The FBI’s new special agent in charge for Oregon stressed the bureau will continue targeting violent extremists, whether they’re white supremacists or antifa.
Kieran Ramsey said his agency will keep its focus on “the crime and not the ideology” in a press conference March 10. It’s a phrase also favored by his predecessor, Renn Cannon, whom Ramsey replaced in January.
“It doesn’t matter about the ideology in the end,” Ramsey said. “Our concern is those specific threats of violent criminal activity.”
Ramsey was introducing himself to media members from rural Oregon.
He met with Portland-area journalists and called gun violence in the state’s largest metropolitan area a public health crisis.
Questions on March 10 concerned black-market marijuana, sex trafficking and cow mutilations, though extremism was the most popular topic. Ramsey said the bureau doesn’t prioritize among the various forms of violent extremist, from anarchists and militia members to racially or ethnically motivated white supremacists.
“All forms are prevalent in Oregon, unfortunately,” he said.
As to whether the FBI is eying U.S. Capitol riot suspects in Central Oregon, Ramsey cited a recent statement by FBI Director Christopher Wray that 55 of the FBI’s 56 field offices were currently involved in investigations related to the insurrection.
“I’ll leave it to you to assume whether that’s here in Oregon or not,” he said. “The fact is our efforts are focused on identifying and disrupting any potential domestic extremists.”
In light of property damage associated with protests, Ramsey said the FBI works to distinguish lawful protesters from disruptors who would damage property and injure police.
“What we saw through the summer, through the fall, even as recently as this past January with the insurrection, is there are actors out there who are committed to violent activity, no matter what the banner is above them and no matter who is in the seat of government,” Ramsey said. “They are intent on burning, rioting and destruction.”
Ramsey will work out of the FBI’s Portland Field Office overseeing satellites in Bend, Eugene, Medford, Pendleton and Salem. A major function of the FBI in Oregon is in coordinating the responses of federal and local law enforcement. In addition, FBI agents in Oregon commonly conduct investigations into terrorist threats, hate crimes, organized crime and child pornography.
Ramsey’s most recent assignment was overseeing the FBI’s Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, an interagency group focused on recovering American hostages held overseas. In that role he reported to both the FBI director and the national security adviser to the president.
Ramsey said reports of high turnover at the bureau in the Trump era do not match his experience.
“I had a front seat in terms of dealing with executives at the highest level, and I can tell you, in the FBI, we keep our heads down, we keep going. We’re mission-focused and mission-driven,” he said.