At some point in the late 1960s, you could be forgiven for thinking that the FBI was in charge of the KKK.

It infiltrated, manipulated and ran the group into the ground. The name of the operation: COINTELPRO-White Hate.

With violent white hate again on the rise, we should take some inspiration — even if the methods can’t be replicated — from the FBI’s past grappling with racist extremists.

Rich Lowry mug

Rich Lowry

If there were any doubt that the country has a white nationalist problem, the shocking attack on an El Paso, Texas, Walmart should remove it.

These self-radicalizing freaks, a subset of the broader mass-shooting phenomenon, take inspiration from prior acts of vicious mayhem and cheer high body counts on internet message boards. They are domestic subversives and terrorists, and deserve to be treated as such.

There is no doubt that if we had suffered a string of massacres on our soil carried out by Islamic radicals, we’d do everything in our power to diminish and hopefully eradicate the danger — indeed, we have.

The national response to racist extremists should show the same alacrity and resolve, while acknowledging that they represent a different, more-difficult-to-counter threat than the old Klan.

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson told FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to go after the Klan as he had the Communists. Running until 1971 and involving 26 field offices, COINTELPRO-White Hate targeted groups and people deemed violent threats, not their ideology per se.

The effort was comprehensive and no-holds-barred.

In his history of the FBI, Tim Weiner writes, “The FBI dangled small fortunes before potential KKK informers, offered outright bribes to Klansmen who could serve as double agents inside state and local police forces, planted bugs and wiretaps in Klaverns, carried out black-bag jobs to steal membership lists and (on at least one occasion) dynamite caches.”

In an article in the journal Social Science History, David Cunningham recounts how the FBI degraded, and came to effectively control, Klan groups.

The FBI acquired hundreds of Klan informants. According to one FBI official, “There would be a Klan meeting with 10 people there, and six of them would be reporting back the next day.” One informant even became the speechwriter for the leader of the United Klans of America, Robert Shelton.

The FBI worked to preempt violent acts, and gained an enormous influence over Klan groups. The New Orleans office was so successful at degrading the Louisiana chapter of the UKA that the office’s concern became propping the group up, lest its disintegration loosen the FBI’s control.

The Charlotte office managed to decimate the violent North Carolina UKA and shift its membership to an alternative group under FBI influence.

Overall, Klan membership shrank from an estimated 14,000 members in 1964 to 4,300 in 1971. Per Shelton himself, “the FBI’s counterintelligence program hit us in membership and weakened us for about 10 years.”

Of course, the contemporary FBI obviously isn’t going to take over the “alt-right,” nor should we want it to. The abuses of the COINTELPRO programs — the FBI also targeted civil-rights groups and the New Left, among others — became notorious when they were exposed in the 1970s.

There are also practical obstacles to the FBI duplicating its anti-Klan work. The Klan was an organization, whereas today’s white supremacists are free-floating haters posting anonymously on the internet.

Yet the FBI needs to be intensely focused on this threat. The bureau should take an intelligence-based approach. It should monitor sewer message boards like 8chan, the forum for white-supremacist propaganda.

Posters who cross from First Amendment-protected speech to incitement should be prosecuted. The FBI should interview anyone expressing sympathy with terrorism — just as it does with suspected Islamic extremists — and surveil such persons as appropriate and permitted under the law.

El Paso was an outrage, and surely not the last. We need to react accordingly.

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Syndicated columnist Rich Lowry can be reached at comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.


(13) comments


ms - Most mass shooters are not taken alive. Most are killed by law enforcement or like the cowardly pieces of $h!t they are take their own pathetic lives.

It has nothing to do with race so quit playing the race card and trying to make Law Enforcement Officers look like the bad guys. Shame on you!


Interesting that white mass murderers are taken alive but blacks are shot in the back while running away with a cell phone in their hand. George Zimmerman did not do this country a favor!


Hive - Do you have your tickets to the new Hollywood Blockbuster “The Hunt”? Where Elitist hunt

and kill Deplorable's. The movie was originally going to be called “Red State vs. Blue State,". Marvelous simply marvelous.

MSNBC guest wants people to protest in front of Trump donors house with pitch forks and torches.

Obviously no vile hate or violence implied there. Right?


Hive – You mentioned specialized magazine that hold 150 rounds. These are novelty items and in many cases junk. They jam and don’t feed well. I personally wouldn’t want one. However, I see no problem with the 30 round magazines that came with the firearm from the manufacture. At the gun range I often load 3, 5 or 10 rounds just to practice and build up muscle memory on reloading.

