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‘Fantasies of violence’ motivated Coast Guard officer with weapons stockpile

Christopher Paul Hasson, a Coast Guard officer and self-proclaimed white supremacist, is facing drug and weapons charges after federal agents discovered a stockpile of firearms and ammunition at his Maryland home. Also found was a list of his apparent targets, including Democratic politicians and journalists. Amna Nawaz talks to the Anti-Defamation League's Oren Segal about the threat.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    In another unfolding story, a self-proclaimed white supremacist is facing firearm and drug charges, with more charges expected.

    In court documents filed this week, the government said Coast Guard officer Christopher Paul Hasson planned to — quote — "murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country." Prosecutors say he was plotting to kill prominent journalists and Democratic politicians, among others, with the intention of sparking a race war.

    Oren Segal is the director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism. And he joins me now from New York.

    Oren Segal, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    You have had a chance to go through these court documents related to Christopher Hasson. Help us understand, how much of a threat did he actually pose?

  • Oren Segal:

    Well, you know, the court documents outline somebody who clearly had fantasies of violence, whether it was, you know, putting biological weapons in the food supply, whether it's killing everybody on Earth.

    He's somebody who was creating a traitors list of liberal politicians, of newscasters, and also was self-defining himself as a white supremacist who wanted to create a white nation. So, that combination of factors, plus stockpiling weapons, suggest that he was a real threat.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We saw, as you noted, pictures of the cache of weapons, over 15 firearms, over 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

    I want to ask you about that list, though, because a number of those names are very prominent Democratic leaders, some media personalities, Nancy Pelosi, Senators Blumenthal, Gillibrand, Warren, Booker, and others.

    There's a huge leap, however, from making a list and actually doing something about it. What else do we know about what Hasson had done to prepare that made this more of an imminent threat, that made authorities act right now?

  • Oren Segal:

    Well, again, I mean, here's somebody who was influenced by another extremist out in Norway, Anders Breivik.

    And that individual wrote a 1,000-page manifesto which Hasson appeared to have read carefully. Indeed, he actually apparently bought steroids,as is sort of outlined in Breivik's manifesto, to beef himself up.

    Again, the stockpiling of weapons, the Google searches on where some of these politicians live, these are all indications of somebody who may have been willing to act.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    There is a trend here I want to point out when we talk about folks who self-identify as white supremacists or white nationalists.

    Southern Poverty Law Center tracks these, publishes an annual report. When we look back on it, over the many years, there has been what they call a documented rise in those groups to what they now say is an all-time high, over 1,000 such hate groups, many of them white nationalist, white supremacists.

    Help us understand, first of all, those numbers, and also what they mean. What is influencing that rise?

  • Oren Segal:

    Well, I think some of the critical numbers — and this is what we have at ADL — is extremist-related murders.

    And when you look at the past 10 years in this country, 73 percent of extremist-related murders in this country have been carried out by right-wing extremists, and the majority of those by white supremacists. So we're talking about over 427 people killed by extremists.

    At the same time, you do see an increase in other white supremacist activities. So, whether it's flyering, putting white supremacist banners, stickers and flyers around the country, ADL, we have tracked a 500 percent increase from 2017 to '18.

    So white supremacists have been emboldened in the past few years and have tried to find different ways to not only carry out and promote their message, but in some cases with very deadly consequences.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    I want to point you towards a long from the government documents here. They say: "The defendant is a domestic terrorist bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct."

    When we talk about terrorism today, we often think about extremist Islamic terrorism. What I hear you saying with those numbers is that there's actually a different threat that's greater to Americans right now.

  • Oren Segal:

    Listen, Americans do not have a luxury to ignore any ideological or political threat. These attacks happen from all types of different extremists, if you will.

    But the data bears out simple facts. Even last year, we recently issued a report on extremist-related murders in 2018 — 98 percent of those — so, all but one — were essentially carried out by those who are right-wing extremists.

    And so, as the discussion about what is terrorism and what is the threat, we need to keep those numbers in mind, because that's what's going to help us make sure that we're putting our resources and our focus in the right place.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So help us very quickly, in a few seconds, before we go, put this case into context.

    Is Christopher Paul — Christopher Paul Hasson, rather, is he an outlier in some way? Or is he representative of something else that we should be worried about?

  • Oren Segal:

    I mean, he is very much representative of a threat that we have been seeing. Look no further than Pittsburgh just a couple of months ago.

    And I think we need to thank federal authorities for demonstrating that they take homegrown extremism seriously, and the job that they did to potentially stop another attack from happening in this country.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League, thank you for your time.

  • Oren Segal:

    Thank you.

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