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DOJ to Launch Domestic Terrorism Unit Amid Alarming Rise in Cases

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department is creating a new unit tasked with combating domestic terrorism. 

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen made the announcement during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, The Washington Post reports.

The move comes amid an alarming rise in domestic extremism. Olsen said the number of domestic extremism cases handled by the FBI have more than doubled since the spring of 2020. 

The new group will include a group of lawyers who will ensure that cases will be “handled properly and effectively coordinated” across the department and federal law enforcement .

“This group of dedicated attorneys will focus on the domestic terrorism threat, helping to ensure that these cases are handled properly and effectively coordinated across the Department of Justice and across the country,” Olsen said.

More than 725 people have been charged for their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray previously said that the number of agents and analysts working on domestic terrorism cases has more than tripled. 

Neo-Nazi Leader Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison for Threatening Journalists

Photo: Shutterstock

By Steve Neavling

A leader of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division was sentenced to seven years in prison for threatening journalists and activists who worked to expose his anti-Semitism. 

A federal jury convicted Kaleb Cole, 25, of Washington, of one count of interfering with a federally protected activity because of religion, three counts of mailing threatening communications, and one count of conspiring with other Atomwaffen members to commit three offenses against the U.S. – interference with federally-protected activities because of religion, mailing threatening communications, and cyberstalking.

“Threats motivated by religious intolerance are antithetical to American values, even more so when they aim to intimidate journalists and others who are working to expose bigotry in our society.” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement Tuesday. “The defendant led a multi-state plot by a neo-Nazi group to threaten and intimidate journalists and advocates who were doing important work to expose anti-Semitism around the country. The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute these hateful acts.”

Cole and other members of Atomwaffen mailed threatening posters or glued the posters to the homes of the journalists and advocates, who were primarily Jewish or Black. The posters warned, “You have been visited by your local Nazis,” and contained threatening images, including a hooded figure throwing a Molotov cocktail at a house. 

“Kaleb Cole helped lead a violent, nationwide neo-Nazi group,’” U.S. Attorney Nick Brown for the Western District of Washington said. “He repeatedly promoted violence, stockpiled weapons, and organized ‘hate camps’. Today the community and those Mr. Cole and his co-conspirators targeted, stand-up to say hate has no place here. He tried to intimidate journalists and advocates with hate-filled and threatening posters, tried to amplify their fear. Instead they faced him in court and their courage has resulted in the federal prison sentence imposed today.”

Three co-conspirators have already been sentenced. 

FBI’s joint terrorism task forces in Seattle, Tampa, Houston, and Phoenix investigated, with assistance from the Seattle Police Department.

Secret Service Arrests New York Man Accused of Threatening to Kill, Kidnap Trump

President Trump

By Steve Neavling

The Secret Service arrested a Queens man accused of threatening to kidnap and kill then-President Trump if he refused to leave the White House following his failed 2020 election.  

Thomas Welnicki, 72, was charged with making threats against the president in cell phone calls to the Secret Service between July 2020 and last month, The New York Post reports.

“I am going to do anything I can to take out [Trump]. Oh yeah that’s a threat, come and arrest me,” Welnicki allegedly said on a Jan. 4, 2021, voicemail.

“I will do anything I can to take out [Individual-1] and his 12 monkeys,” Welnicki allegedly said in his voicemail. “If I had the opportunity to do it in Manhattan that would be awesome.”

In a call on Nov. 8, Welnicki allegedly called Trump “Hitler” and said “I will do everything I can to make sure [Trump] is dead.”

Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon ordered a $50,000 bond. 

During the hearing, his attorney Dierdre Von Dornum said Welnicki doesn’t own any weapons and hasn’t left New York City in 15 years. 

“If there were any actual danger here, I am certain that they would have arrested him sooner,” Von Dornum said.

Sherri Onks Tapped to Serve As Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office

FBI Special Agent in Charge Sherri Onks

By Steve Neavling

Sherri E. Onks has been named special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office in Florida. 

Before the appointment, Onks served as an executive special assistant to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Onks’ career with the FBI began in 1999, when she was assigned to the Los Angeles Field Office, where she investigated white-collar crime before switching to counterterrorism following 9/11. 

In 2013, Onks transferred to the San Juan Field Office and investigated public corruption. She also was temporarily assigned to FBI headquarters to work a public-corruption case contacted to terrorism.

In 2006, Onks moved to the Richmond Field Office in Virginia to investigate corporate and securities fraud. In addition to investigating several complex investigations, she established and led the Virginia Financial and Securities Fraud Task Force.

