Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, FBI director Christopher A. Wray condemned the supporters of former President Donald J. Trump who attacked the Capitol and revealed that the number of domestic terrorism investigations at the FBI had risen to 2,000 since he was placed in charge in 2017, reports the New York Times. In addition the number of white supremacists arrested in 2020 had almost tripled from when he started three years earlier.
FBI agents opened more than 400 domestic terrorism investigations last year as violence flared during racial justice protests, including about 40 cases into possible adherents of the far-left antifascist movement known as antifa and another 40 into the Boogaloo, a far-right movement seeking to start a civil war. The FBI also investigated white supremacists suspected of menacing protesters. As a result of the violence last year, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department decided to elevate the threat posed by antigovernment and anti-authority extremists such as militias and anarchists.
Still, bureau officials listed the threat a tier below the one presented by racially motivated violent extremists like neo-Nazis. The FBI and the Justice Department make those determinations based on violent attacks such as shootings or bombings and use the levels to decide where to focus resources. Wray repeatedly said in response to questions from Democratic senators that people associated with antifa were not involved in storming the Capitol and that rioters were genuinely Trump supporters, not posing falsely as them and that the bureau had for months released intelligence reports related to domestic terrorism — some specifically tied to the election — publicly and to other law enforcement agencies such as the Capitol Police.
In related news, internal reports and emails from the Homeland Security Department show that federal law enforcement authorities were alert to the potential for violence by extremist groups attending a pro-Trump rally in Washington on Jan. 6, which preceded the attack on the Capitol, reports the Washington Post. A security bulletin, along with other reports on protests, was compiled by the department’s Federal Protective Service (FPS) a day before the attack and warned of the potential for a large extremist presence at the rally.
The documents made no predictions about specific violent acts or an attack on the Capitol, and they don’t indicate any response from other law enforcement agencies about what intelligence the government may have possessed ahead of the Jan. 6 attack. The bulletin indicates that it was shared with other DHS security teams. It’s not clear whether it was provided to the FBI, D.C. police or Capitol Police.
The documents show a level of awareness of potential threats on the part of the FPS, which is responsible for protecting federal properties, including some buildings around the Capitol. The bulletin lists the Internet addresses for more than 30 Facebook groups that the FPS appeared to be aware of, from “March on Congress” to “Trumps MAGA Rally Stop the Steal” to “Fight for Trump Washington DC — 01/06/2021.”
Combined with a second list of Facebook groups in another email, the documents reveal that agents were drawing on information from nearly three dozen social media forums, most ostensibly organized by Trump supporters. The distribution list for the memo shows that it was intended for Department of Homeland Security safety managers and protective service officers, as well as law enforcement in the national capital region.