The shooting in the Pittsburgh Synagogue, which killed 11 people on Saturday, again called on the federal government to update its laws to place the type of violence against minorities, religious groups and the public in the community. same category as terrorists inspired by groups overseas.
According to a report published in 2017 by the Government Accountability Office, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 106 violent extremists of the far right are responsible for 106 assassinations in the United States, while 1,119 violent extremists inspired by the government. Islamism killed 119. The GAO has the death toll was roughly similar, the number of incidents was not; far-right extremists have committed nearly three times as many attacks – 62 to 23 by radical Islamist extremists.
"We have one of the most diverse matrixes of threats we have had in a decade, but the most ascendant ascendancy is the far right," said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the study of hatred and extremism at California State University in San Bernardino. Right-wing extremists do more attacks, he said, but when Islamist militants do, "their attacks tend to be more deadly."
In the two and a half years that preceded and followed the violent rally of white supremacy in Charlottesville, last year, Levin stated that he had been able to identify more mega-stars. White supremacist gatherings – defined as one hundred or more people. public gathering – that there has been at least one in the last decade.
FBI director Christopher A. Wray told a Senate committee earlier this month that his agents were actively prosecuting about 5,000 terrorism cases, including national and international cases. About 1,000 of these people involve so-called local suspects who appear to be inspired by global Islamist militant groups, Wray said.
The FBI is investigating about 1,000 cases of national terrorism, a category that includes both extremist right-wing extremists and extreme left-wing extremists.
"We felt that it was a constant and very serious threat," Wray said.
FBI data show that hate crimes are increasing.
In 2016, hate crimes reached their highest level since 2012 – the FBI recorded 6,121 criminal incidents motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender. Compared with the previous year, the number of both Jewish and Muslim crimes has increased, as has the number of crimes targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The FBI said most incidents were motivated by race or ethnicity, although among those motivated by religion, anti-Jewish bias is likely to be the cause.
Hard-fought political competitions can fuel peaks of hate-motivated crime, and the election of President Trump seems to prove it. A study conducted in 2017 by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism revealed dramatic increases around the 2016 election in communities where the forces of law and order analyzed the data by month or by quarter.
Some observers of hate crimes have warned, however, that Trump's inflammatory rhetoric may fuel a more sustained and significant increase in hate. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal-minded lobby group that tracks extremism, said in a report last year that hate groups, including anti-Muslim groups, were on the rise. His report claimed that Trump had "electrified the radical right". The FBI's most recent statistics date back to 2016 and reach their highest level since 2001, when Islamist militants hijacked four airliners to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 dead and one wave. of anti-Muslim incidents.
Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC intelligence project, said his organization had criticized the administration during George W. Bush's presidency and for many years of Barack Obama's presidency for not focusing enough on right-wing extremism. In the early years of the Obama administration, the US Department of Homeland Security had narrowed its focus on right-wing extremism, in part because of Republicans' criticism of a state of affairs. report leak warning law enforcement agencies to be on their guard.
"We have spent most of the Bush administration and the Obama administration criticizing the federal government for not taking this seriously," said Beirich.
Historically, violence has come from left and right causes.
The University of Maryland's global terrorism database, which includes information dating back to 1970, documents a rise in leftist violence by the civil rights movement, including bombings by Weather Underground. .
In the 1990s, a period marked by the rise of extremist Islamist groups, attacks in the United States began to diversify, said Erin Miller, who manages the database. And others were intentionally fatal, among them the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.
According to Miller, it has been difficult to establish a precise pattern over the past decade, as many attacks have been perpetrated by unaffiliated individuals. But each of the three attacks last week – the fatal shooting of two African-Americans in a Kentucky grocery store, the 14 bomb-packs sent to prominent critics of Trump and CNN and the Pittsburgh Massacre – seems to match to a profile.
"On the basis of the preliminary information we have now," said Miller, "all the writers seem to have ideological motivations that fit within the broader framework of the right."
Today's exacerbated partisan tensions sometimes lead to comparisons with the 1960s, but few see exact parallels to the political violence of the time.
In 1968, the US government responded with overwhelming force to mass protest movements, said Erica Chenoweth, a professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, who studies political violence.
The movement that resisted Trump's policy was "incredibly non-violent," Chenoweth said, "even when protesters volunteered to be arrested for civil disobedience."
A study conducted after the Charlottesville rally gives the following reasons: while violent tactics are sometimes expected of right-wing extremist groups, these same strategies may backfire against left-wing groups that have built their identities around the world. ideals of peace and justice. According to Chenoweth, the violence has proven to be less effective than non-violent actions to bring about political change.
Some law enforcement officials and former law enforcement officials have said that Congress should amend anti-terrorism laws to show the public that a type of heinous violence is not treated more seriously than another. Last week, the FBI Agents Association renewed its call on lawmakers to specify crimes of internal terrorism.
The current federal law, which dates back to the Civil Rights era, is written in such a way that prosecutors can charge numerous crimes against minorities, religious or persecuted groups, with hate crimes, while inspired crimes by the Islamic State terrorist group are generally referred to as terrorist offenses. The government's ability to designate a particular group as a foreign terrorist organization is a powerful tool for prosecutors to prosecute anyone who supports this group. Although this is probably untenable for US organizations, the law could be amended so that anyone meeting the current legal definition of a terrorist could have been charged with a separate terrorist offense, said John Carlin. , former head of the Ministry of Justice. Departmental National Security Division.
Federal law enforcement officials insist that there is little practical difference between the two methods: the FBI can actively pursue every type of violence and does so, and the Ministry of Justice Justice demands maximum penalties for these crimes. However, some law enforcement officials and former law enforcement officials are concerned that the public may perceive hate-motivated crimes as less serious, as they do not describe this as hate-motivated crime. terrorism violence.
"It is time to consider national terrorism as a national threat, and to track, analyze and punish political violence at the federal level," the FBI Agents Association said in a statement last week. "Winning the fight against national terrorism does not concern political parties or opinions; it is an end to political violence. "
Other law enforcement officials, past and present, believe that this type of change is unnecessary and potentially problematic, depending on the wording of this legislation.
"There are no gaps in investigations or prosecutions," said Chuck Rosenberg, a former US lawyer and senior FBI official. "The FBI has the investigative tools it needs and US lawyers have the prosecution tools they need to commit this type of crime."
Within the Justice Department, officials who favored such a change in the law pointed to two shootings in 2014 that killed three people outside a Jewish community center and a police station. Jewish retreat center in Overland Park, Kan.
The shooter in this case, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, was sued by state authorities and not by the federal government. Law enforcement officials and former law enforcement officials were privately concerned that the lack of a federal prosecution in this case was a missed opportunity to highlight the dangers of anti-Semitic violence and to show the public that Washington is focusing on the issue. .
The shooter was tried in a state court, where he was convicted and sentenced to death.