Biden pressed to label foreign hate groups ‘terrorists’: Report

Lawmaker asks Biden to name foreign white nationalist groups ‘foreign terrorist organizations’ to curb threat.

Neo-Nazi groups attend the 'Day of Honour' in Budapest, Hungary, in February 2020, to commemorate the breakout attempt by Schutzstaffel (SS) troops from Soviet-surrounded Budapest during WWI [File: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters]

President Joe Biden’s administration is being pressed by Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin to consider designating white supremacist groups overseas as foreign terrorists subject to US government actions as the US continues to reckon with domestic extremism after the January 6 far-right insurrection attempt, the Reuters news agency reports.

If Biden’s administration were to take the unprecedented step of listing such groups as “foreign terrorist organizations” (FTOs), or even a less-stringent designation, it would help curb dangerous white supremacist organisations, Slotkin argued in the letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which was reviewed by Reuters.

“It would also give the United States Government more tools to engage and flag US citizens who contact, support, train, and join these (white supremacist extremist) groups,” said Slotkin, a former CIA analyst who chairs a US House subcommittee focusing on intelligence and counterterrorism.

The State Department declined Reuters’ request for comment. Slotkin’s request has not been previously reported.

Slotkin asked the State Department to consider listing more than a dozen organisations including the neo-Nazi National Action group, founded in Britain and banned there in 2016. It was described in a 2018 US counterterrorism report as a terrorist group promoting violence against politicians and minorities.

President Joe Biden holds his first Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington on April 1, 2021 [File: Tom Brenner/Reuters]

She also named the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, which the report described as an anti-Western transnational organisation behind violent attacks, including against Muslims and left-wing groups.

Slotkin’s Michigan district saw law enforcement disrupt a plot last year to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Her work as a legislator has focused on domestic extremism.

“These plotters weren’t affiliated with al-Qaeda or ISIS. They didn’t hail from a war-torn region halfway around the world – they were Americans. They were white. And they were radicalised right here at home,” Slotkin said at a recent hearing.

The Biden administration has signalled it is prepared to take a stronger approach to combatting violent domestic extremists – specifically white supremacists, which the FBI sees as the top threat within that group.

Department of Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers last month that domestic violent extremism “poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to the homeland today”.

Since 2018, white supremacists have conducted more lethal attacks in the United States than any other domestic violent extremist movement, the department said in an October report (PDF).

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a report (PDF)  last month that “a small number” of US racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists “have traveled abroad to network with like-minded individuals”.

The State Department took a first step last year towards putting pressure on white supremacists overseas by designating the Russian Imperial Movement and three of its leaders “specially designated global terrorists” (SDGTs).

It was the first-ever such designation. Slotkin welcomed this step but wrote: “It’s time for more to be done.”

Slotkin also called for consideration of FTO designations for groups including Germany-based Atomwaffen Division Deutschland, the Feuerkrieg Division which was reportedly run by a 13-year-old Estonian boy, Generation Identity, which has groups across the US and Europe, Canada-based Northern Order, and Australia’s Sonnenkrieg Division, both of which are linked to the Atomwaffen Division network.

Blood & Honour, Combat 18 and the Order of Nine Angles were also included. They are UK-based, but the occultist Order of Nine Angles has a branch in the US.

US soldier Jarret Smith is allegedly a member of the group and was charged by the FBI with planning to kill members of Antifa, a loosely organised network of left-wing activists with explosives.

“If these groups do not meet the more stringent FTO criteria, I ask that you designate these groups as SDGTs,” she wrote.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies