More than a week later, FBI avoids terror label for bombing

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FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2021, file photo, police officers walk past damaged buildings in Nashville, Tenn. The FBI investigation into whether the Nashville bombing was a terrorist act has sparked criticism about a possible racial double standard and drawn questions from downtown business owners whose insurance coverage could be affected by the bureaus assessment. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The FBI investigation into whether the Nashville bombing was a terrorist act has sparked criticism about a possible racial double standard and drawn questions from downtown business owners whose insurance coverage could be affected by the bureau’s assessment.

More than a week after an explosion that struck at the heart of a major American city, the FBI has resisted labeling it an act of terrorism, an indication that evidence gathered so far does not conclusively establish that the bomber was motivated by political ideology — a key factor in any formal declaration of terrorism. The bureau is still examining evidence and has not announced any conclusions, but investigators are known to be reviewing whether Anthony Warner believed in conspiracy theories involving aliens and 5G cellphone technology.

Warner died in the Christmas Day explosion of a recreational vehicle that also wounded three other people.

“When we assess an event for domestic terrorism nexus, it has to be tied to an ideology. It’s the use of force or violence in the furtherance of a political or social ideology or event. We haven’t tied that yet," Doug Korneski, the FBI agent in charge of the agency’s Memphis office, told reporters last week at a news conference.

The FBI investigates two types of terrorism that are defined not by the ethnicity or background of the suspect but by the person’s motivation or ideology. International terrorism involves acts by people who are inspired by, or acting at the direction of, foreign terrorist organizations. Domestic terrorism generally involves politically motivated violence intended to further a particular cause or agenda.

The explosion in Music City's historic downtown 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 if the 63-year-old Warner had not been a white man.

“To those bending over backward to not call this an act of terror, if Warner had been a Muslim/immigrant/black, will you say the same thing or will you be one of the millions condemning not just him but his entire community?” Nashville City Council member Zulfat Suara tweeted just days after the bombing.

The classification of the attack could help determine insurance payouts for businesses that were damaged. At issue are the varying definitions of terrorism sprinkled throughout federal law.