White supremacists pose the “most persistent and lethal threat” among domestic extremists on the radar of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf told senators Wednesday.
Mr. Wolf, who has led DHS in an interim capacity since November, named white supremacists as the deadliest of violent domestic extremists during a nomination hearing held to consider making his job official.
But he was quick to add racially-motivated extremists are not the only kind causing a concern among DHS, and he maintained antigovernmental anarchists and Antifa pose a real threat as well.
Mr. Wolf made the remarks before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs weeks after a DHS official filed a whistleblower complaint alleging the agency downplayed white supremacists.
“When you talk about domestic terrorism we talk about homegrown violent extremists – which are folks that inspired, motivated or directed by foreign terrorist organizations – and then we talk about domestic violent extremists,” Mr. Wolf said in response to questioning from Sen. Gary Peters, Michigan Democrat.
Among those domestic violent extremists “are racially- and ethnically-motivated individuals,” Mr. Wolf continued, “and certainly white supremacist extremists – from a lethality standpoint over the last two years, particularly when you look at 2018 and 2019 – are certainly the most persistent and lethal threat when we talk about domestic violent extremists.”
DHS employee Brian Murphy alleged in the whistleblower complaint that he was retaliated against for raising concerns about matters including leadership downplaying the threat posed by white supremacists.
Mr. Murphy also alleged DHS leaders asked him to alter intelligence reports to ensure they matched up with President Trump’s public remarks concerning anarchists and the left-wing Antifa movement he detests.
Rejecting the whistleblower complaint before the Senate committee, Mr. Wolf called it “patently false” and a complete “fabrication” and denied he ever attempted to influence or retaliate against anyone at DHS.
Mr. Wolf also stressed DHS does not consider specific ideologies or groups when evaluating potential domestic threats, adding the department is focused on countering any forms of related violent extremism.
He maintained anarchists and Antifa, short for anti-fascist, should not be overlooked, however, citing recent protests against racial injustice and police brutality that have turned into riots in some cities.
“I do want to say that it’s important as we talk about domestic violent extremists […] that we cannot ignore what has been occurring over the last four months when we talk about antigovernmental extremists, anarchists extremists, anti-law enforcement folks,” Mr. Wolf added.
Mr. Wolf also noted DHS last year listed white supremacist extremists and antigovernmental extremists, including namely Antifa, as two notable domestic terror threats on the agency’s radar.
White supremacists and neo-Nazis killed dozens of people in the U.S. between 2015 and 2019, according to the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
Anarchists and anti-fascist activists mounted a total of two attacks during that same span, according to the START report, with the sole casualty among those being the perpetrator responsible for one of them.