Leaked FBI documents reveal bureau’s priorities under Trump

The Young Turks reports:

Under President Trump, the FBI’s official counterterrorism priorities have included “Black Identity Extremists,” “anti-authority” extremists, and “animal rights/environmental extremists,” according to leaked Bureau documents obtained exclusively by The Young Turks. The documents, many of which are marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive” and “For Official Use Only,” also reference a mysterious plan to mitigate the threat of “Black Identity Extremists” with a program codenamed “IRON FIST” involving the use of undercover agents.

Each fiscal year, the FBI headquarters updates its Consolidated Strategy Guide, which lists the Bureau’s priorities in numerous domains such as counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and cyber crime. When an August 2017 internal FBI report referencing the counterterrorism threat posed by “Black Identity Extremists” was published by Foreign Policy, the FBI became the subject of intense criticism for adopting what critics alleged was a racially loaded term.

What was not publicly known, however, was that not only had the FBI adopted the term; it specifically listed it as a top counterterrorism priority in its 2018 strategy guide, referring to the group as a “priority domestic terrorism target,” and even established a program to counteract the supposed threat.

While the documents depict concerns about violent black extremist attacks, they do not cite a single specific attack — unlike white supremacist attacks, of which several prominent examples are provided. [Continue reading…]

Data on white supremacist terrorism the Trump administration has been ‘unable or unwilling’ to give to Congress

Yahoo News reports:

Alleged white supremacists were responsible for all race-based domestic terrorism incidents in 2018, according to a government document distributed earlier this year to state, local and federal law enforcement.

The document, which has not been previously reported on, becomes public as the Trump administration’s Justice Department has been unable or unwilling to provide data to Congress on white supremacist domestic terrorism.

The data in this document, titled “Domestic Terrorism in 2018,” appears to be what Congress has been asking for — and didn’t get.

The document, dated April 15, 2019, shows 25 of the 46 individuals allegedly involved in 32 different domestic terrorism incidents were identified as white supremacists. It was prepared by New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security Preparedness, one of the main arteries of information sharing, and sent throughout the DHS fusion center network as well as federal agencies, including the FBI. [Continue reading…]

How a Trump construction crew relies on undocumented workers

The Washington Post reports:

For nearly two decades, the Trump Organization has relied on a roving crew of Latin American employees to build fountains and waterfalls, sidewalks and rock walls at the company’s winery and its golf courses from New York to Florida.

Other employees at Trump clubs were so impressed by the laborers — who did strenuous work with heavy stone — that they nicknamed them “Los Picapiedras,” Spanish for “the Flintstones.”

For years, their ranks have included workers who entered the United States illegally, according to two former members of the crew. Another employee, still with the company, said that remains true today.

President Trump “doesn’t want undocumented people in the country,” said one worker, Jorge Castro, a 55-year-old immigrant from Ecuador without legal status who left the company in April after nine years. “But at his properties, he still has them.” [Continue reading…]

White House rebuffed attempts by DHS to make combating domestic terrorism a higher priority

CNN reports:

White House officials rebuffed efforts by their colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security for more than a year to make combating domestic terror threats, such as those from white supremacists, a greater priority as specifically spelled out in the National Counterterrorism Strategy, current and former senior administration officials as well as other sources close to the Trump administration tell CNN.

“Homeland Security officials battled the White House for more than a year to get them to focus more on domestic terrorism,” one senior source close to the Trump administration tells CNN. “The White House wanted to focus only on the jihadist threat which, while serious, ignored the reality that racial supremacist violence was rising fast here at home. They had major ideological blinders on.”

The National Counterterrorism Strategy, issued last fall, states that “Radical Islamist terrorists remain the primary transnational terrorist threat to the United States and its vital national interests,” which few experts dispute. What seems glaring to these officials is the minimizing of the threat of domestic terrorism, which they say was on their radar as a growing problem.

“Ultimately the White House just added one paragraph about domestic terrorism as a throw-away line,” a senior source involved in the discussion told CNN. That paragraph mentions “other forms of violent extremism, such as racially motivated extremism, animal rights extremism, environmental extremism, sovereign citizen extremism, and militia extremism.” It made no mention of white supremacists. [Continue reading…]

The next big vote on gun control may be in the Supreme Court

Renato Mariotti writes:

After this weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, pressure to reform gun laws has focused on Congress—and, as usual, Congress seems stymied about what to do. But with far less attention, an important strand of the debate has now landed in the Supreme Court.

Last week, the gun-maker Remington, which had annual sales of approximately $600 million in 2017, asked the Supreme Court to overturn a Connecticut decision that gave Sandy Hook families the ability to sue the company over the way it marketed the weapon used in the 2012 school massacre.

The ability to bring suits against gun manufacturers would give American citizens a powerful tool to hold gun-makers liable for the damage their weapons cause—much as cigarette companies were vulnerable to suits for the harms of tobacco. It’s not clear whether John Roberts’ court will take the case, and if it does, whether it will side with the families or uphold protections that gun-makers have enjoyed since the Bush administration. [Continue reading…]

The founder of 8chan calls it a terrorist refuge in plain sight

The Washington Post reports:

The El Paso massacre began like the fatal attacks earlier this year at mosques in New Zealand and a San Diego-area synagogue: with a racist manifesto and announcement on the anonymous message board 8chan, one of the Web’s most venomous refuges for extremist hate.

