June 30, 2022
IntelBrief: New Zealand Designates The Base and The American Proud Boys as Terrorist Entities
New Zealand just announced the designation of two far-right extremist entities as terrorist groups, The Base and “The American Proud Boys.” Prior to this announcement, the only far-right entity designated in New Zealand was an individual, Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch mosque attacker. The New Zealand Gazette released the announcement, which reported that, as of June 20, 2022, pursuant to section 22 of New Zealand’s Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 (TSA), both The Base and “The American Proud Boys” are now designated terrorist entities in that country. Furthermore, per the TSA, “any person who deals with the property of, or makes property or financial or related services available to” either of those entities, “may be liable to prosecution for an offence under sections 9 and 10” [of the TSA]. Classification of these groups as terrorist organizations allows for law enforcement agencies to employ a wider set of investigative capabilities, including surveillance, in order to support legal action against them. The Base and the Proud Boys are both listed as terrorist entities by Canada, while The Base is proscribed in the United Kingdom and listed as a terrorist organization in Australia under the Criminal Code.
The Proud Boys is a far-right extremist group with a strong following in the United States, but also a growing transnational presence. As the January 6th Committee hearings continue, the world is learning more about the organized and deliberate role of the Proud Boys in the Capitol insurrection, an image they have sought to embrace, using it to recruit new members and expand their networks. The Base is a transnational neo-Nazi network motivated by accelerationism and the desire to spark a race war that their adherents believe will lead to the creation of a white ethno-state. The designation of both groups, per New Zealand law, will expire on June 20, 2025, unless earlier revoked or extended pursuant to section 35 of the TSA. As with far-right circles in North America and Europe, conspiracy theories and individuals opposed to COVID-19 measures, including vaccines, have merged in many cases with networks fueled by racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism as well as anti-government and anti-authority violent extremism.
As more countries designate, proscribe, and otherwise act against far-right terrorists, including both individuals and organizations, it opens up the possibility for greater information sharing and cooperation between intelligence agencies in countries where these groups are active, and which have taken similar actions. Five Eyes (FVEY) countries (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), but also a broader category of likeminded states, “FVEY and friends,” could seek to champion mechanisms that move toward building consensus in terms of threat assessments of far-right extremist groups. The result could be greater cohesion in international efforts to address the threat posed by these groups, including via support for a robust sanctions regime, which will be difficult given the existing patchwork of designations, proscriptions, and in some cases, lack of laws pertaining to the activity of these groups. This is particularly valuable as there is currently no international designations mechanism for violent far-right extremists or terrorists akin to the United Nations “1267” counterterrorism sanctions regime applicable to Al-Qaida and ISIL/Daesh.
Both the Base and the Proud Boys have close ties to the United States. Given the rising tide of political violence in the United States, and its central role as a net exporter of anti-government extremism, many in the U.S. counterterrorism community are wondering if the Biden administration will take more concrete steps to complement designations and proscriptions by other FVEY allies. To date, the United States has only designated the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity. Even without a domestic terrorism statute, there are still numerous far-right entities with transnational linkages that could be added as either an SDGT or a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), including groups like the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) or any other of the myriad groups designated by FVEY countries.