Antifa Investigations Will Take Time to Be Effective, Former FBI Agent Says

June 10, 2020 Updated: June 10, 2020

While Attorney General William Barr revealed that there are multiple investigations into the anarcho-communist group Antifa underway, that doesn’t necessarily mean arrests are imminent. These kinds of investigations, if done right, usually take a long time, according to a former FBI special agent.

Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray singled out Antifa as one of the culprits behind the instigation of violence during recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis.

According to Marc Ruskin, a 27-year FBI veteran and contributor to The Epoch Times, it isn’t the FBI’s place to go from city to city arresting people for arson or looting—those are local matters. When it comes to Antifa and similar groups, the FBI would likely pursue an organized crime investigation or, if the group will be so designated, a domestic terrorism probe.

Yet, for such an investigation, “in order to be effective, it has to be long-term,” Ruskin told The Epoch Times.

Barr told Fox News on June 8 that federal authorities are conducting investigations into certain individuals tied to Antifa.

“We have some investigations underway and very focused investigations on certain individuals that relate to Antifa,” Barr said. It isn’t clear when those investigations began.

The advantage of a “thorough, long-term investigation” is that “the organization can essentially be dismantled,” Ruskin said.

“If there’s a two-year investigation or one-year investigation and results in the arrest of 30 members or high-level members, then it can … really be very effective,” he said.

One particular approach that came to mind, he said, was charging Antifa members under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which allows for longer sentences for people involved in a criminal organization.

“RICO penalties are significant. People go to jail for decades for RICO violations,” Ruskin said.

Putting important members behind bars for decades not only cripples the organization, but also deters others who may have thought it “was a lot of fun to destroy the system,” but may reconsider when they see that their “buddies are now serving 28-year prison terms.”

Barr acknowledged that Antifa is “very loosely organized,” but said “there are people who can be characterized as leaders in any given situation.”

At least some parts of the group are highly organized, including initiation procedures, security protocols, and “lectures” on violent action, according to an undercover reporter who infiltrated the Antifa cell in Portland, Oregon, on behalf of Project Veritas, an investigative journalism nonprofit.

The reporter said the Portland cell, called Rose City Antifa, “seems much more structured, almost like a company or like a business, so I feel like there is some type of outside funding, influence, or resources being used.”

“There appear to be sources of funding, and we are looking into the sources of funding,” Barr said. “There’s clearly some high degree of organization involved at some of these events and coordinated tactics that we’re seeing, and we’re looking into that as well.”

The FBI would likely be following the money, Ruskin said.

“They have to be getting funding from somewhere. … If it’s getting down to the cell, then there’s got to be a way to trace it back up somewhere,” he said.

The FBI would likely send undercover agents and informants to infiltrate Antifa or to befriend its members, Ruskin said. The infiltrators could even be authorized to commit crimes “in order to gain credibility with the members,” he said.

Other major tools would include electronic intercepts and physical surveillance.

FBI’s putting a tail on somebody is “not like in the movies,” Ruskin said.

The surveillance team would have multiple members, and each would only share a part of the task, so the subject can’t tell whether he’s being watched and by whom.

The technique is “very sophisticated” and “almost impossible to detect,” he said.

“They become like ghosts.”

The decentralized nature of Antifa wouldn’t be enough to derail such an investigation, in Ruskin’s view.

“They may be able to make it harder, but at the end of the day, the resources of the FBI are pretty impressive,” he said.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab