White Supremacy And Terrorism NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with former FBI counterterrorism agent Ali Soufan on global extremism and dealing with white supremacy as an international terror threat.

White Supremacy And Terrorism

White Supremacy And Terrorism

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NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with former FBI counterterrorism agent Ali Soufan on global extremism and dealing with white supremacy as an international terror threat.


According to New Zealand's prime minister, the alleged shooter was not on any watchlists for New Zealand or Australia. Our next guest says law enforcement needs to focus on white power groups. Ali Soufan is a former FBI counterterrorism special agent who investigated both the USS Cole bombing and the events of 9/11. He talks about Islamic extremism and white power in the same breath.

ALI SOUFAN: There are striking resemblance in ideology, in strategy and recruitment tactics, especially between organizations like al-Qaida and the Islamic State. We see them more and more sharing videos that are portraying military lifestyles similar to those that ISIS spread. They're cultivating a global network. It's - these groups are not just domestic groups. They are not just operating out of a vacuum in the U.S. or in Germany or in the U.K. or in Australia. There is a global network of right-wing extremists.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All that being said, do you think there needs to be a shift, then, in the way law enforcement combats right-wing extremists?

SOUFAN: I think we need to make them a priority. So far, they are not a priority. We see an increasing threat emerging in the United States and in Europe. However, far fewer resources are devoted to combating this threat, at least in the United States. I think our European partners have been focusing on that more. However, unfortunately, in the United States, law enforcement, the FBI, joint terrorism task forces have been doing a good job. But it's local in nature. It's not part of a wider federal conversation that's happening in Washington on how to deal with these kinds of things.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You were one of the people before 9/11 to first raise the alarm about Islamic extremism. Do you think we are at an inflection point with white power movements?

SOUFAN: Absolutely. We, so far, do not understand the foreign connections to it. A while ago, in The Soufan Center, we put a report about the impact of Moscow on these groups. Russian propaganda shifted from the Cold War era of supporting left-wing extremists in communist movement to now capitalizing on the resurgence of the right-wing extremist movement both in the United States and in Europe. And we see that more and more every day. Even in Charlottesville, for example, when they were demonstrating and saying all this vile stuff that they said and chanted, one of these chants that they were saying over there - Russia is our friend. Russia is our friend.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Before we finish, I just want to also give you the opportunity, as a Muslim, to reflect personally on the attack in New Zealand.

SOUFAN: This is a terrorist attack. And any terrorist attack on human beings is a horrible act. I think this is a vile ideology that does not discriminate between religions, between people. They are advocating a pure white ethnic society very similar to what I've seen before with some of these jihadi groups that advocates a pure Muslim society in the way they understand Islam. I think it's always very hard when you see these kind of attacks. And it's always also harder when you see it in a place or at a place of worship like a mosque in Quebec or a mosque in London or a mosque in New Zealand or a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ali Soufan is a former FBI counterterrorism agent and the founder of The Soufan Group. Thank you very much.

SOUFAN: Thank you.


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