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Tag: Homeland Security

FBI, Homeland Security Warn of Potential Plot to Seize Control of Capitol Today

U.S. Capitol

By Steve Neavling

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned that domestic extremists “discussed plans to take control of the U.S. Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers on or about March 4,” the date that far-right conspiracy theorists believe former President Trump will be sworn in for a second term. 

The agencies sent a joint intelligence bulletin, titled “National Capitol Region Remains Attractive Target for Domestic Violent Extremists,” to local and state law enforcement agencies late Tuesday, NBC News first reported.

After the U.S. Capitol Police issued a similar warning, House leaders canceled Thursday’s legislative session. The Senate still plans to meet.

Extremists, emboldened by the Jan. 6 insurrection, may “exploit public gatherings either formally organized or spontaneous to engage in violence,” the memo states. 

According to adherents of QAnon, a right-wing conspiracy group that believes a secret cabal of Satan worshipers is running a global child sex-trafficking ring, former President Trump will be sworn in for a second term for the “true Inauguration Day” on March 4. 

Homeland Security Special Agent Charged with Bribery for Allegedly Helping Organized Crime Figure

By Steve Neavling

A former Homeland Security special agent is accused of accepting at least $122,000 and other gifts to help an organized crime figure evade authorities. 

Felix Cisneros Jr., 46, was arrested Tuesday and charged with conspiracy to commit bribery of a public official, bribery and 26 counts of money laundering. 

Between 2015 and 2016, while he was a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, Cisneros is accused of accepting cash, checks, private jet travel, luxury hotel stays and meals. In exchange for the bribes, Cisneros used highly restricted law enforcement data bases to keep the crime figure informed about investigations, according to a Justice Department news release.

Cisneros also is accused of removing information about a German citizen with a criminal record from a government database to help him enter the country. In addition, Cisneros allegedly tried to help get a relative of the crime figure into the U.S. from Armenia. 

Cisneros also is accused of warning the crime figure about law enforcement actions. 

The crime figure wasn’t identified in the indictment. 

Cisneros faces up 20 years in prison. 

The FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation and Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General continue to investigate. 

The case is behind handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruth C. Pinkel of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section. 

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.

Senate Confirms Mayorkas As Homeland Security Secretary

Alejandro Mayorkas is sworn in as DHS secretary. Photo via DHS.

By Steve Neavling

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas as President Biden’s homeland security secretary, making him the first immigrant and Latino to lead the department.

He was confirmed by a 56-43 vote, with strong opposition from Republicans. 

Mayoraks is the first confirmed secretary in nearly two years.

About two weeks ago, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, blocked the fast-track confirmation process for Mayorkas, almost dashing Biden’s hopes for a quick confirmation. But a week later, the Senate Homeland Security Committee advanced his nomination to a full vote in Congress.

Mayorkas, 61 served as deputy homeland security secretary from 2013 to 2016 under President Obama and played a prominent role in the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). A former U.S. attorney in California, Mayorkas also served as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during Obama’s first term.  

Born in Cuba, Mayorkas and her family arrived as refugees in the 1960s, settling in Southern California. His mother was a Holocaust survivor. Mayorkas graduated from the University of California-Berkeley and earned a law degree from Loyola Law School. 

At his confirmation hearing, Mayorakas pledged to combat homegrown domestic extremists, which has become an increasing national security threat. 

“The threat of domestic extremism is one of the greatest challenges that the Department of Homeland Security confronts,” Mayorkas said at the hearing, calling the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol “horrifying.”

Homeland Security Warns of Threats from Domestic Violent Extremists

By Steve Neavling

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday warned in a bulletin of the potential for violence from domestic extremists following the U.S. Capitol siege. 

The department didn’t mention specific threats but described “a heightened threat environment across the United States, which DHS believes will persist in the weeks following the successful Presidential Inauguration.”

“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said.

The bulletin added that extremists may be “emboldened” by the Capitol riot. 

The motivation for future violence includes “anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force.”

It added that some violent extremists are motivated by “long-standing racial and ethnic tension,” such as immigration issues. The bulletin cited the 2019 mass shooting at a Wall Mart in El Paso, Texas, that left 23 people dead. 

More than 400 suspects in the Capitol riots have been identified, and about 135 have been arrested. At least 134 police officers were assaulted and injured during the siege.

