domestic terrorism
April 19, 2021

At a ceremony Monday commemorating the 26th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is "pouring its resources into stopping domestic violent extremists before they can attack, prosecuting those who do, and battling the spread of the kind of hate that leads to tragedies like the one we mark here today."

The bombing targeted the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and killed 168 people, including 19 children in a day care center. Domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the bombing in 1997 and executed in 2001. Garland oversaw the bombing investigation and prosecution while working at the Justice Department in the 1990s, and said that even though "many years have passed, the terror perpetrated by people like Timothy McVeigh is still with us."

There has been a renewed focus on domestic extremism in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and in March, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote a report saying white supremacists and militias are the most lethal domestic threat. Often, these extremists "radicalize independently by consuming violent extremist material online and mobilize without direction from a violent extremist organization, making detection and disruption difficult," the report stated. Catherine Garcia

September 24, 2020

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told senators during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that white supremacists are the "most persistent and lethal" internal threat the United States is facing.

Wolf, who has been acting head of DHS since November, said overall, the deadliest threats to the U.S. are pandemics, national disasters, and foreign adversaries, and the government "cannot ignore" anti-fascist protesters.

Earlier this month, a DHS whistleblower named Brian Murphy said Wolf instructed him to stop providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States. Murphy also alleged that Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Ken Cuccinelli told him to change an assessment's section on white supremacy to make "the threat appear less severe" and to add information "on the prominence of violent 'left-wing' groups." Murphy said in both cases, he did not comply.

Wolf denied the accusations, calling them "patently false." Catherine Garcia

August 14, 2019

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) is hoping to close a loophole that prevents federal authorities from specifically punishing domestic terrorism, in the wake of recent mass shootings in El Paso and Gilroy, which are being treated by investigators as domestic terrorism cases.

McSally says such violence needs to be called and treated under the law in the same way as "other forms of terrorism." The senator, an Air Force veteran, said that "as someone who fought terrorism overseas, I understand the importance of calling out terrorism wherever it is."

The bill would criminalize politically motivated violence, recognize victims of terrorism, and allow federal authorities to charge suspects with acts of domestic violence. Politico reports it's likely to garner "significant co-sponsors," though USA Today adds it could also face opposition from civil liberties groups.

While FBI Director Christopher Wray has said that the agency is "aggressively" fighting domestic terrorism, McSally's bill is an example of what many lawmakers argue could help fight and prevent domestic terror. But Paul Charlton, a defense attorney and former U.S. attorney for Arizona, said that if lawmakers really want to enact change they should focus less on semantics — he said the lack of domestic terrorism law does not hinder the ability to prosecute such cases — and more on "sentencing enhancements for this kind of offense." Tim O'Donnell

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