On his first day in office, US President Joe Biden tasked the intelligence community and other relevant departments with assessing the risks of domestic terrorism and offering ideas for designing a national strategy to combat extremist groups.
A report issued last March concluded that racially and ethnically motivated extremists – such as white supremacists and those associated with violent militias – are considered the most serious threats to the American homeland. Read also Extremists, lone wolves and violent militias.. Secret intelligence report reveals domestic terrorism in the United States Newsweek: America’s white racism problem risks fueling the next wave of global terrorism Before the trial of Floyd’s killer, thousands of Americans demand justice and confront racism US official: We do not have laws against domestic terrorism
The new strategy represents a major break with the administration of former President Donald Trump, which equated “white supremacist” groups and their militias with the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
What is the new strategy?
The strategy – which came in 32 pages – seeks to coordinate efforts horizontally between several government agencies such as the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security, and vertically through coordination between federal and local law enforcement agencies at the state and county levels, as the strategy called for. Working to increase information exchange between government agencies, technology companies and social media platforms.
The new strategy reflects a clear US shift in re-arranging counter-terrorism priorities, whose hate-fuelled incidents have increased in recent years and reached a very dangerous level with the storming of white extremists, supporters of former President Donald Trump, on the Capitol on January 6.
Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, indicated last week – before a congressional hearing – that his office made nearly 500 arrests related to the Capitol attack, and said that the total number of investigations into domestic terrorism cases rose to two thousand during the first five months of 2021, in At the time, the total number of investigations in 2020 did not exceed 1,400 investigations.
The new strategy is based on 4 main pillars:
- Understanding, analyzing, and sharing information related to domestic terrorism at the federal, state, and county levels, and the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation established a new system for tracking domestic terrorism cases throughout the United States.
- Allocate a proposed budget of $77 million to support the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security to prevent domestic terrorism and to prevent the recruitment and mobilization of extremist elements, by working with local NGOs to help them become more flexible so as to impede the recruitment of new extremists. The strategy also includes redoubling efforts to counter the recruitment of domestic terrorists on the Internet by increasing the exchange of information with the technology sector.
- Allocating $100 million from Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget to ensure that federal agencies have the resources to consider whether new legislative powers are appropriate to balance safety and protect civil liberties.
- Countering long-term contributors to domestic terrorism by protecting Americans from exposure to racial and religious hate speech, and preventing the purchase of firearms from individuals who intend to commit domestic terrorist acts.
The release of the strategy was announced by Merrick Garland, the Minister of Justice, who said, “The threat of domestic violent extremism is also rapidly evolving, and we work to monitor actors who are motivated by a range of violent drivers, sometimes fueled and developed by a mixture of violent ideologies.”
The strategy referred to “ideological neutrality”, which stated that it meant that the strategy’s tools would deal with “local terrorists based on actions, facts and law, and would not be based on any ideology or ideological affiliations of terrorists,” indicating that the new strategy would not care about the suspects’ beliefs, but rather would focus on their actual actions and threats.
The strategy noted that homegrown terrorists have “different motives, and many focus on violence against the same or segments of American society including people of color, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, other religious minorities, women, girls, or gays.” sexually, and others.
Biden administration officials told reporters that while this approach is ideologically neutral, “we will build on the previous assessment” that white supremacists and anti-government militias pose the most serious threat at this point.
The role of the Pentagon
Ongoing investigations about the storming of the “Capitol” revealed a high percentage of extremist supporters of the white race among the army personnel. The new strategy indicated the need to follow accurate procedures that do not allow extremists to be accepted by the army or police forces, and the strategy called for funding examination and review processes for applicants to join the army through constitutional and legal procedures.
The strategy notes the need to review applications for sensitive positions in the federal government to ensure that domestic terrorists are not employed in the military or law enforcement and to improve vetting processes.
Preserving constitutional rights
“This national strategy to combat domestic terrorism lays out a comprehensive approach to addressing the threat while preserving enduring American civil rights and civil liberties,” Biden said on the opening front of the strategy report.
A presidential administration official noted – in a press briefing – that since January 20, “the president has focused on addressing the growing threat of domestic terrorism, and equally focused on ensuring that our efforts to confront it are in the context of supporting civil rights and civil liberties.”