The massacre that left at least 22 people dead and two dozen wounded Saturday in a city that hugs the U.S.-Mexico border will be treated as a domestic terrorism case, but many acts of white nationalism-fueled violence are not classified as such, stoking concerns that the government is not doing all it could to address an increasingly dangerous national security threat.
Extremist-related murders spiked 35 percent from 2017 to 2018, "making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995," according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Last year, every one of those extremist-related murders was carried out by a right-wing extremist, NBC News reports.
Meanwhile, white supremacist propaganda distribution nearly tripled from 2017 to 2018, according to the ADL, which also documented a rise in racist rallies and demonstrations.
The Justice Department is documenting the same trends. Hate crimes in the country increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, marking the third straight year of a spike in hate crimes, according to an FBI report released last November. While the FBI and Justice Department have clearly identified a white nationalist domestic terror problem, they have been slow to identify the crimes as such, which deprives the ensuing investigations of resources and fails to thwart subsequent acts of extremist violence, national security experts say.
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"You don’t have that domestic terrorism offense that allows it to be counterterrorism agents and prosecutors who are investigating it," said Mary McCord, who led the Justice Department’s national security division under President Barack Obama.