FBI director Christopher Wray faced some tough questions on the threat from Antifa during the April 15 House Intelligence Committee hearing on the latest Worldwide Threat Assessment by the U.S. intelligence community.
Antifa was the primary focus of a line of questioning from Rep. Michael Turner.
Turner asked Wray whether he had changed his position that Antifa is “just an idea.” During a 2020 presidential debate between Biden and Trump, Biden called Antifa “just an idea” paraphrasing testimony from Wray claiming Antifa was not an organization.
Wray appeared willing to walk back some of his statement, describing Antifa as a “movement” but with “local or regional nodes.”
The Center for Security Policy has previously emphasized the importance of Antifa’s local and regional networks. In written testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, I cited a “forming an Antifa Chapter” manual distributed by pro-Antifa websites:
As noted earlier, city or even neighborhood based Antifa chapters can often join regional Antifa networks such as the Torch Antifa network. These relations provide additional mutual support, allow small chapters to create larger groups for direct action, and tie them into national and international networks to share expertise, skills, lessons, and manpower.
Wray does not appear to understand Antifa’s true nature as an organized network of highly effective local, regional, and international groups. Instead, he emphasized Antifa as an ill-defined ideology which impacts a handful of individuals.
Turner then asked Wray about Antifa’s ability to coordinate funding, including funds from overseas.
Wray seemed unprepared to answer this question as well. As the Center has previously illustrated, Antifa does extensive fundraising on a variety of domestic and international crowdfunding websites. For example, the International Antifa Defense Fund collects and distributes funds for Antifa in 22 different countries.
Turner proceeded to ask Wray about Antifa’s coordination of trainings. Wray appeared unprepared to go into specifics on this topic and was unwilling to openly state the existence of such trainings.
Antifa conducts extensive training in firearms, street-fighting tactics (such as in the use of shield wall tactics and urban tactical maneuvers), surveillance, and countersurveillance.
An undercover investigation by Project Veritas recently revealed the curriculum of Portland-based Rose City Antifa, the oldest Antifa group in the United States. Rose City Antifa has extensive organized trainings for new members, which included street fighting techniques, ideological indoctrination, and an optional firearms familiarization course, As reporter Andy Ngo details in his book Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.
Some Antifa organizations, such as local chapters of the John Brown Gun Club, regularly conduct firearms training. Antifa chapters have at times provided protest organizations with “de-escalation” training, including in “de-arrest” techniques which involve mobbing and assaulting police officers who attempt to make arrests.
Turner also asked about Antifa organizers travelling across state lines to facilitate rioting, citing a Fox News story about self-identified Antifa members operating in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where recent riots have broken out in response to a police-involved shooting. Interstate rioting is a federal felony, and was important to the previous administration’s efforts to address the ongoing summer rioting. Pacific Northwest-based Antifa leaders were identified attending riots in Washington, D.C. and Kenosha, Wisconsin, for example.
Wray’s inability to respond to questions about the nature of Antifa’s international and national structures and methods is a reflection of the low priority the FBI has placed on addressing this threat.
Historically the FBI has insisted that “anarchist extremism” (as Antifa is defined by the FBI) is primarily a local law enforcement problem. As noted in the Center testimony:
Because anarchist extremism is locked inside an analytical silo as “domestic terrorism,” Antifa’s international links and ideological commitment to overthrow the Constitution of the United States go unexplored. Antifa institutionally encourages and inspires attacks, provides training and instruction on how to organize and conduct attacks, and afterwards provides medical, legal, and financial support, including in some cases from funding received from overseas, and yet no investigations or arrests into the Antifa network have taken place. Instead, individual members and adherents are arrested, bailed out immediately, and then return to wage more violence. Foreign Antifa members or adherents are granted visas to enter and reside in the United States. Lack of card-carrying membership in Antifa does not preclude federal authorities from regarding any Antifa participant as a “member.”
Turner was right to address the FBI’s lack of either willingness or ability to answer basic questions about a significant threat to the U.S. with notable international ties. While the ODNI’s report mentioned Domestic Violent Extremists for the first time in its worldwide threat assessment, it included no references to Antifa, raising serious questions about the politicization of intelligence.
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