Investigate Police Departments for White Supremacy … and Russian Espionage
There has been a lot to process this week – and that’s an understatement. We saw yet another homicide of an African-American by police officers. We saw more protests in response. We saw more people – almost all of them white, from the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen – take advantage of this to get some violence in. More than a few of them were other police officers. It’s the last of these that caught my attention, for a slew of reasons, many of which discussed by John V. Last of The Bulwark (I subscribe to his daily email, The Triad):
- We have a problem with the way much of law enforcement handles protests by citizens.
- Whether it’s arresting reporters for no reason, firing paint canisters at citizens peacefully sitting on their own porches, or simply beating on people, in crowd control situations, many members of law enforcement view their jobs as escalating violence rather than defusing it.
- This might be the product of racism, a bully’s mindset, incompetence, inadequate training — or some combination of the four.
- In addition, the militarization of law enforcement has made the failures of law enforcement on this score worse.
Regarding the middle sub-bullet, I fear one more reason must be added: foreign espionage – in particular, the Putin regime.
We know that white supremacists have tried and succeeded in infiltrating local police departments across the nation (PBS).
In the 2006 bulletin, the FBI detailed the threat of white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police in order to disrupt investigations against fellow members and recruit other supremacists. The bulletin was released during a period of scandal for many law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including a neo-Nazi gang formed by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who harassed black and Latino communities. Similar investigations revealed officers and entire agencies with hate group ties in Illinois, Ohio and Texas.
Problems with white supremacists in law enforcement have surfaced since that report. In 2014, two Florida officers — including a deputy police chief — were fired after an FBI informant outed them as members of the Ku Klux Klan. It marked the second time within five years that the agency uncovered an officer’s membership in the KKK. Several agencies nationwide have also launched investigations into personnel who may not be formal hate group members, but face allegations of race-based misconduct.
Social media has made it easier to expose white supremacists who serve in law enforcement. In September 2015, a North Carolina police officer was fired after a picture of him giving a Nazi salute surfaced on Facebook. And as recently as August, the Philadelphia Police Department launched an internal investigation after attendees of a Black Lives Matter rally outside the Democratic National Convention spotted an officer in charge of crowd control with a tattoo of the Nazi Party emblem on his forearm and posted the image on Instagram.
What gets less attention is the ties between white supremacy and the Kremlin.
On one level, it’s about the usual Moscow aim of destabilizing the United States, as professed by Alexander Dugin, leading intellectual in Putin’s regime (Daily Beast):
“It is generally important,” Dugin wrote, “to introduce geopolitical chaos within the American daily experience by encouraging all manner of separatism, ethnic diversity, social and racial conflict, actively supporting every extremist dissident movement, racist sectarian groups, and destabilizing the political processes within America.”
But as Brandon Hawk noted in the Washington Post, it’s more than that for Dugin (and thus, for Putin):
His Eurasianist ideology is grounded in a fundamentalist religious nationalism that seeks to create a Christian empire that unites Europe and Asia in a quest to restore a “traditionalism” rooted in conservative Orthodox Christian values and white supremacy.
To Dugin, Christian imperialism is an ideal political form that secures racial purity. He looks to Rome as the empire to which Eurasia needs to return, an alternative to the liberal modernity of today. He praises Constantine for founding a Christian Roman Empire and calls for a “Third Rome,” believing that the Roman Empire and its medieval European successor are the best models for combating liberal modernity. His view of the Roman Empire and medieval Europe exalts the triumphs of monolithic white, Christian nationalism.
I would also add that labelling Moscow as “Third Rome” was a Russian Czarist staple.
American white supremacists have taken notice (Hawk again).
These are not just rhetorical links to American white supremacists. There are clear connections between Dugin and prominent right-wing figures. His works have been translated by Arktos Media, which proudly claims that he “has served as an adviser to Vladimir Putin.” He also shares ties to Richard Spencer and his wife, Nina Kouprianova, who has translated some of Dugin’s works into English. Additionally, there are connections between Dugin and David Duke, Milo Yiannopoulos, Stephen Miller and even President Trump.
Dugin himself took part in a video lecture at Texas A&M University, hosted by white supremacist Preston Wiginton – who lives in Moscow part-time (SPLC). The leader of the violent supremacist group “The Base” – Rinaldo Nazzaro – now runs it from Russia. “Law enforcement sources have indicated on background that Nazzaro is believed by some agencies to be working for the Russian government” (Guardian).
To recap: we know white supremacists have infiltrated local police departments and established ties to a hostile foreign power. Is it really beyond the pale to think said hostile foreign power hasn’t used this to recruit assets and agents within the police departments themselves?
To be clear, I am not saying that Russian espionage is a bigger problem than white supremacist groups. I am saying they are the same problem. I am further saying we need to get a handle on how deep this hydra-headed problem has gotten into our local police departments.
Specifically for this issue, we need counterintelligence investigations into local police. More generally, we need to recognize that white supremacy does more than just poison American society; it also advances the interest of a hostile foreign power. Both of these requires federal leadership that recognizes this is a problem. Sadly, that won’t happen before January of next year, at the earliest.