The FBI is conducting “quite a number” of “domestic terrorism investigations” targeting “violent anarchists” inspired by the Antifa ideology, the agency’s director Christopher Wray told a House panel on Thursday.
“Antifa is a real thing,” Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee, but he stressed that it is an ideology, not a specific organization.
The FBI chief told lawmakers:
We look at Antifa as more of an ideology or a movement than an organization. To be clear, we do have quite a number of properly predicated domestic terrorism investigations into violent anarchist extremists, any number of whom self identify with the Antifa movement. And that’s part of this broader group of domestic violent extremists that I’m talking about, but it’s just one part of it. We also have racially motivated violent extremists … militia types, and others.
Wray said the bulk of the bureau’s racially motivated extremism caseload deal withs white supremacists but conceded that there are also “cases involving African American defendants who have pursued violence against, say, law enforcement.”
The director asserted that he “doesn’t know for sure” if any of those racially motivated extremism cases involving blacks are linked to Black Lives Matter (BLM), which he described as an organization.
Racially motivated violent extremism cases reportedly account for most of the FBI’s work against domestic terrorist threats.
Wray told the House panel that the number of FBI domestic terrorism probes in the U.S. has stood around 1,000 annually, but this year it is higher.
The FBI had made nearly 120 arrests for domestic terrorism this year, involving “everything from racially motivated violent extremists to violent anarchist extremists, militia types, sovereign citizens, you name it,” Wray proclaimed.
He pointed out that the bureau has not deemed BLM an extremist group, stressing that he does not know if anyone aligned with the group has engaged in violent activities during the recent riots and demonstrations.
Wray told lawmakers:
I can’t, sitting here right now, speak to specific cases. I know that we have had a wide range of domestic violent extremists in midst of the current protest activity engaging in violence or destruction of property and whether in any one of those cases someone may have aligned themselves or associated themselves with [BLM], sitting here right now I can’t think of one, but I don’t know for sure.
The FBI considers racially motivated extremism to be a top threat plaguing America.
“Of the domestic terrorism threats, we last year elevated racially motivated … extremism to be a national threat priority commensurate with homegrown violent extremists. That’s the jihadist-inspired people here and with ISIS [Islamic State],” he added.
“If you go back over the last few years, it’s been the racially motivated violent extremists that had the most lethal attacks in the homeland,” Wray noted.
Specifically, Wray declared, lone-wolf actors radicalized online, including homegrown jihadis and violent domestic extremists, pose the “most dangerous threat to the homeland.”
The FBI is increasingly concerned about possible violent clashes between ideologically-motivated extremist groups on the left and right before the November election, Wray testified.
U.S. authorities and observers, namely Attorney General William Barr and journalist Andy Ngo, have linked the far-left group Antifa to the violence and riots that erupted across Democrat-run American cities after the killing of George Floyd while in police custody.