Biden Steps Up Federal Efforts to Combat Domestic Extremism
The Justice Department has unsealed criminal charges against more than 300 individuals for their role in the Capitol riot. The charges range widely and include assaulting police officers, illegally entering the Capitol building and conspiring to interfere in the election certification process. The leaders of the Oath Keepers militia and the far-right Proud Boys group are among the most prominent targets of the sprawling investigation.
Critics of a domestic terrorism statute say it could expand the government’s surveillance authorities too much and be used against minority communities.
A letter signed by Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and eight other Democrats said the intelligence failure surrounding the Capitol breach reflected a reluctance by law enforcement to crack down on white nationalist groups, not a lack of government tools to monitor them.
One homeland security official involved in the department’s review of how to handle domestic terrorism said the agency did not need new laws but should instead employ the tools that have long been used against foreign terrorism.
One strategy is to analyze federal travel data to trace the patterns of possible militia members and extremists, especially as American groups increasingly establish connections to Europe, the official said. Members of the groups can then be added to so-called no-fly lists, he said.
The department’s review is focused not only on clear acts of terrorism but also on those who are pushed to commit attacks because of a combination of mental health issues, grievances and ideologies that provide a perceived justification for violence. Officials are also evaluating how to prevent attacks similar to the one at the Capitol on Friday, where a man crashed his vehicle into two officers at a barricade outside the building before getting out and charging them with a knife.
The suspect, who was shot and killed by the police after the attack, was identified by law enforcement officials as Noah Green, 25, of Covington, Va. Friends and family say he struggled with isolation and mental health issues. The police have not categorized the attack as “terrorism related,” and investigators continue to scour Mr. Green’s social media posts that showed an intensifying interest in the Nation of Islam.