individuals because this will prove to be a more effective strategy in combatting further plots of violence and subversions.