The U.S. federal authorities are concerned about the potential for violence and significant civil unrest leading up to the 2024 U.S. presidential election. As a result, they have discreetly identified a new group of individuals of interest: fervent supporters of former President Donald Trump, often referred to as his MAGA base.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the country’s main law enforcement agency, faces a dilemma. It aims to counter what it terms domestic terrorism without explicitly referencing political affiliations. Yet, a significant portion of its investigations under the “anti-government” umbrella involves Trump supporters, based on confidential data reviewed by Newsweek.
An anonymous FBI insider highlighted the tricky position the agency finds itself in. They noted the Bureau’s goal to prevent events similar to the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack while respecting the constitutional rights of citizens to express opinions, campaign, and protest. There’s a risk, they suggest, that concentrating on Trump and his ardent followers might inadvertently agitate the same groups they aim to monitor.
The same source highlighted the need for the FBI to exercise caution, particularly amidst allegations from Congressional Republicans accusing the Biden administration of using the Bureau for political reasons.
Newsweek’s in-depth examination spanned three months and involved interactions with numerous government officials specializing in terrorism. Many spoke under the condition of anonymity, citing various concerns. While reviewing confidential data from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, the publication noted that experts are divided on whether “terrorism” is the appropriate descriptor for the current domestic tensions. There’s also debate about the applicability of counterterrorism strategies, initially designed in response to threats like Al-Qaeda, to domestic issues.
Brian Michael Jenkins, a renowned terrorism expert and advisor to the RAND Corporation’s president, emphasized that the FBI shouldn’t be held accountable for the prevailing political climate.
In response, the FBI clarified its stance to Newsweek, stressing its commitment to preempting and averting domestic terror threats. The Bureau maintained that its focus remains on potential crimes, violence, and imminent threats, emphasizing its respect for individuals’ constitutional rights.
The White House chose not to provide any comments, and despite being approached, the Trump campaign didn’t offer any remarks either.