Brown Seeking Information on How FBI, DOJ are Keeping Ohio Communities Safe from Terrorism, Hate Groups

Senator: Ohioans Have Right to Know What Hate Groups, Terrorist Organizations Have Presence in Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wants federal law enforcement agencies to help local and state police keep Ohioans safe from hate crimes and domestic terrorist groups.

Brown has been exploring ways for the federal government to support local and state law enforcement in tracking hate groups, hate crimes, and acts of domestic terrorism following the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month. Today, he sent letters to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director Christopher Wray requesting specific information about domestic terror organizations and hate groups, and how the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI communicate with state and local law enforcement about hate groups and hate crimes in Ohio.

“All Ohioans have a right to feel safe where they live, worship or go to school – but right now too many of our communities are scared by the hate and bigotry gripping our country,” said Brown. “I want to make sure Ohio communities have the resources and support from our federal law enforcement agencies to protect people and help people feel safe. We must learn more about how the FBI and DOJ work with local and state law enforcement so they can help go after perpetrators of hate crimes and domestic terrorism.”

The letter asks the agencies for a list of all domestic terrorist organizations or hate groups known by federal authorities to be present in Ohio and information on cases of domestic terrorism or hate crimes in the state. Brown also wants information on the policies used by each agency in sharing with state and local law enforcement information on domestic terror organizations and hate groups that federal law enforcement discovers to be present or operating in Ohio.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Ohio ranks in the top ten states for the number of active hate groups, with thirty-five operating in the state.

Full text of the letter to FBI Director Wray is below and available here. Text of the letter to Attorney General Sessions is available here.

August 22, 2017

 

The Honorable Christopher Wray

Director

935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20535

 

Dear Director Wray,

I write to request information on domestic terror organizations and hate groups known by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to be present or operating in the state of Ohio.

As you are aware, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating the August 12th attack in Charlottesville, Virginia as a potential hate crime and act of domestic terrorism.  The individual arrested and charged in connection with the attack, James Alex Fields Jr., is from the state that I have the honor of representing in the United States Senate — the state of Ohio. 

The current investigation will soon determine whether the defendant had any contact or associations with known domestic terror organizations or hate groups, specifically in Ohio, prior to his involvement in the events in Charlottesville.  However, the fact that an individual from Ohio is alleged to have traveled to Virginia and committed such an act while attending a white supremacist rally has caused many in my home state, including myself, to question the degree to which domestic terror organizations and hate groups are present and operate in the state of Ohio. 

I view the presence of domestic terror organizations and hate groups in Ohio as a threat to both public safety and national security.  And I firmly believe that every Ohioan, and every American, has a right to know whether domestic terror organizations or hate groups are known or suspected by law enforcement to have a presence in their community.  This information is absolutely necessary for people to be able to make informed decisions about their everyday lives — such as where to live, where to work, or where to send their children to school.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there are currently thirty-five known hate groups with a presence in Ohio, placing the state among the top ten states for the number of active hate groups.  SPLC relies, in part, on public law enforcement data and reports in determining that a hate group is present and active in a particular area.  However, as the leading federal law enforcement agency, the FBI is well suited to provide more comprehensive data and information on the presence of domestic terror organizations and hate groups in the state of Ohio.

I therefore respectfully submit the following questions and requests for production:

1. Please provide a list of all domestic terrorist organizations or hate groups known or believed by the FBI to have been present or operated in the state of Ohio at any time since January 2015.  Please include in the response the city, town, or county in which each organization or group is known or suspected to have been present or operated.

2. Please provide a detailed description of any closed domestic terrorism or hate crime investigations conducted by the FBI in Ohio since January 2015.  Please include the date, location, number of victims, injuries, and/or damage of the alleged incident(s) that was/were investigated.

3. Please provide a list of all individuals charged with a federal crime in Ohio in a case in which it was determined by the FBI during its investigation that the charged individual was connected to or associated with a domestic terror organization or hate group.

4. Does the FBI have a policy of notifying state and local law enforcement agencies if the FBI determines during an investigation that a domestic terror organization or hate group is present or operating in a particular city or state? If yes, please explain such policy.

5. Has the FBI, since January 2015, provided any information to any Ohio state or local law enforcement agency regarding domestic terror organizations or hate groups known or suspected by the FBI to be present or operating in Ohio?  Please provide the approximate date that such information was shared, the agency with which it was shared, and the information that was shared.

6. Does the FBI maintain a comprehensive list or database of active domestic terror organizations and hate groups?

7. Has the FBI received any guidance, directives, requests or orders from the current Administration or DOJ leadership with respect to investigating domestic terror organizations or hate groups?

Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown

United States Senator

###