Combat white supremacist violence using sanctions


Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Varsha Koduvayur

The tragic shooting in a Buffalo supermarket has once more brought white supremacist violence to the forefront of national news. Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old self-avowed white supremacist, killed 10 people in a racially motivated attack. In his manifesto, the young man ranted about the declining percentage of white Americans. His horrific rampage has hastened calls for a stronger response against the global rise in violent white supremacist extremism.

To start, Washington should begin deploying one particularly powerful tool in its arsenal, which it is currently sleeping on: terrorism designations and the economic sanctions they trigger.

Designating violent white supremacist groups as terrorist entities is critical to defanging the threats they pose. Designations enable the State and Treasury departments to curtail the financing and fundraising abilities of white supremacist extremist groups. In making it illegal to give such groups money or material support, designations allow for prosecutions of individuals or networks providing that assistance.

Designations have played a vital role in the fight against jihadism in the past two decades, as Washington and its allies sought to stem the flow of terrorist financing. Designations also play an important role in intelligence collection, providing critical legal authorization for collection of information on designated groups.

While U.S. law does not allow the designation of U.S.-based groups or U.S. nationals as terrorists, there are several international violent white supremacist groups — the kinds that Gendron could have drawn inspiration from — that meet the criteria for designation and currently are getting off scot-free as far as Washington is concerned.

Last year, Australia designated The Base, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group whose goal is to commit violent acts that will foment a civil war, overthrow the U.S. political system, and create a white ethno-state. Australia determined that The Base posed a “credible” threat and was “planning and preparing terrorist attacks” in Australia; indeed, press reports show that The Base had attempted to set up a cell in Australia and even tried to recruit teenagers. Britain and Canada have also so designated The Base.


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