Joint report by FBI and DHS Finds a Rise in Deaths Caused by Racially Motivated Violent Extremists


Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security

The number of deaths at the hands of extremists motivated by racial intent has been on the rise since 2017 according to a joint report released by the FBI and DHS.

Jillian Jenks, Reporter

A report on domestic violent extremism published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warns that lone attackers with easily accessible weapons present the greatest terrorism threat to the U.S. The number of deaths at the hands of extremists motivated by racial intent has been on the rise since 2017.

The joint report focuses on data gathered by the FBI from approximately 1,000 domestic terrorism investigations from fiscal years 2017-2019, showing that there were 57 domestic terrorism-related deaths between these three years, with 47 of those deaths being racially motivated, typically by Caucasians. 2019 was “the most lethal year” for domestic violent extremist (DVE) attacks since 1995. 32 people were killed, with Caucasians causing 24 of those deaths.

“In 2019, the FBI and DHS assessed Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists (RMVEs), primarily those advocating for the superiority of the white race, likely would continue to be the most lethal DVE threat to the Homeland,” the report said. “Our agencies had high confidence in this assessment based on the demonstrated capability of RMVEs in 2019 to select weapons and targets to conduct attacks, and the effectiveness of online RMVE messaging calling for increased violence.”

Following the release of the assessment, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said that “the report confirms what has been clear for some time: The greatest terrorist threat we face comes from radicalized lone offenders with easy access to weapons.” Some easily accessible weapons, according to the report, are firearms, bladed weapons, or unsophisticated tactics such as physical assaults.

On Friday, the DHS issued a terrorism threat bulletin update, which warned that “through 2020 and into 2021, government facilities and personnel have been common targets” of domestic violent extremists. “Historically, mass-casualty Domestic Violent Extremist (DVE) attacks linked to racially- or ethnically-motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) have targeted houses of worship and crowded commercial facilities or gatherings,” according to the report.

“Political disagreements within the United States could present opportunities for DVEs to engage in violence against individuals perceived to have opposing ideologies, prominent political or public figures, or members of the media covering these events,” the agencies wrote in reference to domestic violent extremists.

Despite the rise in deaths related to domestic terrorism and racially motivated extremism, the number of arrests has gone down. Nearly 850 domestic terrorism subjects were arrested by or in coordination with the FBI from fiscal year 2015 to 2019. In 2016, around 229 arrests were made, which is more than twice the amount of arrests made in 2019 (107 arrests).

The report, which is mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020, was sent to Congress nearly one year past the original deadline. Senate of Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Gary Peters and Ranking Member Rob Portman sent a letter demanding the agencies produce the report by March 1, after blowing past the original June 2020 deadline.

Previously, the FBI informed CNN that the agency had provided the first, brief part of the report in November, but due to COVID-19 and other related strains, the “operational tempo” was disturbed and delayed the response.

Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said he “appreciated that the Biden administration released the report.” However, he added that “there will likely need to be more conversations and supplemental data submissions from the Biden administration for Congress to get a more complete picture of the domestic terrorism threat landscape.”

“Congress needs data to help guide future legislative and oversight efforts to address the persistent scourge of domestic terrorism. The Executive Branch has this data; the biggest takeaway here is that presenting it in an aggregated manner that communicates to Congress and the American people the current threat picture continues to be a challenge,” he said in a statement, highlighting the fact that the report was due more than 10 months ago.