FBI agents in the Dallas field office are warning of the likelihood that far-right extremists will use the presidential election as a “flashpoint” to further sow anti-government sentiment through rhetoric and potential violence.
The intelligence report was leaked this week to The Nation, which says extremists “likely are increasing anti-government violent rhetoric and criminal activities, increasing the threat of violent lone actors” in the Dallas FBI’s jurisdiction. The report mostly focuses on the Boogaloo movement, Army fatigue and Hawaiian shirt-wearing extremists who want to start a second civil war through a “large-scale violent conflict” with government forces.
The FBI Dallas field office estimates the probability of an incident to be between 55 percent and 80 percent, which allows usage of the word “likely” throughout the report. Here’s the top line:
“The FBI Dallas Field Office judges in the next three months, continuing up to the January 2021 inauguration with the presidential elections acting as a potential flashpoint, boogaloo adherents likely will expand influence within the FBI Dallas AOR (Area of Responsibility) due to the presence of existing anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, the sentiment of perceived government overreach, heightened tensions due to COVID-19 related state and local restrictions, and violence or criminal activity at lawful protests as a result of the death of an African American USPER (U.S. Person) in Minneapolis, factors that led to violence at otherwise peaceful and lawful protests in the FBI Dallas AOR.”
These Boogaloo adherents have been spotted walking through protests downtown over the killing of George Floyd and stood guard in parking lots at businesses that flouted public health orders to open during a pandemic. There are two photos included in the report, one in which 13 men and women wearing tactical gear and holding long guns pose on the steps outside First Baptist downtown. The other includes a dozen people standing in a parking lot; about half are wearing tactical gear and carrying rifles. The second image features three Black men, which the FBI takes to mean that the Boogaloo movement is more about overthrowing government than starting a race war.
“The boogaloo adherents depicted in this picture reflect the tactical, heavily armed, and diverse ethnic makeup of the boogaloo movement as a whole, further indicating the boogaloo movement is united by anti-government or anti-authority sentiment rather than racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism,” the report reads.
The extremists are predictably active on social media. One person threatened an unidentified state governor to “watch your back” with an image of an individual reaching for a gun. Another posted images of Google searches for how to turn AK-47s and AR-15s into fully automatics. One more said he tracked National Guard movements and also supported an event in Oklahoma City organized by an extremist who was later arrested.
Meanwhile, a “human source with direct access” reported that a Boogaloo adherent was discussing creating a shell company that could be used to launder money to buy firearms. In June, another “human source with direct access” found self-identified Boogaloos in downtown Dallas ahead of the protest. One “was quoted as saying he would ‘hunt’ anti-fascist anarchists and kill any Dallas looters,” the report reads.
The intelligence report was issued the same day that President Donald Trump during a debate refused to condemn White supremacy and directed the message “stand back and stand by” to another far-right extremist group, the Proud Boys.
There have been similar, nationally targeted intelligence reports regarding the risk these groups pose as we near the election. But the FBI Dallas office’s report makes it clear that they believe the threat is higher locally because of the confirmed number of Boogaloo members who live here.
“Many of the self-identified adherents of the boogaloo concept in the FBI Dallas AOR [Area of Responsibility] have an established presence in the AOR and although these individuals had contacts in other states, they were Texas residents,” the report reads. This is their audience, according to the FBI: “This anti-government push is not directed at any specific entity, but directed at all government agencies, including local, state, and federal agencies and law enforcement.”
The report notes that the man who fired a rifle outside the Earle Cabell Federal Building in 2019 wrote a manifesto that referenced the Boogaloo movement and the involuntary celibate movement, known as incel, a particularly misogynistic sect that overlaps with many of these extremist groups. Another Boogaloo member was arrested with accelerants, fireworks, an AR-15, a shotgun, and ammo in Denver. The man charged with killing a sheriff’s office sergeant and wounding another deputy in Oakland had aligned himself with the Boogaloos; he’d also shot two federal security officers earlier in the day.
The report has a few stumbling blocks. It presents an aggregating Twitter account as an individual, which pulled in videos from many other sources. (And it also says a “subway station” had its windows broken, but it was really a Subway sandwich shop.)
We knew that the FBI and other federal agencies were concerned about domestic terrorists hijacking peaceful protests. The Dallas Police Department also noted the presence of the “Boogaloo Movement” in its after-action report investigation into the first days of protests. Other federal agencies will have access to this document; Congress created “fusion centers” after 9/11 to help them collaborate to stop attacks.
The FBI is confident in its assessment of the risk going forward.
“Indicators that this assessment is correct include increased violent social media posts of boogaloo adherents and increased ‘patrolling’ or attendance at events that are anti-law enforcement, anti-government, or anti-authority,” it reads.