Archive | El Paso / Dayton

The El Paso shooting is being investigated as domestic terrorism. Does it matter?

The El Paso shooting is being investigated as domestic terrorism. Does it matter?

Posted on 05 August 2019 by admin

Armed Policemen gather next to an FBI armoured vehicle next to the Cielo Vista Mall as an active shooter situation is going inside the Mall in El Paso on August 03, 2019. – Police said there may be more than one suspect involved in an active shooter situation Saturday in El Paso, Texas. City police said on Twitter they had received “multi reports of multipe shooters.” There was no immediate word on casualties. (Photo by Joel Angel JUAREZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOEL ANGEL JUAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — Before he killed at least 22 people at a Walmart on the southern border, the gunman in El Paso posted a white supremacist manifesto on the fringe social network 8chan denouncing a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

The U.S. Justice Department announced that it would treat the shooting as a “domestic terrorist case.”

“It appears to be designed to intimidate a civilian population,” U.S. Attorney John Bash said at a news conference Sunday, referring to the shooter’s motives. “And we’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is deliver swift and certain justice.”

Most mass shootings do not in themselves meet the criteria of a domestic terrorist act, and there is no law specifically addressing domestic terrorism, as there is for international terrorism. Such a bill has been introduced in Congress.

The Trump administration has been criticized for diverting resources from investigating far-right extremism. On Monday, Trump said during a White House address that the FBI should receive “whatever they need” to investigate hate crimes and domestic terrorism.

Here’s what domestic terrorism is, what it means for the shooter and why some people are calling for new legislation to protect against it.

What is domestic terrorism? 

The FBI defines domestic terrorism as acts committed by people who are linked to or inspired by “U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial or environmental nature.” International terrorism, by contrast, is “associated with designated foreign terrorist organizations or nations.”

The key here is not where the terrorist is from, but where their movement is from. So, for example, even though one of the 2015 San Bernardino shooters was a U.S. citizen, the FBI still classified it as an international terror attack because they were inspired by foreign terror groups, specifically Islamist extremists.

The Anti-Defamation League takes a different view and considers the nationality of the assailant in defining the attack, said Oren Segal, the director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism.

Why does it matter?

Extremism and security experts said calling the shooter a terrorist has symbolic value. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. government has engaged in an extensive and coordinated fight against Islamist terrorism. Calling the El Paso shooter a terrorist, experts say, attaches the same significance and urgency to white supremacist attacks at home.

“Calling it domestic terrorism, while it doesn’t change the reality of the lives lost or the individuals injured, symbolically it is an important one,” said Michael Masters, the director of the Secure Communities Network, which coordinates security for Jewish institutions. “Being able to identify individuals as domestic terrorists and investigate them through that lens is important in recognizing a problem and seeking to address it.”

Segal added that there are concrete effects of the domestic terrorism designation. It allows a suspect to be charged, for example, for committing federal hate crimes if the state doesn’t have a hate crimes law.

“It’s an additional level of scrutiny from law enforcement,” he said. “The federal government is able to come in if there’s a hate crime and add the enhancement of a hate crime [charge] if that state doesn’t have it.”

How does the government fight domestic terrorism?

It doesn’t, at least as a category unto itself.

While there is a government definition of domestic terrorism, there’s no law that specifically addresses it. So while shooters like the one in El Paso can be charged for murder, weapons possession or hate crimes, they cannot be charged for domestic terrorism.

James Fields, who killed a counterprotester at the 2017 Charlottesville rally, also was investigated as a domestic terrorist. He pleaded guilty to hate crimes, not domestic terrorism, and is serving a life sentence.

There is a law against international terrorism, which is linked to a list of designated foreign terrorist groups. The law carries penalties and affords tools to authorities like the opportunity to surveil suspects. There is no such list of designated groups for domestic terrorism.

Segal said that those who are linked to a foreign terror group can be investigated even before they commit an attack. Because there is no such domestic list, law enforcement has a harder time investigating people who post white supremacist rhetoric online.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security closed the unit focused on domestic terrorism analysis within its Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Critics said it showed a reticence to take such movements seriously, while the administration and its defenders said existing government agencies had the means and will to track domestic terrorism, particularly white supremacists.

Why are some people saying the government should do more?

Advocates of domestic terrorism legislation acknowledge that other laws (like federal hate crimes law) allow authorities to pursue homegrown extremists. But they say a specific federal domestic terrorism law will give the government more resources to fight domestic terror and allow for more accurate recordkeeping.

A bill introduced in March by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would “require the Federal Government to take steps to prevent domestic terrorism.”

A law also would signal that domestic terror is as much of a threat as international terror, advocates say. A 2017 report by the Government Accountability Office found that 73 percent of extremist murders since 9/11 came from far-right groups, with the remaining 27 percent from radical Islamic extremism.

