Unredacted FBI Document Sheds New Light on White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement

A 2006 intelligence assessment reveals that officials had concerns about the infiltration of police departments for years but failed to warn the public.

A highway patrolman stands guard as the "Stars and Bars" Confederate flag flies in front of the South Carolina statehouse.
A highway patrolman stands guard as the “Stars and Bars” Confederate flag flies in front of the South Carolina statehouse on July 9, 2015, in Columbia. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The FBI has long been concerned about the infiltration of law enforcement by white supremacist groups and its impact on police abuse and tolerance of racism, the unredacted version of a previously circulated document reveals.

The FBI threat assessment report was released by Rep. Jamie Raskin, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee, ahead of a hearing about the white supremacist infiltration of local police departments scheduled for Tuesday.

A heavily redacted version of the 2006 document had previously been published, one of a handful of documents revealing federal officials’ growing concern with white supremacists’ “historical” interest in “infiltrating law enforcement communities or recruiting law enforcement personnel.” A different internal document obtained by The Intercept in 2017 had also noted that “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers.”

The unredacted version of the first document sheds further light on the FBI’s concerns, as early as 2006, about “self-initiated efforts by individuals, particularly among those already within law enforcement ranks, to volunteer their professional resources to white supremacist causes with which they sympathize.”

“Having personnel within law enforcement agencies has historically been and will continue to be a desired asset for white supremacist groups seeking to anticipate law enforcement interest in and actions against them,” the report notes in a section that was previously redacted.

Another previously redacted section warned of “factors that might generate sympathies among existing law enforcement personnel and cause them to volunteer their support to white supremacist causes,” which could include hostility toward developments in U.S. domestic and foreign policies “that conflict with white supremacist ideologies,” the report warns.

Some redactions do not seem to be justified, for instance, the FBI’s conclusion that “white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement can result in other abuses of authority and passive tolerance of racism within communities served” — an apparent recognition of the potential harm to the public posed by white supremacist individuals embedded in police departments.

Other redactions relate to incidents of compromised intelligence. The unredacted document notes that “a white supremacist leader is known to have acquired a sensitive FBI Intelligence Bulletin on the white supremacist movement that had been posted on Law Enforcement Online and had inadvertently become publicly accessible through a law enforcement Web site. In addition to identifying the FBI personnel who prepared the bulletin, the document identified the FBI’s targeting interests within the white supremacist movement.”

The redactions also include examples of “strategic infiltration and recruitment campaigns” by white supremacist groups. “Most information about systematic attempts by white supremacist groups to infiltrate law enforcement involves efforts by the National Alliance (NA) during the era of its founder, William Pierce, and in the years immediately following his death in 2002,” the document notes. “White supremacist infiltration of the federal government, including the FBI, plays a prominent role in Pierce’s novels, The Turner Diaries (1978) and Hunter (1989), both widely read works that are sometimes interpreted as practical guidance within white supremacist circles.”

The memo goes on to note that active and retired law enforcement personnel were known to have joined the National Alliance, in some cases holding regional leadership roles in the organization, and raises concerns that the group’s successful efforts to infiltrate law enforcement would likely benefit other white supremacist groups with which it shared intelligence.

The redacted sections also include two examples of what the FBI refers to as “white supremacist sympathizers.” In one, the memo mentions that “in July 2006, a former police officer with possible ties to the KKK was charged with civil rights violations involving alleged death threats made against black schoolchildren and a black city council member.” In another, the report mentions the case of Shayne Allyn Ziska, a state correctional officer at the California Institution for Men in Chino, California, who was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in federal prison. “Ziska was convicted on federal racketeering charges for helping the Nazi Low Riders white supremacist prison gang distribute drugs and assault other inmates, and reportedly providing white supremacist indoctrination to an inmate,” the report notes. “Ziska advised he considered himself a government infiltrator consistent with National Socialism’s strategy for revolution.”

It’s not clear why the FBI chose to redact those sections. Markings indicate that officials believed redacted portions of the document would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or expose “substantial internal matters.” But some of the redacted text appears to refer to incidents already known to the public. The bureau has for years resisted calls for greater transparency with regard to its knowledge of white supremacist groups.

“The public deserves to see the truth reflected in this finally unredacted report,” Raskin said in a statement to The Intercept. “The FBI saw long ago the multiple potential dangers associated with violent white supremacy and its efforts to infiltrate local law enforcement with ideas, attitudes, and personnel.”

“The FBI’s continuing refusal to acknowledge and combat this threat, just like its refusal to appear today, constitutes a serious dereliction of duty,” Raskin added. The FBI was invited but declined to participate in today’s hearing, a spokesperson for the committee said. “These newly revealed passages underscore the seriousness of the threat posed by white supremacists to law enforcement personnel and the public at large. That the FBI has continued to withhold this full document, despite enormous public pressure, at a time when the white supremacist threat is rampant again, is indefensible.”

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a report published last month by the Brennan Center for Justice, former FBI agent Mike German detailed law enforcement agencies’ longstanding failure to respond to affiliation with white supremacist and militant groups in their ranks, as well as the long history of law enforcement involvement in white supremacist violence.

Since 2000, law enforcement officials with alleged connections to white supremacist groups have been exposed in more than a dozen states, while hundreds of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have been caught expressing racist, nativist, and sexist views on social media, “which demonstrates that overt bias is far too common,” German noted in the report.

“Efforts to address systemic and implicit biases in law enforcement are unlikely to be effective in reducing the racial disparities in the criminal justice system as long as explicit racism in law enforcement continues to endure,” German wrote in that report. “There is ample evidence to demonstrate that it does.”

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