A former FBI agent who worked undercover among racist extremists says the federal agency has allowed the threat of white supremacism to go unaddressed, leaving Black Americans at risk for attacks like the Buffalo shooting.
Michael German, who reportedly infiltrated white supremacy groups in the 1990s, said the FBI downplays the threat of the racist sects and fails to safeguard Black Americans.
“U.S. law enforcement is failing, as it long has, to provide victimized communities like Buffalo’s with equal protection under the law. They are not actually investigating the crimes that occur,” German said.
The Buffalo mass shooter left a trail of messages and posted a 180-manifesto online, detailing his desire to carry out the attack based on his belief that Black people would replace white people.
It was not the first mass shooting in recent years that targeted Black people. In 2015, Dylann Roof killed nine Black worshipers in a historic Black Church in North Carolina. White supremacism also came to the forefront during the Trump era, when Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other racist extremists attended protests and counter protests in droves.
A new survey conducted by The Washington Post shows that 75 percent of Black Americans fear that they will be attacked because of their skin color. The survey report shows that 70 percent of Black people in America think at least half of White Americans hold white supremacist beliefs, and another three-quarter believe white supremacists are a “major threat” to them.
German said the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are aware of the threat of violent anti-Black racism that has been stewing behind closed doors for decades. He has sounded the alarm on the federal agency’s failure to address the crisis after spending years intercepting plans by skinheads and right-wing militias to attack and kill prominent African-Americans.
In December, Joseph Moore, a U.S. Army veteran who spent a decade undercover in the Ku Klux Klan, also warned of the looming threat of white supremacism.
U.S. attorney general Merrick B. Garland and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas warned Congress in July that the most significant domestic threat facing the nation came from “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists,” reports show. In January 2021, the Department of Justice warned about domestic terrorism fueled by “long-standing racial and ethnic tension.”
Still, in 2006, the FBI issued a bulletin alerting the threat of “ghost skins,” or hate group members who don’t overtly display their beliefs to “blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.”
Both German and Moore have uncovered white supremacism rooted in some law enforcement agencies.
In the wake of the Buffalo massacre, the U.S House has passed a bill targeting domestic terrorism violence that requires federal law enforcement agencies to give special attention to hate crimes. The measure would uptrain the DOJ, FBI and DHS on white supremacism and create domestic terrorism units in each agency. However, German said the FBI is currently mandated to track white supremacist offenses and has yet to do so.
“White supremacists kill far more Americans than anybody else the FBI designates as domestic terrorists, yet the bureau still doesn’t document the crimes and fatalities that occur,” German said. “I think that’s a reflection of lack of concern for the victims of that violence.”
German said most hate crimes are referred by the DOJ to state and local law enforcement, but 85 percent of those agencies do not make the crimes a priority.
“Police in these jurisdictions don’t record or may not even investigate hate crimes, so the incident gets lost,” German said.
According to Congressional documents, from 2013 to 2017, the FBI reported 7,500 hate crimes a year on average. During that same period, the Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey estimated 200,000 hate crimes annually. The DOJ reportedly prosecuted an average of 21 hate crime cases from 2004 through 2019.
Garland said on Friday that the DOJ would be “deploying every resource it had to “ensure accountability for this terrible attack.”
He added, “Last weekend’s attack was a painful reminder of the singular impact that hate crimes have not only on individuals, but on entire communities. They bring immediate devastation. They inflict lasting fear.”
The DOJ director also touted the federal agency’s prosecution of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers, Jose Gomez III, who attacked an Asian family in Texas, and Alan Douglas Fox, who set four churches on fire in Tennessee.
Garland said the agency would spend $10 million to address hate crimes nationwide, including $5 million to establish and run reporting hotlines for hate crimes victims. He also said the DOJ would release new guidance to raise awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic. Still, the announcements were made to mark the anniversary of the anti-Asian hate crimes law.
Meanwhile, Buffalo residents, advocates and civil rights activists have called on President Joe Biden and Congress to pass an anti-Black hate crimes bill to protect African-Americans from future attacks.
“Federal lawmakers started talking about passing an Anti-Black Hate Crime bill after the Charleston church shooting in 2015… but NOTHING happened, and Black people STILL lack protections against violence,” Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said in a tweet.
However, German warns that federal law enforcement’s track record of disregarding white supremacy will most likely continue.
“It creates a recognition for these communities that they have to solve their own problems,” German said. “They know that law enforcement, the FBI included, treat them harshly when they are suspects and ignore them when they are victims.”