You also mentioned, “certain brand handgun can be had or converted to fully automatic fire”. Just so you know this is illegal. These can only be legally obtained by Law Enforcement Agencies for duty use. You and I are not allowed to buy or possess them.

I am all in favor of improving the background check system and data base which should be tied to Social Media database to identify people that have obvious Red Flags.

We have hundreds if not thousands of gun laws in the US (some people say over 20,000 gun laws are on the books). Do we really need more gun laws if we are not going to enforce the current ones? California, New York and Illinois have the strictest guns laws on the books, yet they still have the highest rate gun violence and murder rates in the country.

What congress needs to do is pass the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2019” This law is way over due.


Hive – Do you live under a rock or just choose not to acknowledge the Hate and Violence from the left?

Protesters in front of Mitch McConnell’s house chant “Stab the MotherF*@ker in the heart and Kill him”

There is a huge difference between “Lock Her Up”, “Send them Back” and “Stab the MotherF*@ker in the heart and Kill him” IMO


Bo, I do not get this "vile hate" you say democrats spew...!

POTUS is the perfect gentleman American? Please...Here is a POTUS who finds he is unwelcome in his own nation, not to mention elsewhere in the world.

Did not Congress have something to do with POTUS being elected and with the state of current affairs?

What's this "democrat" crappola? And what about apathetic voters? Duh! Get it right or at least attempt to do so! Assume responsibility, some or all...

"We, the people..." has no exclusions, boyo!


Kill makes sense! Kill, add me to your common sense cadre!

Bo and JD echo the same-ole stupid zero-sum, political circular bullroar!

Left, right or center...no one gets to have cake and eat it...

"No One" includes dingers like y'all gets to have it "both ways." Majority rules!

Yes, the Constitution declares freedoms, some natural some not so natural; however no where does "Law" substitute license for those freedoms.

One has a right to own and use a semi-auto firearm, and may even, in some places, a right to brandish it publicly! Most do not "brandish?" Why? Common sense?

What suggests a person has a right to have a specialized magazine that fits their owned firearm that shoots 150 rounds? Why not a limit to magazine capacity?

One example, a certain brand handgun can be had or converted to fully automatic fire but it must use long or cumbersome magazines holding 30-rounds to do so? Why not limit magazine capacity?

Yes, firearms are tools! Yes, we can legally own and use them and do so. Yes, these tools can be dangerous! Yes, danger can be mitigated as it is with chainsaws, axes and screwdrivers.

Yes, some persons are not "all there," and, yes, they may seem fine. But, we all know some persons are Darwin Award candidates.

Why not mitigate that danger, like with have done, for our own welfare?

Replace (stupid) partisan foolishness, with peaceful, law-abiding common sense?


JD - You forgot to mention the Democrats protesting outside Mitch McConnell’s house. Can we hold you accountable for their action? Republicans don’t hold a candle to the vile hate spewed by a Democrats.



Kill - Your logic is flawed. “It is not too late to restrict rifle and handgun magazine capacities.” If we reduce the size of plates, knives, forks and spoons, would Americans be less obese?

Improving the background check data base would be a huge improvement. The background check database needs to also be linked to Social Media database to identify people that have obvious Red Flags. Enforcing the current gun laws would also help.



Mr. Infinity, do not mistake POTUS' arrogance for abject hate. They are different affects from two sources. Repeatedly, POTUS demonstrates an alarming lack of intelligence, and that, combined with the (false) security of wealth, leads to a distasteful arrogance. That makes Mr. Trump a very dangerous individual.


Nah kill, I don't buy it. I think this article is plain garbage. Republicans want none of the accountability for their flat out hatred of others. So rather than accept responsibility, it's easier to point fingers at the clan rather than look in the mirror. Hateful rhetoric, like what comes from the president is exactly what exacerbates the situation and fuels the fire that causes these shootings. Not the clan.


kill +1


Something tangible from a "Conservative" pundit. It is not lost on us that a subversion (FBI infiltration) is promoted by a conservative-leaning citizen. One problem he fails to address is the question of how many of these crazed young killers are members of anything? Most are young, lone shooters, who live among us. A couple might be called adults. Aside from family, what controls are in place or could be suggested? It is not too late to restrict rifle and handgun magazine capacities but it seems even if effective, something is missed. Also, background checks should include permanent records of all arms buyers and personal questions, considering that the applicant might lie about past problems and personal feelings. Records are helpful, ever after the fact. But, prevention seems an impossible task in a society that screams "my rights come first."

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