Rice, Suozzi, King, and Meeks Call for Investigation Into Foreign Adversaries Stoking Anti-Semitism

January 6, 2020 by Dan McCue
Neighbors gather to show their support of the community near a rabbi's residence in Monsey, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, following a stabbing Saturday night during a Hanukkah celebration. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan quartet of House members is urging national security officials to start an investigation into whether foreign adversaries are engaging in an effort to incite anti-Semitism and civil unrest across the United States.

Democratic Reps. Kathleen Rice, Tom Suozzi and Gregory Meeks, were joined by their Republican colleague Rep. Peter King, in sending their request to top-ranking officials at the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon.

Their request comes after a series of anti-Semitic attacks and other hate crimes across the country, including an incident in Monsey, New York, in which a knife-wielding attacker stormed a rabbi’s home and stabbed five people as they celebrated Hanukkah.

Just days earlier, two men stormed a kosher market in Jersey City, New Jersey, killing three in the store, in addition to a police officer at a nearby cemetery, before dying in an hours-long gun battle with police.

In their letter, the representatives request that the national security agencies specifically investigate potential state-sponsored campaigns to sow hatred.

“The power of social media provides nefarious actors the ability to exploit ignorance and spread hate, in an effort to undermine national unity for their strategic interest,” they wrote. “In addition to tanks, missiles and soldiers, we must be conscious of our adversaries’ efforts to undermine our nation using cyberspace, economic systems and corruption.”

The lawmakers note that a recent FBI report confirmed year over year increases in hate crimes. The report found hate crimes increased by 17 percent from 2016-2017, a rise for the third consecutive year.

In 2017, anti-Semitic crimes increased by 37 percent and attacks motivated by racial or ethnical prejudice doubled, they said.

The representatives said this “troubling trend, at the beginning of the new year and leading into a national election year, demand that we explore root causes.

“We are well aware of the impact of divisive rhetoric at the national level, the new power of social media, and the lack of knowledge about historic events such as the Holocaust,” they wrote.

They went on to note that in February 2018, the Justice Department charged 13 Russians and three companies for using fraudulent social media accounts, online political advertisements, and other tools to subvert the 2016 election.

“According to the indictment, hundreds of social media accounts impersonating Americans were used to ‘create political intensity through supporting radical groups.’ Furthermore, the indictment states that these same nefarious actors paid for advertisements on social media platforms and other places that specifically sought to divide Americans based on race, religion, and other factors,” the letter says.

“Whether anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, race-based or some other form of hate, internal divisions provide an opportunity for our adversaries to exploit and further divide our nation,” the representatives said. “We must work together to combat those that exploit ignorance to sow division for their strategic interest, including foreign adversaries seeking to undermine our national security by stoking hate.”

The letter was sent to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security.

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