The FBI investigation into whether the Nashville bombing was an act of terrorism has sparked criticism of a possible racial double standard and has drawn questions from downtown business owners whose insurance coverage could be affected by the agency's assessment.
More than a week after an explosion that hit the heart of a major American city, the FBI has resisted labeling it an act of terrorism, an indication that the evidence collected so far does not conclusively show that the bomber was motivated by political ideology – a key factor in any formal declaration of terrorism. The agency is still investigating evidence and has not announced any conclusions, but researchers have been known to assess whether Anthony Warner believed in alien conspiracy theories and 5G cellphone technology.
Warner died in the explosion of a recreational vehicle on Christmas Day that also injured three other people.
“When we judge an event for its connection between domestic terrorism, it must be related to an ideology. It is the use of force or force to promote a political or social ideology or event. We haven't tied that yet, & # 39; & # 39 ;, Doug Korneski, the FBI agent in charge of the Memphis office, told reporters at a news conference last week.
The FBI is investigating two types of terrorism that are not determined by the ethnicity or background of the suspect, but by the person's motivation or ideology. International terrorism involves acts of people who are inspired by or acting on behalf of foreign terrorist organizations. Domestic terrorism typically includes politically motivated violence designed to advance a particular cause or agenda.
The explosion in Music City's historic downtown has damaged more than 40 businesses. Since then, a handful of state and city leaders have raised concerns about the terrorism designation, arguing that authorities would have acted differently had the 63-year-old Warner not been white.
"To those who bend over not to call this an act of terrorism, if Warner had been a Muslim / immigrant / black, would you say the same thing or will you be one of the millions who condemn not just him but his entire community?" Nashville City Council member Zulfat Suara tweeted just days after the bombing.
The attack's classification could help determine insurance benefits for businesses that have been damaged. It's about the various definitions of terrorism that have been strewn all over federal law.
Small business owners tend to forgo terrorism coverage when selecting insurance policies, believing that an act of terrorism is unlikely to affect their business, said Jason Schupp, founder and director of Centers for Better Insurance. an insurance industry think tank near Washington. DC
Pete Gibson owns Pride and Glory Tattoo Parlor, which is located directly across from the bomb site. He said terrorism coverage was the farthest detail from his mind when he chose an insurance policy seven years ago. He is still not sure what is covered, but he has a meeting with lawyers this week to discuss his policy.
"I hadn't even heard of terrorism reporting back then," Gibson said. "So now it's just a big mess. I hope to know more soon."
Gibson said he and other small business owners were approached during Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year about considering terrorism cover, but they pushed it all aside.
He's been able to visit the bomb site to assess some of the damage, but his tattoo shop is still too unstable to walk through. He described "massive pieces of wood and flickering lights everywhere".
According to the Treasury Department, 30% to 40% of Tennessee companies have excluded terrorism coverage from their policies.
A 2002 federal law – enacted by Congress shortly after the September 11 attacks – allows the Treasury Secretary to declare an event a terrorist act, regardless of how law enforcement officials view it. To date, the Treasury has never done that, including after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and the Las Vegas Strip mass shooting in 2017, Schupp said.
Additionally, domestic terrorism can be challenging to define, especially when it comes to prosecution. While there is a definition in the U.S. Criminal Code, there is no federal statute for domestic terrorism, which means that Department of Justice prosecutors must turn to other crimes, such as charges of explosives, to prosecute acts otherwise like terrorism would be considered.
The Nashville bombing occurred long before downtown streets were buzzing with Christmas activity. Police responded to a report of shots fired when they encountered the RV, blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes. The audio then switched to a recording of Petula Clark's hit & # 39; Downtown & # 39; from 1964, shortly before the explosion.
Researchers have not discovered a motive, however
they learned that Warner may have believed in conspiracy theories, including the idea that shape-shifting reptiles take human form to take over society. He also discussed taking trips to hunt aliens, officials said.
The FBI has confirmed that Warner has sent material about his views to people he knew, but investigators have not released details about the contents of the packages.
Tucker reported from Washington.
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