MSNBC guest: FBI often calls white supremacist violence “hate crimes” instead of “terrorism,” diverting resources from enforcement 

Michael German: “Categorizing something that could be just as dangerous as an act of terrorism and meet the definition of an act of terrorism as a hate crime does have an impact”

From the February 21 edition of MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle

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STEPHANIE RUHLE (CO-ANCHOR): How do these white supremacist groups work? How do they operate? I know you've infiltrated some. Give us a better picture of sort of the domestic terrorism network. 

MICHAEL GERMAN (FELLOW, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE): So it's much broader than I think people understand. I mean obviously, there's a lot of concern in this instance because here was somebody who was a Coast Guard officer who may have had these ideas or inclinations, and particularly that had actually written out a plan to do harm. But they're infiltrated throughout society. They're in corporate board rooms, they're everywhere. That was one of the things that surprised me when I was introduced to the movement as an undercover agent, to realize that these are everyday people you wouldn't really blink at if you passed them in the grocery store.

And this ideology that they follow is actually very old. I mean it was really only, you know, 50, 60 years ago that a majority of white people believed a lot of what they believe. So, the philosophies and theologies that justify white supremacist ideas are actually quite old. They're the same ideas that justified slavery, that justified colonialism, that justified the Jim Crow laws. So this has been a pervasive part of our society for the entire existence of our society, and it's been suppressed since the civil rights movement. And unfortunately, we're seeing a resurgence of it, because we have a president who seems to speak to this audience. 


GERMAN: Part of the problem that we identified in a report we published last year is that far-right terrorism is deprioritized within the counterterrorism world. It's behind what the government calls international terrorism, even though white supremacy didn't start in the United States, right? It's actually an international phenomenon. So there's this inappropriate degrading of white supremacist violence as a national security concern. And in fact, a lot of times it's downgraded to what they call hate crimes, which the language we use is important, but more important is that terrorism is the FBI's number one priority, counterterrorism. Civil rights violations like hate crimes are number five. So categorizing something that could be just as dangerous as an act of terrorism and meet the definition of an act of terrorism as a hate crime does have an impact as far as how many resources that are devoted to investigating and prosecuting that crime. 


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