The Biden administration has announced a domestic terrorism strategy that it says will focus on white supremacists and anti-government extremists who use violence to achieve their goals.
President Joe Biden came into office vowing to revamp America’s domestic terrorism rules in the aftermath of the Capitol incursion. But the result, announced Tuesday, has some concerned.
Stewart Baker, a Homeland Security lawyer in the administration of former President George W. Bush, said Biden’s approach has him “deeply uneasy.”
“The administration intends to deploy the language and tools of counterterrorism against people on the far right of the U.S. political spectrum,” he told NBC News.
“Those people are certainly not all innocents. Some of them have committed mass murder, killings of federal officers and the like. But it’s hard to say that such violence has been the signature of an organization or, really, of more than one or two individuals whose beliefs border on mental illness. Preventing and punishing such violence is what law enforcement tools are for,” he said.
Counterterrorism strategies, he said, should focus on the “much more dangerous forms of terrorism we’ve seen from ISIS and al-Qaida.”
Biden’s strategy is based on his administration’s assessment that “the two most lethal elements of today’s domestic terrorism threat are (1) racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists who advocate for the superiority of the white race and (2) anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, such as militia violent extremists,” according to a White House fact sheet.
The strategy calls for spending millions to beef up the ability of local governments to prevent or respond to domestic terrorism. Some groups will come in for extra attention.
“The Department of Defense (DOD) is incorporating training for servicemembers separating or retiring from the military on potential targeting of those with military training by violent extremist actors,” the fact sheet said.
The fact sheet also said that the federal government “is improving employee screening to enhance methods for identifying domestic terrorists who might pose insider threats. The Office of Personnel Management will consider updates to the forms used to apply for sensitive roles in the Federal Government that could assist investigators in identifying potential domestic terrorism threats.”
Aggressive online monitoring is also in the cards.
The fact sheet said the federal government will “augment its efforts to address online terrorist recruitment and mobilization to violence by domestic terrorists through increased information sharing with the technology sector and the creation of innovative ways to foster digital literacy and build resilience to recruitment and mobilization.”
“The U.S. Government will also work to find ways to counter the polarization often fueled by disinformation, misinformation, and dangerous conspiracy theories online, supporting an information environment that fosters healthy democratic discourse,” the fact sheet said.
Specific details were not given.
The strategy said the federal officials have not yet decided whether they want a new law to expand federal powers to fight groups it believes contribute to domestic terrorism.
However, the fact sheet said anyone who has come under federal scrutiny can expect more of the same.
“Every component of the government has a role to play in rooting out racism and bigotry and advancing equity for all Americans. The U.S. Government, in close partnership with civil society, will address the long-term contributors that are responsible for much of today’s domestic terrorism,” the fact sheet said.
“This includes reducing and protecting Americans from racial, ethnic, and religious hatred, and stemming the flow of firearms to individuals intending to commit acts of domestic terrorism. We will work to ensure that law enforcement operates without bias in countering domestic terrorism and provides for the public safety of all Americans,” it said.
“What we are focused on is violence,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told NBC. “The incitement of violence, the drive to violence, the commission of violent acts.”
“We are not targeting speech. We are not attacking speech,” Mayorkas said.
“We are working with the social media companies to be able to better identify the false narratives, to be able to identify disinformation and misinformation and really educate the American public.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.