What ever happened to Fay, Wray?

In Senate testimony Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that, of roughly 100 domestic terrorism arrests in the last nine months, most involved "some version of what you might call white supremacist violence," although an FBI spokesperson later clarified that the actual percentage was lower than that. So, merely a heckin' lot of them, not the majority. We'd call it a plurality if most people knew what that meant -- aw hell, you guys do! We feel safer already!

Still, Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee the number of domestic terrorism plots was almost as high as the number of arrests in international terror cases, and was up measurably from last year. Wray's comments came up in the context of questions from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who worried that the FBI hasn't taken white supremacist violence seriously enough. Here's the full exchange between Durbin and Wray:

Durbin Presses FBI Director Wray On Effort To Combat White Supremacist Violence youtu.be

Durbin said,

We live in a world where the neo-Nazis and white supremacists are taking lives in many places [...] The reason I raise this is because there is a concern that this is not being taken as seriously as it should be as one of the real threats in our country.

Durbin said he was concerned that the phrase "white supremacy" wasn't specifically included in a list of America's most serious security threats in Wray's prepared statement, although he noted that "racism" generally was on the list. Wray replied,

Needless to say, we take domestic terrorism or hate crime, regardless of ideology, extremely seriously, and we are aggressively pursuing it using both counterterrorism resources and criminal investigative resources and partnering closely with our state and local partners [...]

Our focus is on the violence. We, the FBI, don't investigate the ideology, no matter how repugnant. We investigate violence. And any extremist ideology, when it turns to violence, we're all over it.

Wray specifically mentioned the creepy Coast Guard guy, Lt. Christopher P. Hasson, who's in jail facing gun and drug charges after stockpiling a bunch of weapons and compiling a hit list of journalists and Democratic politicians, although Wray didn't say whether additional charges may be brought. He also cited the deadly shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Poway, California.

Then Wray got to the international/domestic terror arrest numbers:

In terms of number of arrests, we have through the third quarter of this fiscal year had about give or take 100 arrests on the international terrorism side, which includes the homegrown violent extremism. We've also had just about the same number -- again, don't quote me to the exact digit -- on the domestic terrorism side.

I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we've investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence, but it does include other things as well

That "majority" line generated a lot of headlines, although the FBI later took pains to walk it back a little, while stressing that violence by white supremacists is definitely a serious problem. The Washington Post 'splainers that:

Asked for more specific data, an FBI spokeswoman clarified after Wray's testimony that the bureau has recorded about 90 domestic terrorism arrests, compared with about 100 international terrorism arrests.

The official also said that when Wray asserted a "majority of the domestic terrorism cases we've investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence," he meant only that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases involving a racial motive were believed to be spurred by white supremacy.

That clarification is consistent with congressional testimony from May, when FBI counterterrorism official Michael McGarrity testified that about 40 percent of domestic terrorism investigations involve racist motives, mostly white supremacy. At that hearing, McGarrity also said investigating and prosecuting white supremacist terror is complicated by the fact that the US doesn't have a law explicitly allowing domestic terrorism charges against white power extremists. Foreign groups like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda are explicitly designated as terrorists, but such a designation for a US-based group could get into dicey First Amendment territory, McGarrity said, so prosecutions have to be based on actions and threats, not ideology.

Along those lines, a neo-Nazi who considered the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter a "hero" -- and said the victims "deserved" to be murdered -- pleaded guilty yesterday to a federal gun charge. Jeffrey R. Clark was arrested back in November when his family was freaked out by his talk of the synagogue massacre as a "dry run for things to come," and called law enforcement. But as HuffPo points out, the gun charge is about as far as the prosecution can go:

A federal prosecutor described Clark as "a bomb" waiting to explode. But there's no federal law that broadly outlaws domestic terrorism, so Clark's case presented a challenge to federal prosecutors.

In a plea deal unveiled Tuesday, Clark pleaded guilty under a law that makes it illegal to possess a firearm while using or being addicted to a controlled substance. Prosecutors dropped another count involving possession of a high-capacity magazine. Federal sentencing guidelines suggest Clark should receive 10 to 16 months in prison.

So it goes. Maybe we need some kind of domestic terrorism law that would still pass First Amendment muster, huh? That seems like a thing that could be useful.

One good bit of news came out of the hearing: in response to a question by Sen. Cory Booker, Wray acknowledged the FBI had dropped the term "black identity extremism" as an investigative category, so that seems useful, huh?

Oh, yes, and elsewhere in the hearing, Ted Cruz asked Wray to investigate Antifa, which has no national organization, under the RICO organized crime statute. This is a very good and smart approach to a criminal scourge that hasn't actually committed terrorism, but really gets wingnuts worked up.

[WaPo / NPR / Defense One / HuffPo / Cory Booker]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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