Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) pressed law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials on their efforts to counter white supremacist groups as terror organizations in a House Homeland Security hearing Wednesday.
“Do we need to consider designating some of these [white nationalist] entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, or is the current policy of the United States of America that we only designate Muslim organizations as FTOs?” Rose asked the witnesses, who included acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan and FBI Director Chris Wray.
“If a white nationalist organization fits the criteria of an FTO, as I believe these do, should we consider designating them as such so you have the broad based authorities you currently do to fight ISIS, al-Qaeda, and its affiliates?” he added.
The witnesses said FTO designations are the responsibility of the State Department. Rose pressed Wray on whether he would object to removing the FTO designation for other foreign terrorist organizations.
“We would find that very operationally problematic, yes. I will say that I’m sure—as Secretary McAleenan said to a different question—we can always use more tools,” Wray responded. “You’re never going to find a law enforcement or intelligence professional who wouldn’t like more tools. And I can imagine situations where what you’re describing would be very helpful for us to have as a tool.”
Rose, the chair of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence & Counterterrorism, previously led a letter from 40 members of Congress to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo questioning why several foreign white supremacist groups, including Ukraine’s Azov Batalion, Finland’s Nordic Resistance movement or the United Kingdom’s National Action, are not listed as FTOs.
“Today, if an American citizen swears allegiance to the Islamic State (or another Foreign Terrorist Organization on the list) and spreads their message of terror, there are several resources available to the federal government to counter the threat,” their letter reads.
“However, if that same American citizen swears allegiance to a violent white supremacist extremist group based overseas and spreads their message of terror, the Federal government does not have access to the same tools,” it added.