In 2012, Onks was promoted to supervisory special agent and worked as the program coordinator of FBI Richmond’s financial crime, public corruption, civil rights, and health care fraud programs. In addition, she helped secure the first-ever federal criminal convictions of a Virginia governor and first lady by overseeing their public corruption case.

In 2014, Onks was named assistant legal attaché to Vancouver in Canada. She facilitated criminal, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism investigations and joint operations in Western Canada. She also served as FBI liaison to Canadian counterparts and held relationships with law enforcement and intelligence partners.

In 2019, Onks was promoted to the assistant special agent in charge of the Criminal and Administrative Branch of the Knoxville Field Office in Tennessee. In 2020, she was appointed special executive assistant to the director.

Onks received a bachelor’s degree from Maryville College in Tennessee and a master’s degree in criminology from the University of Memphis. 

Before joining the bureau, Onks worked in the health physics field.

Border Patrol Agents Rescue 25 Undocumented Migrants from Freezing Trailer

By Steve Neavling

Border Patrol agents rescued 25 undocumented migrants from a locked trailer in Texas. 

The migrants had no heat and no means of escape when agents assigned to the Sierra Blanca Station rescued them on the morning of Jan. 5, the agency announced.

Some of the migrants, who were part of a failed smuggling operation, were crying, shivering and distraught when they were found. 

“There have been significant rescues as of late by our agents where individuals were left in hazardous conditions and required immediate medical attention,” Big Bend Sector Chief Patrol Agent Sean L. McGoffin said. “Transnational criminal organizations have no concern for humanity, they continually place lives in danger.”

Last year, fast-acting Border Patrol agents – some of them off-duty – sprung to action when they saw people in danger. They were credited with saving lives.

CBP Reports 10-Fold Increase in Fentanyl Seized in South Texas

The DEA seized 15,000 pounds of fentanyl in one year. Photo: Shutterstock

By Steve Neavling

CBP reported a more than ten-fold increase in fentanyl seizures in south Texas during fiscal year 2021. 

CBP officers at eight ports of entry from Brownsville to Del Rio seized 87,652 pounds of narcotics with a street value of $786 million, the agency said this week. 

They confiscated 41,713 pounds of marijuana, 8,592 pounds of cocaine, 33,777 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,215 pounds of heroin, 588 pounds of fentanyl, $10.4 million in unreported currency, 463 weapons and 84,863 rounds of ammunition. 

“Faced with significantly less traffic due to travel restrictions imposed for public health reasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the drug and contraband threat remained the same and our frontline CBP officers rose to the challenge to meet that threat head on,” Randy J. Howe, director of field operations at the Laredo Field Office, said in a statement. “Our significant gains in fentanyl and cocaine seizures underscore the deadly nature of the contraband we encounter, the need to utilize Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect our officers and our continued resolve to carry out our vital border security mission.”

The seizures come at a time when U.S. authorities are seeing a surge in fentanyl overdoses. 

Biden Renominates Texas Sheriff to Lead ICE

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has been nominated to head ICE.

By Steve Neavling

President Biden nominated for a second time Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzaelez to be the next director of ICE. 

ICE has not had a confirmed director since January 2017, when Sarah Saldaña retired. 

In April 2020, Biden first nominated Gonzalez, an outspoken critic of Donald Trump’s immigration policies. But the nomination stalled in the Senate and expired at the end of the year. 

Gonzalez was elected sheriff of Harris County, which includes Houston, in 2016 and reelected in 2020. 

Gonzalez will likely face opposition from Republicans for a second time. 

Gonzalez has criticized Trump’s deportation policies and the separation of migrant children from their families. 

His law enforcement career began in the Houston Police Department, and he later served three terms on the Houston City Council. 

Gonzalez has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Houston Downtown and a master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas. 

Homeland Security Warns about ‘New Content Online That Could Inspire Violence’

Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo via Shutterstock.

By Steve Neavling

Homeland Security on Thursday warned local law enforcement of online threats from extremists who believe the election was stolen from former President Trump.

The memo, obtained by CBS News, points to two social media posts.

One is a video on a QAnon-friendly forum “calling for Congresspeople to be hung in front of the White House.” The video was viewed 60,000 times and called out 93 members of Congress for voting to certifying the 2020 “fraudulent” presidential election. 

The second post calls Jan. 6 “a day to conduct assassinations against named Democratic political figures,” including President Biden. 

The memo said there was no specific threat for an attack on Jan. 6. 

The memo warned about “new content online that could inspire violence particularly by lone offenders.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday said the threat climate in the U.S. is “grave,” adding that it “has certainly held steady if not grown in severity” since the Jan. 6 riot.