Ian M. Smith was, until recently, a policy analyst working for the Department of Homeland Security. Smith resigned from his job after leaked emails indicated that he had been in contact with a group of white nationalists, including, among others, Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor.
In a statement released this week, the Department of Homeland Security said that it is “committed to combating all forms of violent extremism, especially movements that espouse racial supremacy or bigotry.” The statement added, “This type of radical ideology runs counter to the Department’s mission of keeping America safe.”
Smith himself said that he never attended any white nationalist events. Richard Spencer, one of the white nationalists included in the email chain, said that he had never, to his knowledge, met Smith. He told the Atlantic, “to my knowledge, I’ve never met Ian Smith. I get roped in to all sorts of email conversations, I receive too many emails every day for me to respond to.”
Here’s what you need to know about Ian Smith:
1. Smith Was Regularly Invited to White Nationalist Gatherings, Although It’s Not Clear If He Attended
The Atlantic obtained a leaked email chain which included Smith and prominent white nationalists like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor. The emails don’t show Smith directly interacting with Spencer, Taylor, or other white nationalist leaders. But they do show that he was familiar with them and with their organizations. They also show that he was careful to be friendly to the group and appears to have made an effort to remain in good standing with the other members of the email group.
Some of the emails are invitations to social events. One email thread discusses a dinner party at the home of Ben Zapp, a real estate agent who allegedly had white nationalist sympathies. Zapp urged Smith and others to come to his dinner party, adding, ” I would imagine this would start on the early side, like 7:00 or even earlier. So it’s settled—we know my home shall remain judenfrei.” “Judenfrei” is a German term meaning “free of Jews.” Smith responded, ““They don’t call it Freitag for nothing…” and added that he should have time to “pop by.”
On the same email thread, Smith added that he was planning to attend another event first and “talk to people like Matt Parrot,” the former spokesman for the Traditionalist Worker Party.
2. Before Going to Work for DHS, Smith Worked for the conservative Immigration Reform Law Institute
Until his recent resignation, Smith was a policy analyst for the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to that, he worked for the Immigration Reform Law Institute. The institute says that its goal is “to defend the rights of individual Americans and their local communities from the harms and challenges posed by mass migration to the United States, both lawful and unlawful.”
The institute says that its vision is “a nation where our borders are secure, the American people are no longer disadvantaged and harmed by the deleterious effects of unlawful immigration, and legal immigration levels are set at a rate consistent with the national interest.”
3. Emails Show that Smith Was Familiar With White Nationalist Organizations and their Publications
Smith was not in direct communication with Richard Spencer — but his emails reveal that he was familiar with the work of Spencer and Jared Taylor. In an email in May 2016, Smith recommended someone for a job, saying that the person was “currently working in development at LI” (the conservative training group the Leadership Institute) and “writes for Radix, Amren, VDare and Chronicles under a pseudonym.” The word “Amren” refers to American Renaissance, the publication run by self-described white naitonalist Jared Taylor. Radix is Spencer’s publication. Chronicles may refer to Chronicles Magazine, another publication associated with this movement, which has published Lutton and Sam Francis, the late editor of the Council of Conservative Citizens’ newsletter.
Again, there is no evidence that Smith actually attended any white nationalist events. But there are indications that he wanted to be friendly with the group. When he couldn’t attend events, he offered polite excuses for not making it. In 2015, Smith Smith refers to an event held by “NPI,” the acronym for the National Policy Institute, Spencer’s white nationalist non-profit, saying he had missed it because he was out of town.
4. Smith Resigned After the Atlantic Obtained His Emails
It is not clear exactly when Smith resigned from the Department of Homeland Security. But Smith told The Atlantic in an email this week, “I no longer work at DHS as of last week and didn’t attend any of the events you’ve mentioned.”
The Department of Homeland Security said that it is “committed to combating all forms of violent extremism, especially movements that espouse racial supremacy or bigotry.” The statement added, “This type of radical ideology runs counter to the Department’s mission of keeping America safe.”
Richard Spencer told The Atlantic that he had no relationship with Smith. In a phone interview, he said, “to my knowledge, I’ve never met Ian Smith. I get roped in to all sorts of email conversations, I receive too many emails every day for me to respond to.”
5. Smith Said Martin Luther King Would Have Agreed With Him on Immigration
During his time working for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, Smith also penned articles for the National Review. One of his articles argues that civil rights icon Martin Luther King would have been in favor of tight border controls. Smith admits that there is no way of knowing for certain how King would have felt about this issue, since he never spoke much about immigration. But, he says,King — whom he calls “a man singularly in touch with the needs of the black community” — would have likely spoken out for controlled borders.
Smith’s argument is based on a book by Clarence Jones, a former close adviser to King.