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National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism Part 1 (p. 1 - 14)

We begin these week's discussion of federal law enforcement by linking it back with counterterrorism. This strategy was published by the Biden Administration back in June to outline the approach for preventing and responding to domestic extremism. Read the first half of the document of the pdf here:


"Domestic terrorism is not a new threat in the United States. It has, over centuries, taken many American lives and spilled much American blood – especially in communities deliberately and viciously targeted on the basis of hatred and bigotry. After the Civil War, for example, the Ku Klux Klan waged a campaign of terror to intimidate Black voters and their white supporters and deprive them of political power, killing and injuring untold numbers of Americans.

The Klan and other white supremacists continued to terrorize Black Americans and other minorities in the decades that followed. In recent years, we have seen a resurgence of this and related threats in one horrific incident after another: the shooting and killing of 23 people at a retail store in El Paso; the vehicular killing of a peaceful protestor in Charlottesville; the shooting and killing of three people at a garlic festival in Gilroy; the arson committed at a mosque in Victoria, Texas; the appalling rise in violence and xenophobia directed against Asian Americans; the surge in anti–Semitism; and more. Domestic terrorist attacks in the United States also have been committed frequently by those opposing our government institutions. In 1995, in the largest single act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, an anti–government violent extremist detonated a bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people – including 19 children – and injuring hundreds of others. In 2016, an anti–authority violent extremist ambushed, shot, and killed five police officers in Dallas. In 2017, a lone gunman wounded four people at a congressional baseball practice. And just months ago, on January 6, 2021, Americans witnessed an unprecedented attack against a core institution of our democracy: the U.S. Congress.

Some aspects of the Federal Government’s response also are not new. During Reconstruction, the U.S. Department of Justice was created and immediately focused on prosecuting and convicting hundreds of Klan members in connection with their vicious campaign of domestic terrorism. In the 1980s, Joint Terrorism Task Forces, now a nationwide staple of Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement cooperation against all forms of terrorism, were created to maximize information sharing and address the full range of terrorism threats, both domestic and international. While domestic terrorism’s roots and elements of our response may be longstanding, domestic terrorism is both persistent and evolving – and, according to the U.S. Intelligence Community and law enforcement, “elevated” in the threat it now poses. This National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism provides an overarching approach to address today’s manifestation of the domestic terrorism threat as well as the evolving forms that the threat may take in the years ahead.

The intelligence and law enforcement communities have articulated publicly the threat posed by domestic terrorism today. That articulation draws on the comprehensive assessment of the threat that President Biden requested on his first full day in office. That assessment was conducted by appropriate elements of the U.S. Government and provided to the President. It was also released publicly in summary form on March 17, 2021 (see page 10). Today’s domestic terrorists espouse a range of violent ideological motivations, including racial or ethnic bigotry and hatred as well as anti–government or anti–authority sentiment. They also take on a variety of forms, from lone actors and small groups of informally aligned individuals, to networks exhorting and targeting violence toward specific communities, to violent self–proclaimed “militias” who, despite legal prohibitions in all fifty states against certain private militia activity, assert a baseless right to take the law into their own hands. Across violent ideologies, individuals and small groups – both formal and informal – have been galvanized by recent political and societal events in the United States to carry out violent attacks. Among that wide range of animating ideologies, racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (principally those who promote the superiority of the white race) and militia violent extremists are assessed as presenting the most persistent and lethal threats.

We are taking on this complex and evolving domestic terrorism threat landscape with an approach that honors and protects both America’s security and America’s values, especially our cherished civil rights and civil liberties. Addressing domestic terrorism effectively, responsibly, and sustainably demands forging a government–wide effort while protecting the rule of law and distinctive law enforcement prerogatives. That involves policies that protect the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation; bolstering efforts that address domestic terrorism across the Federal Government and renewing partnerships with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as civil society, the private sector, and beyond; and focusing specifically on terrorist violence and the factors that contribute to it while safeguarding constitutionally protected activity. Doing so will propel the United States toward the ultimate goal of stopping acts of domestic terrorism. It will also help us to reduce the factors contributing to incitement to domestic terrorism online that exacerbate the spread of calls to violence. It will, moreover, guide the United States toward achieving the resilience that can prevent domestic terrorists from gaining traction and adherents in the first place.

This Strategy is organized around four pillars – the core elements of how the U.S. Government will tackle the threat posed by domestic terrorism today. First are efforts to understand and share information regarding the full range of domestic terrorism threats. Second are efforts to prevent domestic terrorists from successfully recruiting, inciting, and mobilizing Americans to violence. Third are efforts to deter and disrupt domestic terrorist activity before it yields violence. Finally, the long–term issues that contribute to domestic terrorism in our country must be addressed to ensure that this threat diminishes over generations to come.

We must be clear–eyed about this challenge: the unlawful violence that constitutes domestic terrorism is the result of a complex, multi–layered set of societal dynamics. We cannot - and will not - ignore those dynamics, such as racism and bigotry that perpetuate the domestic terrorism threat. That is why this Strategy’s fourth pillar lays out long– term visions for addressing them. At the same time, this is a Strategy specifically focused on the terrorist violence that, all too often, turns those broad dynamics into particular loss and heartache. Even as we look to address these underlying dynamics over the long term, we must focus intensely – as this Strategy does – on the threat of violence that faces us right now. All told, today’s domestic terrorism threat poses a danger to Americans, our democratic society, and our national security that we must counter aggressively, comprehensively, and responsibly. Doing so will make America not just safer, but also stronger – and more unified. What follows is America’s first government–wide national Strategy to do so."

Offer your thoughts on the first half of this strategy here:

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