With 900 Current Domestic Terror Investigations, FBI Seeing an Uptick in Arrests in Such Cases

An FBI agent leaves the Auto Zone store in Plantation, north of Miami, on Oct. 26, 2018, where Cesar Sayoc was arrested in connection with 12 pipe bombs and suspicious packages recently mailed to top Democrats. (Credit: MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

An FBI agent leaves the Auto Zone store in Plantation, north of Miami, on Oct. 26, 2018, where Cesar Sayoc was arrested in connection with 12 pipe bombs and suspicious packages recently mailed to top Democrats. (Credit: MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

There is an uptick in US domestic terror arrests, according to a senior FBI official, who says that with nearly 25 arrests in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, it’s one of the “highest arrest tempo quarters in the last few years” related to domestic terrorism.

The domestic terror arrests include but are not limited to far right/white nationalists, the official said.

The FBI has approximately 900 open domestic terror investigations, the official added. These are separate from international terrorism investigations that, for example, involve plots related to ISIS and al Qaeda, including so-called “lone wolf attacks.”

Notably, there are not domestic terror statutes in the US that allow for specific domestic terror charges. Prosecutors use other violations — such as of weapons possession laws — to charge people accused of plotting domestic terror attacks. Recently, a Coast Guard officer accused of seeking to kill politicians and journalists was charged with firearms and drug violations. And last year, a man espousing anti-Semitic views opened fire on a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Some recent case examples include:

  • Christopher Paul Hasson — a Coast Guard lieutenant arrested last month on firearms and narcotics charges stemming from an FBI investigation that unearthed plans Hasson had for a widespread attack on prominent elected officials and several high-profile television anchors. His first appearance in federal court in Maryland was Monday for his arraignment, in which he pleaded not guilty to the four counts against him.
  • Robert Gregory Bowers — Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in a Pittsburgh neighborhood, which left 11 dead. He was charged in a superseding 63-count indictment in January. He was arraigned in federal courtthe following month and pleaded not guilty to the new hate crime charges. There is no date for the trial, but he’s due in court by April 17 for a pre-trial motion.
  • Cesar Sayoc — Arrested in November after mailing multiple pipe bombs to high profile victims around the country. Sayoc has been indicted on 30 charges. A jury trial has been scheduled for July 15 and a pre-trial conference has been set for March 21.
  • Four Rise Above Movement (RAM) Members — Four Southern California men who were arrested in October in connection with traveling to political rallies across California, where they violently attacked counter-protesters, journalists and a police officer. One of the men charged, Robert Rundo, had been previously charged in a separate indictment out of Virginia for violent altercations at the Unite the Right Rally in August of 2017. The trial for the four men is set for July 9.
  • Joseph Dibee — One of two remaining FBI fugitives and domestic terrorism subjects linked to the FBI’s long-running Operation BACKFIRE, who was apprehended in Cuba this past summer and returned to the US after 12 years on the run. His trial is set for May 14.
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