Last week, federal agents in Maryland arrested a United States Coast Guard officer and said he was plotting to assassinate Democratic members of Congress, prominent television journalists and others. The officer, Lt. Christopher Hasson, apparently was inspired by a right-wing Norwegian terrorist who slaughtered 77 people in 2011, stockpiled firearms and ammunition and researched locations around Washington to launch his attacks, according to investigators. Fortunately, the F.B.I. arrested him before he could act.
This frightening case is just one of several recent reminders that white supremacy and far-right extremism are among the greatest domestic-security threats facing the United States.
Regrettably, over the past 25 years, law enforcement, at both the federal and state levels, has been slow to respond. This is in part because of the limited number of enforcement tools available to prosecutors. But there are steps that can be taken to help the police and prosecutors address this growing threat — including, on the federal level, a domestic terrorism law.
In 2017, hate crimes, generally defined as criminal acts motivated by the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, or gender, increased by about 17 percent nationally, to 7,175 from 6,121 (the number of police agencies reporting crimes also rose, by about 6 percent); in my state, Virginia, they were up by nearly 50 percent, to 202 from 137.
Killings committed by individuals and groups associated with far-right extremist groups have risen significantly. Seventy-one percent of the 387 “extremist related fatalities in the United States” from 2008 to 2017 were committed by members of far-right and white-supremacist groups, according the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. Islamic extremists were responsible for 26 percent.
The rising scourge of domestic hate has been underscored by particularly heinous acts in the past few years. In 2015, an avowed white supremacist murdered nine black congregants at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Last year in Kentucky, a white man with a history of making racist remarks was charged with shooting and killing two African-Americans in their 60s at a grocery store after trying to enter a nearby black church. Several months ago, an assailant shouting anti-Semitic slurs stormed the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh with a semiautomatic rifle and murdered 11 people. [Continue reading…]