Written by Hudson Crozier
The scoop: Shortly after the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021, the FBI changed its own definition of domestic “extremism” to explicitly target political groups, according to an investigation by Newsweek.
- The details: The description of “anti-government, anti-authority violent extremism” in FBI documents changed from “ideological agendas” to “political and/or social agendas.”
Why it matters: Since the Capitol riot, the FBI’s investigations of what it considers domestic terrorism have more than doubled, Newsweek reported. Now that it explicitly focuses on political groups, the bureau overwhelmingly targets supporters of former President Donald Trump and the political right in those investigations, classified data show.
Blind justice? Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that his Department of Justice — the parent agency of the FBI — has “no higher priority” than prosecuting January 6 protesters, most of whom entered the Capitol peacefully.
- Zoom out: Through its rhetoric and actions, America’s top law enforcement entity has made it clear that punishing President Joe Biden’s political enemies is its main function.
But there are concerns: Some anonymous FBI officials gave mixed feelings about the agency’s partisan shift, with one worrying that the crackdown could inadvertently provoke and radicalize Americans against the government.
- “Greatest threat”: Others, however, were not so worried about overstepping. A senior intelligence official doubled down to Newsweek, declaring that, “Trump’s army constitutes the greatest threat of violence domestically” that the country faces.
- Priorities: FBI whistleblowers have previously claimed that the partisanship is coming from the top, causing lower-level agents to quit. One even alleged that the bureau diverted him from child exploitation and human trafficking cases because going after Trump supporters was considered “a higher priority.”