The horrific mass shooting in Charleston, S.C., is raising questions about whether President Obama is prepared to start the kind of effort against extremist groups that the government launched against the Ku Klux Klan in an earlier era, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Tracking homegrown extremist groups was an emphasis after the 1993 Waco siege and the Oklahoma City bombing two years later. After Sept. 11, 2001, the FBI has shifted its focus to international terrorism. “The allocation of resources across different forms of terrorism has been skewed towards jihadi terrorism,” said Richard Cohen of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks right-wing extremist groups. “The government has allowed the threat of other forms of terrorism to take a back seat.”
Like Ku Klux Klan lynchings of the past, the Charleston shooting appears designed to not just to kill individuals but to create terror among African Americans. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), a longtime civil rights activist, said the federal government must do more to infiltrate extremist groups. Clyburn brought up the example of efforts against the Klan in the 1960s and 1970s. “These groups cannot be allowed to continue to float around, they're ratcheting things up. People have been ignoring this stuff and now all of a sudden nine people are dead,” Clyburn said. The Department of Homeland Security issued a report in 2009 warning of a growing threat from right-wing extremism. The report drew criticism from conservatives and veterans groups who said it unfairly singled out returning military veterans as possible recruits. The analyst who wrote the report, Daryl Johnson, said his domestic terrorism team was disbanded and he left the agency.