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FBI Was Aware of Holocaust Museum Shooter But Had No Open Investigation

FBI's Joseph Persichin Jr./ticklethewire.com photo
FBI’s Joseph Persichin Jr./ticklethewire.com photo

With economy in the dumps and the election of a first African American president, we can expect to see more of the white supremacist movement. We need to keep a closer eye on these groups and individuals who continue to spew hate. As a side note, it’s sad that an 88-year-old man missed the point of life and continued to hate so late in life.

In a statement yesterday, Joseph Persichini Jr., head of the FBI’s Washington field office said: “The FBI did not have an open investigation on Mr. von Brunn, but we were aware of him and that he had a website that espoused hatred against various groups and government entities. Law enforcement is challenged every day to balance the civil liberties of U.S. citizens against the need to investigate activities of possible criminal conduct. No matter how offensive to some, we are keenly aware that expressing views by itself is not a crime and the protections afforded under the Constitution cannot be compromised.”

By Carrie Johnson and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — The FBI was “aware” of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting suspect and his history of hateful writings about religious and ethnic minorities, but authorities had not opened a criminal investigation of him before Wednesday’s deadly attack, officials said yesterday.

The case of James W. von Brunn, who had a decades-old felony conviction for storming the Federal Reserve headquarters in a bid to kidnap board members and propagate his views against blacks and Jews, underscores the challenge that a rising tide of Web-based white supremacists poses to law enforcement, which walks a fine line between policing potential violence and respecting free speech, experts say.

Authorities including the Department of Homeland Security and police in New York and Los Angeles asked for help from Jewish leaders and maintained heightened patrols yesterday around synagogues and universities.

In an e-mail alert to state and local agencies Wednesday after von Brunn allegedly shot and killed a Holocaust museum guard, Homeland Security and the FBI wrote that “this appears to be an isolated incident” involving a lone suspect that appeared to have no connection to terrorism. In a statement yesterday, the FBI called the shooting a case of “domestic terrorism,” and Homeland Security said the earlier statement was premature.

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