“With enactment of a federal domestic terrorism offense would come a bigger budget and more resources for preventing attacks like the assault on the Tree of Life Synagogue,” Mary McCord, a former senior Justice Department official and now a law professor at Georgetown University, wrote in the online publication Lawfare following the Pittsburgh massacre last year. “The crimes Robert Bowers is alleged to have committed are crimes of terrorism, and they should be prosecuted that way.”

Comments (0)

El Paso and Poway shooters used 8Chan to spread hate. Now the message board has been dropped from its network.

Posted on 05 August 2019 by admin

(JTA) — 8Chan, the conspiracy theory message board that featured the racist manifesto allegedly written by the El Paso shooter and also the anti-Semitic statement by the Poway Chabad shooter, has been dropped from its network.

The Cloudflare digital security and infrastructure company terminated its services to what has become an electronic home for extremists.

The announcement comes almost exactly two years after Cloudflare kicked the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer off its network.

About 20 minutes before Saturday’s attack in Texas, a four-page manifesto allegedly written by the shooter was posted on 8Chan, which is unmoderated. He wrote disparagingly about Hispanic immigration to the United States and in support of the Christchurch mosque shooter in New Zealand who also posted on 8Chan.

The Poway Chabad shooter had cited the Christchurch mosque shooting and the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue building in Pittsburgh as motivations for his attack.

Cloudflare Chief Executive Matthew Prince in a statement announcing the removal of 8Chan said he is concerned that it will have little effect. He noted that the Daily Stormer quickly came back online using a Cloudflare competitor and has “more readers than ever.”

“I have little doubt we’ll see the same happen with 8chanm” he said. “While removing 8chan from our network takes heat off of us, it does nothing to address why hateful sites fester online. It does nothing to address why mass shootings occur.”

Comments (0)

What is 8chan, the site linked to shooters in Christchurch, Poway and El Paso?

What is 8chan, the site linked to shooters in Christchurch, Poway and El Paso?

Posted on 05 August 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

By Josefin Dolsten

(JTA) — Not long after news that a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, left at least 22 people dead, reports started swirling that the suspect had posted a manifesto on 8chan, an online forum.

Law enforcement officials are investigating a document posted there that is believed to be written by the suspect, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius. The text contains racist rhetoric, blaming immigrants and Latinos for taking away jobs from Americans. It was uploaded fewer than 20 minutes before the shooting, according to CNN.

This isn’t the first time 8chan has been tied to a mass shooter this year. Suspects in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and the Chabad in Poway, California, also are believed to have posted hateful manifestos on the site.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency spoke to experts on extremism to learn more about 8chan, how it differs from similar forums and why it became a venue of choice for hate.

What is 8chan?

8chan is an online messaging forum created in 2014 by a computer programmer to protest censorship on another messaging board called 4chan. The programmer, Fredrick Brennan, was upset that 4chan banned discussions of Gamergate, a campaign to harass several women in the video gaming industry. Unlike other online forums, such as reddit, 8chan lacks moderation measures meant to curb hateful content. It is rife with racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism posted by users. The site has a ban on illegal content but it is not closely enforced. Child pornography has been shared frequently on the site.

How does 8chan compare to other sites?

Keegan Hankes, a research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, calls the site “one of the most violent and racist online spaces that we track.”

“What’s actually really dangerous about this forum is not just that all of these hateful ideologies are present, but that they are all interwoven together and they’re part of the same toxic community at once,” Hankes told JTA.

There are many sites that are home to hateful rhetoric, including comparatively mainstream sites such as reddit, or more fringe forums such as 4chan and Gab. Hankes said 8chan has created a community that “celebrates mass casualty violence.”

“This is not an accident that we’ve seen many manifestos posted to the site in the immediate moments before a mass casualty,” he said.

Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said few conversations on the site do not contain bigotry.

“You can be sure that if somebody starts a thread about fluffy bunnies, it will be only a couple of posts before that devolves into hate as well,” he said.

Why do attackers post on 8chan?

What makes the site so dangerous is that potential attackers aren’t just looking to share their thoughts with like-minded people. They also aim to inspire others to commit violence, experts say.

“The fact that 8chan is used as a place to disseminate these hateful explanations for violence is because those shooters know and hope that the users will copycat,” Segal said.

Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog that monitors conservative media, said that recent rhetoric in conservative media outlets has further emboldened users.

Carusone said there has been a shift in the past decade from conservative media echoing establishment ideas to ideas originating on fringe sites like 4chan and 8chan.

“When Tucker Carlson gets up there and warns about invasions and ‘great replacement,’ and that immigrants are going to make us dirtier, they see a lot of that stuff as a wink and a nod — as a demonstration that these major influencers across the sector are trying to encourage them to keep at their work,” he said.

