FBI testimony shows just how serious the white nationalist threat is

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Ever since the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, white nationalists have tried their best to hide from the public eye. Social media giants have started cracking down on their online hate speech, and logs from white nationalist chat rooms reveal that many are afraid of being outed and are considering fleeing to darker corners of the internet to hide. Planned far-right events have also repeatedly lost support. For example, a “March Against Communism” rally scheduled for December 28 in Charlotte, North Carolina, is in danger of falling apart after neo-Nazi Richard Spencer pulled out.

But the white nationalists haven’t gone away. They’ve just gotten better at hiding, and a series of revelations over the last week shows their continued threat.

On Wednesday the new head of the FBI, Christopher Wray, told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that his agency “has about 1,000 open domestic-terrorism investigations as we speak” –  a term most often used to describe white nationalists, hardline right-wing militias, and Christian secessionists. “I don’t think Americans understand the level of threat we have in this country from white supremacists,” Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said.

Law enforcement has repeatedly warned of the dangers of white nationalists over the past year. In April, a report from the Government Accountability office noted that, “Fatalities resulting from attacks by far-right wing violent extremists have exceeded those caused by radical Islamist violent extremists in 10 of the 15 years.” In May, a FBI/Homeland Security bulletin said that, “small cells within the white supremacist extremist movement would likely continue to pose a lethal threat of violence over the next year.”

But the problem of far-right extremism isn’t just confined to the U.S. On the same day that Wray testified to the Senate, British counter-terrorism detectives arrested 11 suspected members of the banned neo-Nazi group National Action. Earlier in September, four British Army soldiers were also arrested for being part of the same group. National Action is described by the British government a “virulently racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic group” which believes that Britain will eventually see a violent race war.

On Thursday the British Parliament added two National Action aliases, Scottish Dawn and NS131, to its list of banned terrorist organizations. “[This group] glorifies violence and stirs up hatred while promoting their poisonous ideology,” Home Secretary Amber Rudd said. “I will not allow them to masquerade under different names.”

The dismantling of a small far-right group in Britain may not seem that relevant to the white nationalist landscape in the U.S. But the explosive online growth of the far-right over recent years through websites like 4chan and Reddit shows that these groups are now coordinating internationally. White nationalist Matthew Heimbach, for instance, recently met with a member of the Russian Imperial Movement in Washington. Vanguard America – the neo-Nazi group that alleged Charlottesville murderer James Alex Fields Jr. was part of – has a U.K. chapter, Vanguard Britannia. A screenshot from a U.S. white nationalist chat room shows one poster soliciting donations for them.

A screenshot from a US white nationalist chatroom, where one poster tried to get donations for the British neo-Nazi group Vanguard Britannia.

If you want further proof of white supremacists’ international presence look no further then the Daily Stormer. The Neo-Nazi website was shut down by its web hosting service GoDaddy in the wake of Charlottesville, but returned last week with an Icelandic domain – a country which has repeatedly protected controversial websites. The CEO of ISNIC, Jens Pétur Jensen, the domain company which registered the Daily Stormer, said they are talking to the Icelandic National Police for guidance.

“What we worry about is the reputation if the .is domain,” Jensen told the Reykjavik Grapevine. “Of course, ISNIC does not want to have the reputation that we’re a safe haven for criminals. That’s something we’re constantly looking into.”

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