President Joe Biden's administration is being pressed by a key Democratic lawmaker, Rep Elissa Slotkin, to consider designating white supremacist groups overseas as foreign terrorists subject to US government actions.
If Biden's administration were to take the unprecedented step of listing such groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), or even a less-stringent designation, it would help curb dangerous white supremacist organizations, Slotkin argued in the letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which was reviewed by Reuters.
"It would also give the United States Government more tools to engage and flag the Americans who contact, support, train, and join these (white supremacist extremist) groups," said Slotkin, a former CIA analyst who chairs a US House subcommittee focusing on intelligence and counterterrorism.
The State Department declined comment. Slotkin's request has not been previously reported.
Slotkin asked the State Department to consider listing over a dozen organizations including the neo-Nazi National Action Group, founded in Britain and banned there in 2016. It was described in a 2018 US counter-terrorism report as a terrorist group promoting violence against politicians and minorities.
She also named the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, which the report described as an anti-Western transnational organization behind violent attacks, including against Muslims and left-wing groups.
Slotkin has a unique perspective on the threat posed by violent extremism. She served three tours in Iraq as a CIA militia expert and was a senior Pentagon official before being elected to Congress in 2018. As a lawmaker, Slotkin's has turned her focus to domestic extremism.
Her Michigan district saw law enforcement disrupt a plot last year to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.
"These plotters weren't affiliated with al Qaeda or ISIS. They didn't hail from a war-torn region halfway around the world - they were Americans. They were white. And they were radicalized right here at home," Slotkin said at a recent hearing.
Most Lethal Threat
The Biden administration has signaled it is prepared to take a stronger approach to combating violent domestic extremists - specifically white supremacists, which the FBI sees as the top threat within that group.
Department of Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers last month that domestic violent extremism "poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to the homeland today."
Since 2018, white supremacists have conducted more lethal attacks in the United States than any other domestic violent extremist movement, the department said in an October report here.
Particularly concerning are the international connections among white supremacist here groups, with members drawing inspiration from each other for attacks around the world, said Ryan Greer, national security director at the Anti-Defamation League, an organization opposing anti-Semitism and other discrimination.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a report here last month that "a small number" of US racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists "have traveled abroad to network with like-minded individuals."
The State Department took a first step last year toward putting pressure on white supremacists overseas by designating the Russian Imperial Movement and three of its leaders Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs).
It was the first-ever such designation.
Slotkin welcomed this step but wrote: "It's time for more to be done."
Beyond the National Action Group and Nordic Resistance Movement, Slotkin called for consideration of FTO designations for groups including Atomwaffen Division Deutschland, Blood & Honour, Combat 18, Feuerkrieg Division, Generation Identity, Northern Order, Order of Nine Angles and the Sonnenkrieg Division.
"If these groups do not meet the more stringent FTO criteria, I ask that you designate these groups as SDGTs," she wrote.
The State Department says an FTO designation allows for actions here that SDGTs do not, including making it a crime to knowingly provide material them support.