The “great replacement” is a widespread conspiracy theory that the white race faces a genocide due to immigration by people of color and Muslims.

What actions are being taken to stop hate on 8chan?

On Monday, the CEO of Cloudflare, an internet services provider, announced that it was terminating its services to 8chan. The CEO, Matthew Prince, said the decision was motivated by the El Paso and Pittsburgh attacks. But he also said he did not think Cloudflare’s decision would have a significant impact.

“While removing 8chan from our network takes heat off of us, it does nothing to address why hateful sites fester online. It does nothing to address why mass shootings occur,” he said.

Following Cloudflare’s decision, 8chan found a replacement provider, Voxility, but that company pulled its services shortly after. Without a provider, 8chan goes dark.

Brennan, 8chan’s founder, has even called for it to be shut down.

“It’s a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there,” Brennan, who no longer has control of the site, told The New York Times. “And you know what? It’s a negative to them, too. They just don’t realize it.”

Some argue that shutting down sites like 8chan makes it harder for law enforcement to monitor the extremists who use them. But Hankes said it is helpful in decreasing hate on the internet.

“Any action that limits their impact and limits their reach is valuable,” he said, “because this is so widespread and has been allowed to spread with very very little oversight on the internet for so long.”

Comments (0)

Trump condemns bigotry and white supremacy in response to El Paso and Dayton shootings

Trump condemns bigotry and white supremacy in response to El Paso and Dayton shootings

Posted on 05 August 2019 by admin

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 05: U.S. President Donald Trump makes remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House as Vice President Mike Pence looks on August 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump delivered remarks on the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — President Donald Trump said “hate has no place in America” in an address to the nation following the mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

Trump pledged additional resources to the FBI to investigate domestic terrorism. He called for strengthening detection of early warning signs of shooters and for better background checks on gun owners. The president also condemned video games and social media for encouraging violent tendencies.

He said “those who commit hate crimes and mass murders should face the death penalty.”

Before the El Paso shooting on Saturday, in which 20 people were killed and 26 injured at a Walmart, the alleged shooter posted a white supremacist manifesto online.

In the Sunday shooting in Dayton, nine people were killed outside a bar.

“In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”

Trump said the FBI should receive “whatever they need” to investigate hate crimes and domestic terrorism. He said that law enforcement needs to pay more attention to extremist corners of the internet where hateful rhetoric can flourish.

The suspected El Paso shooter posted his manifesto on 8Chan, a forum popular with extremists. The manifesto was filled with anti-immigrant invective.

“We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts,” Trump said. “We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start.”

Trump also condemned video games that contribute to the “glorification of violence” in society.

He called for bipartisan legislation to “better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence.” The president also said the United States needs “to do a better job in identifying and acting on early warning signs.”

Trump called for legislation to restrict access to guns — and take them away — from those judged to pose a risk to public safety. He added that he did not blame guns themselves for the attack.

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” he said. ‘”We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms, and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process.”

Mainstream Jewish groups have called for new gun safety laws to curb mass shootings. Jewish critics of Trump have said his anti-immigrant rhetoric and racially charged rhetoric has led to a climate of incitement against immigrants and minorities, which the administration denies.

Comments (0)

El Paso’s Jewish community stands in solidarity following deadly shooting

El Paso’s Jewish community stands in solidarity following deadly shooting

Posted on 05 August 2019 by admin

A view of El Paso, Texas. Credit: Pixabay.

(JNS) The Jewish community of El Paso, Texas, is offering support to the Hispanic community following Saturday’s deadly attack at a Walmart in the city that borders the southern United States.

El Paso, America’s 22nd-largest city with an estimated population of 682,669, is more than 80 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. census.

Of the 22 people now confirmed dead by gunfire on Saturday at a Walmart adjacent to the Cielo Vista Mall, at least seven were Mexican citizens, and of the 26 injured in the attack, at least nine were Mexican nationals.

El Paso’s Jewish community of 5,000 strong have been encouraging people to donate blood and participate in a fundraising campaign for victims of the attack, Rabbi Stephen A. Leon, the emeritus rabbi of B’nai Zion, a conservative congregation affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Jewish Theological Seminary, told The Jerusalem Post.

On Sunday night, they attended a large municipal interfaith-prayer vigil.

“As soon as we know who the victims are, we will reach out to them,” he said. “As Jews, our job is to make the world a better place. We have to fight the fight even stronger.”

The retired rabbi from El Paso added, “We feel grief, but also frustration: Why do people do such evil acts? I was at that mall just a few days ago with my grandchildren. Other than for the fact that the shooting happened on Shabbat, it could have been us. It could have been anyone.”

Comments (0)

View or Subscribe to the
Texas Jewish Post

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here