Feds Step up Terrorist Recruitment Fight in U.S.

Josh Gerstein, Politico, September 15, 2014

The U.S. Government is planning to step up its fight against recruiting of Americans by groups like the Islamic State in the Iraq and the Levant, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday.

In a video message posted on the Justice Department’s website, Holder said a series of cities “across the nation” will be be chosen to participate in a pilot program that will involve an extra effort to combat the message of groups like ISIL and to intervene with those susceptible to that message before they take action.

“These programs will bring together community representatives, public safety officials, religious leaders, and United States Attorneys to improve local engagement; to counter violent extremism; and–ultimately–to build a broad network of community partnerships to keep our nation safe,” Holder said. “Under President Obama’s leadership, along with our interagency affiliates, we will work closely with community representatives to develop comprehensive local strategies, to raise awareness about important issues, to share information on best practices, and to expand and improve training in every area of the country. . . . Ultimately, the pilot programs will enable us to develop more effective–and more inclusive–ways to help build the more just, secure, and free society that all Americans deserve.”

A Justice Department official said the specific communities participating in the new effort will not be announced until next month. {snip}

The same official said the new pilot program is aimed at broadening current outreach efforts to involve more people from outside the ranks of law enforcement. “This new initiative will supplement existing efforts by engaging the resources and expertise available from a range of social service providers including education administrators, mental health professionals, and religious leaders to provide more robust support and help facilitate community-led interventions,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Many leaders in the Muslim community are reluctant to work with prosecutors because of deep concern over Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operations used to target potential terrorists. However, efforts in the U.S. to use means other than traditional law enforcement to intervene with individuals susceptible to extremist messages have been few, due to concerns about civil liberties as well as fears about what could happen if that kind of intervention failed in a specific case.

Holder’s statement Monday seemed to acknowledge some of those concerns. While the outreach efforts are expected to focus primarily on communities with large Muslim populations, his video message made no reference to the religion aside from his use of the acronym for the terrorist group which has grabbed attention for its brutal tactics assembling territory across Syria and Iraq.

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