Mayorkas Moves Closer to Becoming Confirmed Homeland Security Secretary

Alejandro Mayorkas

By Steve Neavling

Alejandro Mayorkas, President Biden’s nomination to lead the Department of Homeland Security, moved closer to taking the helm. 

The Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday advanced his nomination to a full vote in Congress. 

“Our nation is facing historic security challenges right now, from the recent attack on our capital, two major cyber breaches of our federal agencies, and a pandemic that continues to take the lives of thousands of Americans every day,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said, Roll Call reports. “These are serious challenges, and we need steady, qualified and experienced leaders at DHS.”

The panel approved his nomination with a 7-4 vote. Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah joined Democrats in supporting the nomination. Last week, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, blocked the fast-track confirmation process for Mayorkas, potentially dashing Biden’s hopes for a quick confirmation.

Portman said it’s important to have a confirmed Homeland Security secretary to address numerous potential threats facing the nation. 

“We’ve got the massive cyber security attack that we aren’t talking about much because it seems like everything else has become more important, but that probably is the most significant national security threat we’ve had in this country in years,” Portman said. 

Mayorkas, 61, is poised to become the first immigrant and Hispanic to lead the department. 

Mayorkas served as deputy homeland security secretary from 2013 to 2016 under President Obama. A former U.S. attorney in California, Mayorkas also served as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during Obama’s first term.  

Born in Cuba, Mayorkas and her family arrived as refugees in the 1960s, settling in Southern California. His mother was a Holocaust survivor. Mayorkas graduated from the University of California-Berkeley and earned a law degree from Loyola Law School. 

Alejandro Mayorkas Will Pledge to Thwart Future Assaults on U.S. Institutions

Alejandro Mayorkas

By Steve Neavling

Alejandro Mayorkas, who is President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, plans to tell lawmakers today that one of his top priorities is preventing attacks similar to the Capitol siege, POLITICO reports.

Mayorkas, 61, is to make the pledge during his appearance before the Senate Homeland Security Committee.  

“If I should have the honor of being confirmed, I will do everything I can to ensure that the tragic loss of life, the assault on law enforcement, the desecration of the building that stands as one of the three pillars of our democracy, and the terror felt by you, your colleagues, staff, and everyone present, will not happen again,” Mayorkas, 61, plans to tell lawmakers in his opening statement.

Senate Democrats are hoping to get Mayorkas confirmed as early as this week because of the national security threats. 

Mayorkas is poised to become the first immigrant and Hispanic to lead the department. 

Mayorkas served as deputy homeland security secretary from 2013 to 2016 under President Obama. A former U.S. attorney in California, Mayorkas also served as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during Obama’s first term. 

Born in Cuba, Mayorkas and her family arrived as refugees in the 1960s, settling in Southern California. His mother was a Holocaust survivor. Mayorkas graduated from the University of California-Berkeley and earned a law degree from Loyola Law School. 

“The love for this country that I learned from my parents made the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol all the more horrifying,” Mayorkas plans to tell senators.

Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf Resigns, Citing ‘Recent Events’

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf’s interview with Axios.

By Steve Neavling

Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced his resignation Monday as federal authorities grapple with threats of violence ahead of Inauguration Day.

Wolf, who took the helm in November 2019, will continue as under secretary for policy. 

In a written message to DHS employees, Wolf said he is resigning because of “recent events,” citing court challenges over the legality of his appointment, The Associated Press reports.

“Unfortunately, this action is warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as Acting Secretary,” Wolf wrote. “These events and concerns increasingly serve to divert attention and resources away from the important work of the Department in this critical time of a transition of power.”

Wolf defended his leadership, saying the department increased border security and safeguarded the 2020 election. 

“I leave knowing that the Department has positioned itself for an orderly and smooth transition to President-elect Biden’s DHS team,” he wrote. “Welcome them, educate them, and learn from them. They are your leaders for the next four years — a time which undoubtedly will be full of challenges and opportunities to show the American public the value of DHS and why it is worth the investment.”

Wolf replaced acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who resigned after leading the agency for about six months. Wolf had served as chief of staff under Kirstjen Nielsen, who was the last Homeland Security secretary to be confirmed by the Senate. She resigned in April 2019.

Leading Homeland Security has been no easy task because Trump has demanded a secretary whose focus is clearly on immigration, which is only one part of the multi-faceted agency.

President elect-Joe Biden has nominated Alejandro Mayorkas to become the first immigrant and Hispanic to lead Homeland Security.