Justice Department created new office to focus on domestic terrorists

The Justice Department said this week that it has created a new office which would on homegrown extremists. Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin announced the move on Wednesday. He said the new office, the Domestic Terrorism Counsel, will be the main point of contact for federal prosecutors working on domestic terrorism cases. Carlin said the new office was created “in recognition of a growing number of potential domestic terrorism matters around the United States.” Following the 9/11 attacks, U.S. law enforcement had shifted its attention, and the allocation of law enforcement and intelligence resources, from domestic to foreign terrorism. The result, security experts say, was that federal authorities had lost sight of domestic extremists. “Looking back over the past few years, it is clear that domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists remain a real and present danger to the United States. We recognize that, over the past few years, more people have died in this country in attacks by domestic extremists than in attacks associated with international terrorist groups,” Carlin said.

 

The Justice Department said this week that it has created a new office which would on homegrown extremists. Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin announced the move on Wednesday in a talk at a terrorism seminar at George Washington University. He said the new office, the Domestic Terrorism Counsel, will be the main point of contact for federal prosecutors working on domestic terrorism cases.

Carlin said the new office was created “in recognition of a growing number of potential domestic terrorism matters around the United States.”

The announcement dove-tails with findings earlier this year by the Kansas City Star that following the 9/11 attacks, U.S. law enforcement had shifted its attention, and the allocation of law enforcement and intelligence resources, from domestic to foreign terrorism. The result, the Star’s investigation found, was that federal authorities had lost sight of domestic extremists.

The Star notes that that lack of focus, funding, and information-sharing across disparate agencies occurred at a time when violence was metastasizing, leading to fatal consequences for unsuspecting victims around the country. In his presentation on Wednesday, Carlin said the Domestic Terrorism Counsel  would coordinate domestic terrorism cases and have an important role in identifying trends and exploring ways to disrupt the threats.

Carlin, who runs the Justice Department’s national security division, said intelligence and law enforcement agencies had been mainly focused on Islamic extremists in recent years. “Much attention has focused on those inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) message of hate and violence spreading worldwide and reaching homes here in America through the group’s unprecedented social media recruitment efforts,” he said. “And rightly so.”

He said, however, that “Looking back over the past few years, it is clear that domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists remain a real and present danger to the United States. We recognize that, over the past few years, more people have died in this country in attacks by domestic extremists than in attacks associated with international terrorist groups.”

A recent analysis by the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, showed that since 9/11, terrorists motivated by extreme anti-government views or virulent neo-Nazi/anti-Semitic beliefs have killed more people in the United States than jihadist terrorists motivated by Islamist ideology.

study released in June found that despite public perception about the threat posed by Islamist extremists, law enforcement officers are more concerned about threat posed homegrown terrorists. In addition, the study, published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University, found that the violence associated with foreign-inspired extremists has remained low in comparison to violence perpetrated by domestic terrorism.

The Star’s report in April found that 52 people had been killed in attackssince 9/11 by domestic extremists, including white nationalists, militias, and sovereign citizens. The Star’s list uses the definition of domestic terrorism employed by the FBI, which does not include attacks on American soil by those who live here but are inspired by violent jihadist groups abroad (the Charleston, South Carolina attack and a shooting rampage in a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater in July brought that total to 63).

Carlin said that racial hatred motivates many of the acts committed by violent extremists.

“Among domestic extremist movements active in the United States, white supremacists are the most violent,” he said. “The Charleston shooter, who had a manifesto laying out a racist worldview, is just one example. His actions followed earlier deadly shooting sprees by white supremacists in Kansas, Wisconsin and elsewhere.”

Carlin added that law enforcement agencies also are concerned about violence associated with anti-government groups, particularly the growth of the sovereign citizen movement. Adherents to the sovereign citizen ideology believe the government is corrupt and out of control; therefore, they do not recognize local, state or federal authority.

Carlin said authorities were seeing two traits emerge among both foreign and domestic extremists: the prevalence of “lone wolf” attacks and an increase in the number of those who are inspired to commit violence and spread their hate over the Internet and through social media.

Carlin said the new office will work closely with the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, a task force originally created by the Justice Department in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing.

The group disbanded in the aftermath of 9/11, but in April, the month of the twentieth anniversary of the bombing, the Justice Department revived the group.

Daryl Johnson, a former senior analyst with the Department of Homeland Security who was criticized in 2009 for writing a report warning that there could be a surge in violence committed by domestic extremists, welcomed the announcement about the new office.

Johnson told the Star that when he was at Homeland Security, he worked with the Justice Department’s domestic terrorism coordinator to launch meetings in 2007 with law enforcement agencies to discuss domestic terrorism issues.

“We got everybody together, went down to Justice, had a meeting with them,” Johnson said. “But it was mainly exchanging business cards between Homeland Security, FBI, the marshal’s service and park police. And everybody talked about what we might want to do in the future.”

They decided to meet regularly, he said. But the group disbanded after the second meeting because of a lack of interest.

“This sounds like the same thing, just renamed and repackaged,” Johnson said. Still, he said, “I’m optimistic that it’s a move in the right direction. So I’m holding out hope that it’s a sincere effort and will do something positive.”

 

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.