U.S. Justice Department forming unit to counter domestic terrorism

The crest of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew KellyRegister now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comWASHINGTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department is creating a new unit to counter domestic terrorism following the 2021 U.S. Capitol attack, a…

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U.S. Justice Department forming unit to counter domestic terrorism

The crest of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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WASHINGTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department is creating a new unit to counter domestic terrorism following the 2021 U.S. Capitol attack, a senior official said on Tuesday, as it faces a growing threat from white supremacists and anti-government activists.

The move reflects a growing realization by U.S. national security officials that domestic extremists represent a threat on par with that posed by foreign militant groups such as Islamic State.

“We face an elevated threat from domestic violent extremists – that is, individuals in the United States who seek to commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of domestic social or political goals,” Matthew Olsen, the assistant attorney general of the department’s National Security Division, told a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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“We have seen a growing threat from those who are motivated by racial animus, as well as those who ascribe to extremist anti-government and anti-authority ideologies,” Olsen added.

Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers last May that domestic violent extremist groups, particularly white supremacists, pose a growing threat to the United States.

Olsen said the new unit will be part of the National Security Division and will work to “ensure that these cases are properly handled and effectively coordinated” across the department and around the country.

The Justice Department has brought criminal charges against more than 725 people stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in which then-President Donald Trump’s supporters sought to stop Congress from certifying his loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Some of the defendants are members or associated with far-right groups including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters.

A top FBI official told Congress in November that the bureau was conducting around 2,700 investigations related to domestic violent extremism.

Jill Sanborn, the executive assistant director for the FBI’s National Security Branch, told lawmakers on Tuesday the bureau is particularly concerned about violent extremists motivated by racial hatred and those who are anti-government.

“Racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists advocating for the superiority of the white race and anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists … present the most lethal threat,” she testified.

She added that extremists motivated by racial and ethnic hatred are “most likely to conduct mass casualty attacks against civilians” while militias are more prone to target law enforcement or government employees.

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Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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One thought on “U.S. Justice Department forming unit to counter domestic terrorism

  1. Aditya avatar
    ยท January 11, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    I find the reference to Jan 6th funny. It tells me this is political theater and not a real attempt to stop domestic terrorism at all.

    And honestly, where's the domestic terrorism? The closest thing I can think of was the Vegas shooting, not known to be ideologically motivated. Before that it was the Boston marathon, which was foreign nationals, before that 9/11, which was foreign actors. And before that, Oklahoma city…

    January 6th? Really? Let's get real for a second on this one, partisans on the left claim this was terrorism when it wasn't and partisans on the right claim BLM protests are terrorism when they aren't. These are all protests that got a little out of hand. Do we really want a task force to deal with rowdy protests and prosecute them the same as the Boston bomber? What kind of country do you want to live in?