FBI monitors threats against Seattle-area protests
Since the nationwide protests against police violence began six weeks ago, there have been numerous acts of violence against peaceful protesters.
In Seattle, one person was killed, and another person seriously injured when a man drove into a crowd of peaceful protesters on I-5. In June, a protester was shot on Capitol Hill by a man who drove into the protest zone.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Raymond Duda is the Special Agent in charge of Seattle's FBI field office. He says the FBI has not been involved in investigating those incidents. But in other parts of the country, the FBI has arrested members of right-wing hate groups who were planning to use violence against protesters.
Paige Browning: Special Agent Duda, is the FBI is tracking similar types of threats here in Seattle?
Duda: We are. There's constantly intelligence out there regarding individuals across the spectrum, whether it's on the far right or the far left. We track that intelligence. You have to understand the intelligence itself is a spectrum. Rarely do you have intelligence that you have 100% confidence in. It falls somewhere on that spectrum.
We look at it closely. We've got some of the best intelligence professionals in the country that work for us. We constantly assess that, and determine whether or not it warrants further investigative activity.
How would you assess the threat level in Seattle from these sort of groups?
Leading up to the Fourth of July holiday, there was a fair amount of concern that there could be additional violence associated with the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, as it's called. The actions taken by the city in the week leading up to the holiday weekend changed that dynamic significantly.
We continued to monitor the threat over the weekend, but it subsided substantially. I don't believe there were any acts of violence associated with either side of the spectrum of domestic extremist groups.
President Trump and Attorney General William Barr have blamed violence that's taken place during demonstrations on so called Antifa members. Last month, Attorney General Barr said: “We have evidence that Antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions, have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity.”
Have you seen any evidence of some sort of organized Antifa activity here in Seattle?
Here in Seattle, no, we haven't seen evidence of organized activity. We have seen individuals -- and again, we view Antifa as an ideology, as opposed to an organization -- we have seen individuals here that align with that ideology, but "organized," I would say no.
I know that the FBI assisted with the clearing of Seattle's protest site, the CHOP. Why was the FBI brought in?
We had a limited role. We had specialty capabilities. There were reports of potential explosives, and weapons, and things like that. We have the capability to work with the Seattle Police Department and provide some expertise in the event that those sorts of objects are uncovered.
Has that operation led to any investigations?
No, that did not lead to any specific investigations. We do have investigations that have been initiated based on the totality of circumstances that have occurred in Seattle over the last few weeks, but that particular operation did not lead to the opening of anything.
As you told us, your agency did have some involvement in the clearing out of the CHOP protest area. What would you say to someone who is concerned about the federal government being involved?
At the FBI, we absolutely support the exercise of individual’s First Amendment rights. We think that is a sign of a healthy democracy, and we want to encourage that activity. Where we get involved is with those individuals who are bent on hijacking that activity to commit acts of violence in furtherance of whatever ideology they may have.
Those violent acts make the lawful protesters less safe, and they make the public less safe. So that's our focus, on those individuals that would hijack that lawful, constitutionally protected activity to further their own extremist agendas, and typically involving violence.
Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.
This post has been updated.