FBI must target white supremacists' infiltration of police agencies, congressman says
The FBI must develop a strategy to respond to white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement agencies and address its past failures to take the issue seriously, a prominent Democratic congressman has argued in a letter to the FBI director, Christopher Wray.
Multiple internal FBI reports over the past 15 years have labeled white supremacist infiltration of police departments as a serious threat. But last year, FBI officials refused to testify in a hearing about the topic, repeatedly telling congressional staffers that “it did not believe that this threat was supported by evidence” and “that there would not be any utility in the bureau offering testimony”, the Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin wrote in a letter to Wray on Tuesday.
The presence of current and former police officers in the violent insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January was “irrefutable proof of this threat”, the congressman argued.
“Given the FBI’s refusal just last year to admit that extremist police officers posed a serious threat to our nation’s security, I am now concerned that the bureau lacks an adequate strategy to respond to this clear and present danger to public safety,” Raskin, the chair of a subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties, wrote.
Raskin requested a briefing on the issue for members of Congress by 26 March. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
Related: White supremacists and militias have infiltrated police across US, report says
In February, a confidential intelligence assessment from the FBI’s San Antonio division warned that white supremacists and other far-right groups would “very likely seek affiliation with military and law enforcement entities” in order to advance their ideology, attack racial minorities, and gain insider information and tactical training, according to ABC News, which obtained a copy of the report.
Last August, an external report authored by a former FBI special agent documented links between serving officers and white supremacist and militia groups in more than a dozen states.
Michael German, the former agent who authored that report, told the Guardian that a congressional briefing by the FBI “would be an important first step toward accountability” and that it should be followed by a “long overdue” public hearing with FBI and justice department officials to outline “a comprehensive national strategy to address white supremacy and far-right militancy in law enforcement”.
“Time and time again, when the FBI fails to protect the public from a foreseeable threat its managers claim they had no warning and seek new powers,” German wrote in an email. “Yet the records often show agents in the field collected the proper intelligence and gave timely warnings. The problem is not a lack of intelligence, it is FBI managers who dismiss intelligence they receive when it doesn’t fit the preconceived narratives they or their bosses prefer about what threats to prioritize.”
In 2015, for instance, an FBI counter-terrorism policy guide warned agents building domestic terrorism cases against white supremacist and other far-right groups that “the subjects of their investigations often have active links to law enforcement”, German wrote.
If the infiltration of law enforcement agencies is serious enough that FBI agents have to be warned to modify their tactics during investigations, German wrote, it should be serious enough for the FBI to have a national strategy to protect the public.
“This kind of mismanagement is something that gets people killed,” he added.
At least 31 law enforcement officers across 12 states were being scrutinized by their agencies for their participation in 6 January events in Washington, the Associated Press reported in late January. At least five current or former police officers have been charged so far in connection with the Capitol riot, according to National Public Radio.
As of mid-February, at least six Capitol police officers had been suspended without pay for their behavior on 6 January, and 29 others were under investigation, according to news reports.
In addition, at least 33 individuals with known military backgrounds have been charged in connection with the Capitol attack, according to George Washington University’s program on extremism.