2021-04-16 00:25:40 This Lawmaker Wants To Label Foreign White Supremacist Groups “Terrorists.”

This Lawmaker Wants To Label Foreign White Supremacist Groups “Terrorists.”

Rep. Elissa Slotkin wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week, requesting that he take the unprecedented step of designating 13 extremist movements as foreign terrorist organizations, arguing that doing so “will help apply more stress to curtail these violent organizations’ and their leaders’ ability to operate their groups.”

However, at least four of the 13 organizations listed in her letter, which her office provided to BuzzFeed News, are no longer in existence; one is an American club founded in California that has splintered and rebranded; and another changed the name used in Slotkin’s letter six years ago when it became part of an allied nation’s national guard.

“It was a fantastic list — in 2018,” Matthew Feldman, director of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right in London, told BuzzFeed News. “All of [the listed groups] were active. Every single one of them was dangerous.”

Feldman lauded Slotkin’s efforts and the motivation behind the list, calling them “a step in the right direction.” However, he also stated that it exemplifies how the US government has been slow to recognize the threat posed by far-right violent extremists both at home and abroad.

Biden has stated his intention to combat domestic violent extremists, specifically white supremacists such as those who were part of the mob that attacked the US Capitol on January 6, and who the FBI regards as a top threat. Domestic violent extremism, according to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, “poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to the homeland today.”

Experts agree that it is also critical to target foreign extremist groups, which frequently communicate, coordinate, and inspire their American counterparts.

If the Biden administration designated groups like those proposed by Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, as official Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) or the lesser designation of Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT), it would help curb dangerous white supremacist organizations, the member of Congress argued in a letter previously reported by Reuters.

“It would also provide the United States Government with additional tools to engage and flag Americans who contact, support, train, and join these [white supremacist extremist] groups,” Slotkin wrote.

However, Elizabeth Neumann, the former assistant secretary of homeland security for counterterrorism and threat prevention during the Trump administration, told BuzzFeed News that the process is lengthy and difficult.

“The FTO process has a pretty high bar,” she explained. “I was disappointed that we could only get the Russian Imperial Movement. We didn’t just look at that group.”

The United States designated RIM and three of its leaders as SDGTs in April 2020, the first time such a classification had been used.

When asked about Slotkin’s letter, a State Department spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that “in general, we do not comment on congressional correspondence, and we do not comment on designations or deliberations related to potential designations.” However, on MSNBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Blinken stated that designating overseas white supremacist groups as foreign terrorist organizations is “something we’re looking into.”

Slotkin, a former CIA analyst who specialized in foreign terrorist organizations in the Middle East, wrote that she has been “struck by the threat these white supremacist groups pose, the amount of contact they have with extremists in the United States, the minimal intelligence and diplomatic reporting we have on these groups, and the relative lack of review taken by the United States Government.”

The National Action Group, a neo-Nazi organization founded in the United Kingdom and banned in 2016, is among those Slotkin believes deserve terrorist designations. According to a 2018 US counterterrorism report, it is a terrorist organization that promotes violence against politicians and minorities. On April 1, a Metropolitan Police officer named Ben Hannam was found guilty of membership.

Another is the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, which was described as an anti-Western transnational organization behind violent attacks, including against Muslims and left-wing groups, in the same 2018 US report.

However, not all of the organizations she has asked the government to prioritize are currently active.

Slotkin’s list, according to Kacper Rekawek, a researcher at the nonprofit Counter Extremism Project based in Slovakia, is the type of list that someone searching for far-right extremist groups on Google might generate.

“Rep. Slotkin’s efforts are commendable. Designations, which are underutilized in the European context, should aid in countering the threat of violence posed by extreme right-wing organizations, according to Rekawek. “However, this must be informed by a thorough examination of the local far-right scenes, which include a slew of actors who frequently talk the talk but do not walk the walk when it comes to violence.”

Feuerkrieg Division, Sonnenkrieg Division, Atomwaffen Division Deutschland, and Northern Order, all of which appear on Slotkin’s list, are no longer active, according to Rekawek and Feldman. Members of the groups, which were all inspired by the US Atomwaffen Division and American neo-Nazi James Mason’s “Siege culture,” were linked to violence or violent plots in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Canada, and elsewhere.

Rise Above Movement (RAM), a white supremacist fight club founded in Southern California with ties to neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine and the Balkans, was also largely disbanded after three of its members were imprisoned for their roles in the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. RAM’s founder, New York native Robert Rundo, was charged with violence at several protests across California in a separate federal case. The charges were dropped in June of this year, but were reinstated last month.

He is now reportedly hiding from authorities in Bosnia after being barred from entering Serbia following a Bellingcat report that he was attempting to establish roots in the country.

Following the publication of this story, Slotkin’s staff clarified that RAM was included on the list to identify the group’s foreign affiliates.

Ukraine’s Azov Battalion is another problematic group on Slotkin’s list. The paramilitary force was formed in 2014 by far-right extremists who volunteered to fight against Russia-backed forces in eastern Ukraine. It was incorporated into the country’s National Guard in January 2016 and is now known as the Azov Regiment.

The State Department has designated its political wing, National Corps, as a “nationalist hate group.” However, designating the regiment as a foreign terrorist organization is likely to be difficult, given its ties to the state and the fact that Ukraine is a US ally.

Slotkin was contacted by BuzzFeed News for comment on the list. After the representative’s letter was reported by Reuters, an aide said they were made aware of the status of Azov and the disbanded groups. However, the aide stated that they intend to proceed with at least the groups on the list that are still active.

“We are confident that we will receive some level of designation,” the aide said.

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This Lawmaker Wants To Label Foreign White Supremacist Groups "Terrorists."