Like after the shootings in Christchurch and the Chabad of Poway synagogue, the El Paso attack was celebrated on 8chan as well: One of the most active threads early Sunday urged people to create memes and original content, or OC, that could make it easier to distribute and “celebrate the [gunman’s] heroic action.”

“You know what to do!!! Make OC, Spread OC, Share OC, Inspire OC,” an anonymous poster wrote. “Make the world a better place.”

The message board’s ties to mass violence have fueled worries over how to combat a Web-fueled wave of racist bloodshed. The El Paso shooting also prompted the site’s founder to urge its owners to “do the world a favor and shut it off.”

“Once again, a terrorist used 8chan to spread his message as he knew people would save it and spread it,” Fredrick Brennan, who founded 8chan in 2013 but stopped working with the site’s owners in December, told The Washington Post. “The board is a receptive audience for domestic terrorists.” [Continue reading…]

FBI warns conspiracy theories are a new domestic terrorism threat

Jana Winter reports:

The FBI for the first time has identified fringe conspiracy theories as a domestic terrorist threat, according to a previously unpublicized document obtained by Yahoo News.

The FBI intelligence bulletin from the bureau’s Phoenix field office, dated May 30, 2019, describes “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” as a growing threat, and notes that it is the first such report to do so. It lists a number of arrests, including some that haven’t been publicized, related to violent incidents motivated by fringe beliefs.

The document specifically mentions QAnon, a shadowy network that believes in a deep state conspiracy against President Trump, and Pizzagate, the theory that a pedophile ring including Clinton associates was being run out of the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant (which didn’t actually have a basement).

“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the document states. It also goes on to say the FBI believes conspiracy theory-driven extremists are likely to increase during the 2020 presidential election cycle. [Continue reading…]

Trump ineligible for California primary next year unless he discloses his tax returns

The Los Angeles Times reports:

President Trump will be ineligible for California’s primary ballot next year unless he discloses his tax returns under a state law that immediately took effect Tuesday, an unprecedented mandate that is almost certain to spark a high-profile court fight and might encourage other states to adopt their own unconventional rules for presidential candidates.

The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on his final day to take action and passed on a strict party-line vote in the Legislature, requires all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings. They must do so by late November in order to secure a spot on California’s presidential primary ballot in March. State elections officials will post the financial documents online, although certain private information must first be redacted.

“As one of the largest economies in the world and home to one in nine Americans eligible to vote, California has a special responsibility to require this information of presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Newsom said in a statement that accompanied his signature on the bill approved by the Legislature earlier this month. “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.” [Continue reading…]

Alan Dershowitz’s position on rape

Connie Bruck writes:

Dershowitz has written frequently that defending the rights of the accused in rape cases is a crucial application of the presumption of innocence. In “Contrary to Popular Opinion,” published in 1992, he included a list of cases in which women acknowledged having made false accusations of rape. He argued, “It is precisely because rape is so serious a crime that falsely accusing someone of rape should be regarded as an extremely serious crime as well. Imagine yourself or a ‘loved one’ being falsely accused of raping a woman!”

Some students thought that he strained logic in order to defend men. “In Dershowitz’s view, men who are accused of rape, there has got to be a defense,” one female student from the 1991 class recalled. “He had convoluted ways of thinking about how men could misinterpret lack of consent. And it wasn’t relegated to when we were speaking about a rape case. Wherever we were on the syllabus, he would bring it up.”

William Kennedy Smith, a nephew of John F. Kennedy, had recently been accused of raping a woman on a Kennedy family estate, and Dershowitz frequently spoke to the media about the case. (Smith argued that the sex was consensual, and he was later acquitted.) In class, according to a second female student, who is now the chief executive of a nonprofit, “he would talk about Smith and the woman frolicking in the waves, ripping off their clothes.” Midway through the semester, “a woman raised her hand and said, essentially, O.K., enough rape examples! There are women in this class who have been raped. Can we move on to something else?”

“His hair just caught on fire,” Murph Willcott, a male student who was in the class during the confrontation, recalled. “He seemed to take that as a challenge to his authority, and he made it clear he was going to teach what he wanted to teach.” [Continue reading…]

Trump administration in rush to bring back federal executions will face court challenges

BuzzFeed reports:

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it will resume federal executions for the first time since 2003, reviving a court fight over lethal injections that’s been dormant for nearly a decade.

Five men on death row are now scheduled for execution by lethal injection in December 2019 and January 2020, according to the Justice Department; each was convicted of murder and has exhausted his appeals. The new federal execution protocol involves a single drug, sodium pentobarbital, which is commonly used in state executions.

“Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding,” Attorney General Bill Barr said in a statement. “The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

The new protocol will immediately end up in court, however, and could be put on hold before the planned executions take place. A lawsuit pending since 2005 challenging the federal government’s execution procedures has been on hold since 2011, when the Obama administration effectively suspended lethal injections as officials explored changes to the process. [Continue reading…]