On Tuesday, according to a Justice Department official, investigations into violent extremism have increased dramatically in recent years, prompting the development of a specialist unit to fight domestic terrorism.
Domestic terrorism investigations have more than doubled since March of 2020, and the new unit will complement the department’s existing approach to prosecuting those crimes, according to Assistant Attorney General Mathew Olsen, who heads the department’s National Security Division. “This is a significant step forward,” Olsen said.
During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he said that “this group of committed lawyers would focus on the domestic terrorist threat, helping to ensure that these cases are handled correctly and efficiently coordinated throughout the Department of Justice and across the country.”
Officials from the Department of Justice said that the increased emphasis on domestic terrorism does not target organizations based on their political leanings, but they did identify citizen militias as one of the most significant risks.
The hearing on Tuesday was part of a persistent drumbeat in Washington that has raised worries about a rising domestic terrorist threat in the aftermath of the riot at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.
According to Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “the rebellion should serve as a wake-up call.” A reminder that America is still faced with an age-old threat that has taken on a new life in the twenty-first century: terrorism from white supremacists, militia members, and other extremists who use violence to achieve their warped goal,” the statement reads.
Durbin repeated Biden, who has warned that right-wing radicals would not be allowed to “stab a dagger into the heart of democracy.”
The danger, according to the government, “emerges from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and networks [whose] racial, ethnic, or religious hate drives them to violence.” Biden presented a comprehensive plan to deal with the issue during the summer.
The danger posed by “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” was designated as a “national threat priority” by the Department of Homeland Security in 2011. The FBI revealed in November that it now has 2,700 ongoing investigations into domestic extremism within its jurisdiction..
In his testimony before the Senate subcommittee, Mr. Olsen said that “the danger presented by domestic terrorism is increasing.” “The number of FBI investigations has more than doubled in the last two years, dating back to March of 2020.”
However, some Republican legislators have expressed worry about the administration’s stance, claiming that the government has turned a blind eye to leftwing violence while using fears of rightwing terrorism to target political opponents and opponents of the administration.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, denounced the assault on the Capitol in his opening comments, but said that little attention had been given to the “almost 600 riots” that occurred before the attack.
According to him, “Last summer, Biden presented a domestic terrorism plan that did not make mention of the 2020 riots, despite the fact that they account for around a fifth to a quarter of the FBI’s current domestic terrorism investigations.” It was almost as if there was no mention of left-wing terrorism at all.”
The FBI’s National Security Branch, represented by Jill Sanborn, executive assistant director, said that agents initiated more than 800 investigations and made more than 250 arrests as a result of demonstrations in cities around the United States in 2020.
While everything is going on, the FBI reports that 725 individuals have been charged in connection with the Capitol incident, with 325 of the charges being felonies.
According to Lora Reis, a senior homeland security research scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation and an expert on “right-wing” extremism, the data demonstrate the administration’s single emphasis on “right-wing” extremism.
According to Ms. Reis, “They’re suddenly paying much greater attention to and punishing the perpetrators of a single day’s disturbance when they hadn’t done so for a year’s worth of riots.”
“Even if they arrested the spring and summer rioters, they were released the same day — there was no bail, and there were no follow-up charges,” she said. However, as of January 6, people who are arrested continue to be held before they can even be brought before a judge. This is not the same as equal justice.”
Mr. Grassley further said that Biden’s plan implied that “partisan policies of gun control and the teaching of critical racial theory were part of the answer,” according to him.
In the wake of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s letter ordering federal law enforcement agencies to pursue parents opposing school board decisions, he is worried that politics will continue to infect the administration’s fight on extremism.
It is “a disgusting technique,” Mr. Grassley said, “to use violent acts to attempt to accomplish unrelated legislative aims.” This undercuts the efforts of our law enforcement personnel to bring the violence in this nation under control.” As a result, it undercuts the broad, nonpartisan denunciation of extreme violence that we should all be bringing to bear. In this case, there can be no exemptions.”
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