Fmr. intel official defends Antifa when discussing Jan. 6, white supremacist groups
A former intelligence official, Clint Watts, on Tuesday defended Antifa when discussing the role of various groups in the violent January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that resulted in five people dead.
His comments came after FBI Director Christopher Wray earlier on Tuesday testified before senators about the bureau’s sweeping investigation into the events of January 6, saying that there wasn’t “any evidence” Antifa staged the riot and framed it on Trump supporters, as a number of Trump allies have alleged. So far, over 300 people have been charged in connection with the attack, which Wray called “domestic terrorism.”
Watts, who has served on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and has been affiliated with other counterterrorism groups, made the comments Tuesday evening on MSNBC.
“There is no equivalency by any measure between Antifa or any political-left terrorism right now and what’s going on on the political right,” said Watts, who is currently a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
During the summer, a number of individuals with ties to Antifa committed acts of violence and vandalism at various Black Lives Matter protests across the country, especially in Portland, Oregon. In recent months, Antifa extremists have carried out vandalism in that city—such as on the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, when Antifa members damaged a Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building as well as the Democratic Party of Oregon’s headquarters.
“And I always like to remind people when they hear ‘Antifa,’ that means ‘anti-fascist,’ which in response to another,” Watts continued. “So if you have Antifa, you have ‘fa,’ or as in ‘fascist,’ which comes down to white supremacy.”
He went on to say that white supremacy is “the No. 1 issue in the country in terms of domestic terrorism and terrorism overall, and it’s followed up very closely behind by anti-government militia groups,” then citing Wray’s comments about far-right militia groups from that day’s hearing.
“We have not to date seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to Antifa in connection with [January 6],” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “That doesn’t mean we’re not looking, and we’ll continue to look, but at the moment we have not seen that.”
The FBI director also said that the number of FBI domestic terrorism investigations has doubled since he assumed his role in 2017 to over 2,000. During his tenure, the number of probes into white supremacists has tripled, with the number of investigations into anarchist extremists having considerably risen too, Wray mentioned.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Watts tweeted a couple of his thoughts expressing his displeasure with the hearing and the discussion of Antifa.
“Cannot wrap my head around how Senator Grassley can compare what happened on January 6 and years of white supremacist mass shoutings being equivalent in any way to left wing extremism,” he posted at 10:28 a.m.
And, a little over half an hour later, Watts wrote: “Almost an hour into hearing, Antifa has been mentioned many times and there’s not been a single mention of QAnon, Proud Boys, III%er or Oathkeepers – all surfaced in Jan 6 charges. Antifa as of now has not surfaced in Jan 6 & Wray said he’s seen no evidence of it.”
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.