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Tag: domestic terrorism

FBI, Homeland Security Warn about Potential Violence Targeting Faith-Based Communities

By Steve Neavling

Faith-based communities are at risk of further violence, the FBI and Homeland Security said in a letter Monday, following a hostage standoff at a Texas synagogue over the weekend. 

“Faith based communities have and will likely continue to be targets of violence by both domestic violent extremists and those inspired by foreign terrorists,” the letter from Paul Abbate, FBI deputy director, and John D. Cohen, the top intelligence official at DHS, says, CNN reports.

According to the letter, online forums known to host domestic violence extremists have discussed Jewish targets connected to COVID-19 conspiracy theories, election fraud lies, and “even the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and resettlement of Afghans to the United States.”

The letter added that the global pandemic and the growing idealogical divide in the U.S. could result in violence. 

“Foreign influence actors have also promoted narratives online intended to sow discord in the U.S. and foreign terrorist groups continue to encourage followers to conduct attacks and use social media to incite violence,” the letter states.

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. 

Trump Conspiracy Theory Could Fuel Violence, Homeland Security Warns

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling

Homeland Security officials are worried that the conspiracy theory claiming Donald Trump will be reinstated as president could fuel violence. 

John Cohen, the agency’s top counterterrorism official, discussed the concerns with members of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, POLITICO reports.

Cohen told members of Congress that the agency is monitoring extremist communities on social media.   

Among the concerns is that the conspiracy theory falsely suggests the election was rigged. 

The conspiracy theory has been promoted by Mike Lindell, the pillow magnate and Trump devotee. Reporters for The New York Times and National Review also indicated Trump believed the conspiracy theory.

After the POLITICO story was published, a DHS spokesperson said, “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is focused on the nexus between violence and extremist ideologies, as well as hateful and false narratives. DHS is enhancing its ability to prevent acts of violence inspired by disinformation, conspiracy theories, and extremist narratives spread through social media and other online platforms.”

FBI Agents Association Calls for Making Domestic Terrorism a Federal Crime

By Steve Neavling

The FBI Agents Association is calling on the Biden administration to make domestic terrorism a federal crime. 

The group, which represents more than 14,000 active and former special agents, applauded the administration for launching a new strategy to combat terrorism. 

But, the group said, the plan does not include an enforceable domestic terrorism statue, Axios reports.

Domestic terrorism is currently not a federal criminal offense, though it is defined under federal law. 

“As the plan points out, ‘domestic terrorism’ is defined by federal law,” the FBI Agents Association said in a statement. “Despite this definition, domestic terrorism is not a federal crime with a penalty. Penalties are required for the definition to be an effective deterrent for would-be perpetrators and an effective tool for law enforcement.”

Following the deadly Jan. 6 riot, Congress has considered making domestic terroism a federal offense. But some members of Congress worry an enforceable domestic terrorism law could be used to criminalize political dissent. 

“Making domestic terrorism a federal crime would not result in the targeting of specific ideas or groups,” the FBI Agents Association countered. “Rather, it would target acts of violence that have no place in the political discourse secured by our Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

Homeland Security to Review Threat of White Supremacy, Extremism within Its Ranks

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

By Steve Neavling

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced it’s launching an internal review to asses the risks of white supremacy and extremism within the federal agency.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayoraks said the review is intended to prevent, detect and respond to domestic threats within its ranks, The New York Times reports.

“We recognize that domestic violent extremism and the ideology, the extremist ideologies that spew it, are prevalent,” Mayorkas said. “We have a responsibility, given what we do, to ensure that that pernicious influence does not exist in our department.”

The announcement is part of the Biden administration’s broader effort to weed out extremist ideology in the federal government. 

As part of the review, senior officials will explore the prevalence of extremism in its agencies, which include Border Patrol, ICE and the Secret Service. 

Mayorkas described domestic extremists as “the most lethal and persistent terrorism-relate threat to our country today” in a memo to all department employees on Monday. 

Merrick Garland Remembers Oklahoma City Bombing on 26th Anniversary

Attorney General Merrick Garland. (Photo: DOJ)

Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged to crack down on domestic violent extremists in a speech commemorating the 26th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. 

Garland, who led the prosecution of bomber Timothy McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols, said the same brand of domestic extremism still exists. 

“Although many years have passed, the terror perpetrated by people like Timothy McVeigh is still with us,” Garland said at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. “The Department of Justice is pouring its resources into stopping domestic violent extremists before they can attack, prosecuting those who do, and battling the spread of the kind of hate that leads to tragedies like the one we mark here today.”

Garland spoke about white supremacy during his confirmation hearing earlier this year, citing the Oklahoma City bombing. 

“I supervised the prosecution of the perpetrators of the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, who sought to spark a revolution that would topple the Federal Government,” Garland told lawmakers in February. “If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”

Read Garland’s full speech here.

Wray to Testify Before Senate Judiciary Committee about Capitol Attack, Domestic Extremists

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee.

By Steve Neavling

FBI Director Christopher Wray is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, and senators are expected to grill him about the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, as well as the rising threat of domestic terrorism. 

The committee hearing marks his first testimony since the insurrection, which led to the deaths of at least five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

The FBI has come under fire for missing warning signs before the riot. 

Since the attack, the FBI has arrested more than 280 people accused of participating in the attack. 

Wray also is expected to be asked about the rising threat from white nationalists and other violent domestic extremists. 

During Wray’s last testimony before a congressional committee in September, he spoke about domestic extremists. 

“Trends may shift, but the underlying drivers for domestic violent extremism – such as perceptions of government or law enforcement overreach, sociopolitical conditions, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny, and reactions to legislative actions – remain constant,” Wray said told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Biden’s Homeland Security to Combat Domestic Violence Extremism with New Funds

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

The Biden administration plans to boost funding from the Department of Homeland Security to help study and prevent the rise of domestic violence extremism. 

“We have successfully advocated for additional funds. We intend to keep building on preventing domestic terrorism departmentwide,” a DHS official told NBC News.

The DHS’s Office of Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention provides funding for projects aimed at combating domestic extremism. The Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol underscores the threats from rising extremism. 

Under the Trump adminstatoin, the office provided $500,000 to allow American University to study the “growing threat of violent white supremacist extremist disinformation.” But the Trump administration also canceled a grant aimed at studying neo-Nazis. 

The Trump administration has been accused of ignoring the threats of domestic terrorism, a term that DHS didn’t use under Trump, according to Elizabeth Neumann, the former DHS’ assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention.

“We did expand domestic terrorism prevention under Trump, but when it came to questions of how we could change the domestic terrorism statute to charge people more easily, there were no adults at the White House who were willing to go there, nor was anyone willing to define the threat,” Neumann said.

Biden’s DHS isn’t shying away domestic violent extremism. 

“Domestic violent extremism poses one of the gravest threats to our homeland, and Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas has made clear that combatting it is a top priority. Our primary responsibility is to protect the safety and security of the American people, which means taking actions to prevent violence before it occurs,” a DHS spokesperson said.