WASHINGTON – The Federal Bureau of Investigation has around 850 open investigations into domestic terrorism, most of them involving anti-government and white nationalist extremists, a senior FBI official said Wednesday.
About half of the 850 involved anti-government, anti-authority actors, Michael McGarrity, the FBI assistant director for counterterrorism, told the House Homeland Security Committee.
Another 40 percent are racially driven extremists, he said.
“Within that a significant majority are racially motivated extremists who support the superiority of the white race.”
McGarrity said the internet and social media have driven the recent rise in domestic extremist threats, which he said develop similarly to threats from domestic Islamic extremists, which the FBI labels homegrown violent extremists.
“What we’re seeing is the velocity in which our subjects and the velocity in which we are working our cases … is much quicker than it has ever been before,” he said.
Individuals can go on the internet and easily find content matching their specific ideology, without having to travel or meet others in person, he said.
That allows them “to be able to radicalize fairly quickly and then mobilize to that violence quickly,” McGarrity said.
The hearing came as deaths from domestic extremist attacks have risen in recent years to surpass those from Islamic-inspired attacks.
Attention has recently focused especially on white nationalists who meld together anti-immigrant, and-Black and anti-Semitic sentiments.
Last month a teenage gunman who wrote a hate-filled manifesto online opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, California, leaving one woman dead and three others injured, including a rabbi.
That came exactly six months after another man spouting anti-Semitic and white nationalist vitriol shot dead 11 and wounded six others at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.