It took two and a half years for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to tell journalist Emma Best it misplaced (or just plain lost) chunks of investigative records about the hate-filled white supremacist forum Stormfront.
According to MuckRock, which broke the news, Best asked for all investigative records on the infamous forum that the FBI had in its possession. Instead, the bureau provided her with 104-pages of pre-processed records and admitted, “there were additional records potentially responsive for your Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOIPA) request.”
The FBI then explained it lost those records.
“We were advised that the potentially responsive records were not in their expected location and could not be located after a reasonable search. Following a reasonable waiting period, another attempt was made to obtain this material. This search for the missing records also met with unsuccessful results,” the agency said.
Stormfront—a hateful online forum of neo-Nazi content boasting “White Pride, Worldwide” in its slogan, was established by a former member of the Ku Klux Klan in 1995—has in the past been seen as a gathering place for domestic terrorists, with its users once linked to over 100 murders according to a 2014 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Organized as a message board, users can share articles and engage in discussions, which has helped build a hateful community of like-minded users.
Best did tweet that the FBI often comes up with these types of responses to vast FOIA requests and it doesn’t always mean the agency lost the records.
“To be clear: FBI claims this a lot,” she said. “My implication wasn't that they lost it on purpose, just that they either didn't look very hard or have an organizational system that would have Hoover spinning in his grave.”
With a spate of violent white nationalist terrorism over the last year, the FBI and broader federal authorities have come under fire for not taking the threat of domestic terror seriously and failing to predict its severity. Losing records on perhaps one of the key radicalization grounds on the internet for white nationalism doesn’t exactly indenture much faith the bureau sees neo-Nazi terror on the same level as ISIS.