Posted on June 16, 2021

Biden’s Domestic Terrorism Strategy Details Unprecedented Focus on Homegrown Threats

Hannah Allam and Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, June 15, 2021

The White House on Tuesday released a first national strategy devoted solely to fighting domestic terrorism after more than two decades of successive administrations focusing almost exclusively on the militant Islamist threat.

The strategy comes after a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol and a resurgence in far-right violent extremism that the Trump administration — with rare exceptions — was loath to acknowledge.


The 32-page strategy seeks to coordinate efforts across the government in law enforcement and prevention, some of which were already underway. It calls for new spending at the Justice Department and FBI to hire analysts, investigators and prosecutors; greater information-sharing between the federal government and state and local partners as well as with tech companies; and addressing the factors contributing to the problem, such as systemic racism.


The plan gives the White House imprimatur to a shift in counterterrorism priorities that began in recent years in response to a rise in deadly hate-fueled attacks and picked up momentum after the stunning Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol. {snip}


After “the myopia” of the past decade or so in which the rising domestic threat was ignored, just naming domestic terrorism as a top priority is “groundbreaking,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, who runs the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University.

Although the document zooms in on anti-government and white supremacist extremists — the main drivers of domestic terrorism attacks — officials emphasized that the strategy is “agnostic as to political ideology.”

Conservative media outlets have portrayed the crackdown on domestic terrorism as the selective targeting of “patriots” while violent actors aligned with causes on the left get a pass.

“We are focused on violence, not on ideology,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a live-streamed address from the Justice Department on Tuesday. {snip}

Garland said the number of domestic terrorism cases this year “increased significantly” and he predicted a continuation of violence, singling out the risks from white supremacists and self-styled militias. He said the Justice Department is seeking more than $100 million in new spending to address the threat by hiring more prosecutors and expanding training, among other measures.

The idea, Garland said, is a coordinated effort across government agencies. He said the State Department, along with the Treasury Department, would examine transnational issues and determine whether they have the authority to designate some international violent groups as terrorist organizations. At the Department of Homeland Security, officials will expand intelligence sharing and increase grant funding for local partners working on prevention, with a special emphasis on the technology, which Garland said “has amplified and enabled transnational elements of the threat.”


Informing the strategy is a March assessment by the intelligence community that domestic violent extremism poses an “elevated threat” to the United States. That extremism was fueled by bias against minority communities and perceived government overreach, it said. {snip}


Miller-Idriss said the steps outlined in the strategy sound encouraging, especially an effort to prevent radicalization by addressing broader societal problems and by encouraging media literacy.

“This brings us in line with what other countries are doing overseas: Understanding you can’t tackle domestic extremism by only paying attention to the fringe,” she said. “You also have to pay attention to what’s happening in the mainstream.”