Chris Wray, the recently confirmed new director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), said there were currently 1,000 ongoing investigations into domestic terror groups and a similar number of probes into groups driven by radical Islamist ideology.
“We take both of them very, very seriously,” he told senators on Capitol Hill. “Our focus is on violence and threats of violence against the people of this country. That’s our concern – it’s not ideology.”
The issue of the threat of white supremacist aggression has received fresh attention following neo-Nazi-led violence in the Virginia city of Charlottesville last month that left one young woman dead. Donald Trump found himself mired in controversy after he appeared slow to condemn the neo-Nazis and white supremacists behind the violence, and sought to instead blame “all sides”.
According to The Hill, Mr Wray told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee he considered the threat from both types of groups equally.
Yet Democratic senator Claire McCaskill said the number of attacks carried out by white supremacists were “almost triple” those of those carried out by people who identified with groups such as Isis. Government data obtained by The Hill suggested the number of white supremacist attacks compared to those from radical Islamic groups was as many as two to one.
“I don’t think Americans understand the level of threat we have in this country from white supremacists,” said Ms McCaskill.
Mr Wray said there have been 176 arrests of domestic terror subjects in approximately the last year. He was unable to provide the legislators with the exact number of agents working on domestic terrorism investigations.
Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California, demanded that the committee open an investigation into the dangers from white supremacists.
Mr Wray responded: “There are a significant number of agents who are working very hard on that subject, so I can assure you it’s a top, top priority.”
This was the first public testimony from Mr Wray, since he was confirmed as FBI Director in August after President Trump fired James Comey in May.