Jun 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

White House releases first national strategy for countering domestic terrorism

Jan. 6 riot

Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The Biden administration on Tuesday released the first-ever "National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism," following a 100-day comprehensive review ordered by President Biden on his first day in office.

Why it matters: It's the first national plan for countering what the White House is calling "the most urgent terrorism threat the United States faces today," echoing previous assessments by Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray and the intelligence community.

  • The strategy calls for more information-sharing between the government and tech sector, other nations and among domestic law enforcement agencies.
  • An unclassified threat assessment released by the intelligence community in March identified white supremacists and anti-government extremists as "the two most lethal elements of today’s domestic terrorism threat."

Details ...The strategy is organized around four main pillars:

1. Understand and share domestic terrorism-related information

  • The FBI and Justice Department "have implemented a robust system to methodically track domestic terrorism cases nationwide," according to the White House.
  • The State Department will continue to assess whether foreign entities linked to domestic terrorism can be designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
  • The Treasury Department is seeking to enhance the identification of terrorist financing, while the Department of Homeland Security is creating a stronger mechanism for receiving and analyzing open-source information.

2. Prevent domestic terrorism recruitment and mobilization to violence

  • The government will address online terrorist recruitment and mobilization by increasing information-sharing efforts with tech and creating "innovative ways to foster digital literacy."
  • The U.S. recently joined a global coalition with tech companies that will work to develop new solutions "while safeguarding the freedom of online expression."
  • DHS will allocate over $77 million to state, local, tribal, and territorial partners to address to the threat.

3. Disrupt and deter domestic terrorism activity

  • FBI field offices and U.S. attorneys have made the threat of domestic terrorism their top priority. President Biden's FY 2022 budget proposal includes over $100 million in additional resources for the DOJ, FBI, and DHS to increase personnel and access to intelligence-sharing and training.
  • The Justice Department is considering whether new legislative authorities "that balance safety and the protection of civil liberties" are needed.
  • The Office of Personnel Management will increase screening efforts and consider updating application forms to work for the federal government to ensure it does not employ potential domestic terrorists.

4. Confront long-term contributors to domestic terrorism

  • The administration will work to protect Americans from "racial, ethnic, and religious hatred," stem the flow of firearms to potential domestic terrorists, and reduce bias within law enforcement — each identified as potential "long-term contributors" to domestic terrorism.
  • The strategy also calls for finding new ways to "counter the polarization often fueled by disinformation, misinformation, and dangerous conspiracy theories online."

What they're saying:

This is a project that should unite all Americans.  Together we must affirm that domestic terrorism has no place in our society.  We must work to root out the hatreds that can too often drive violence.  And we must recommit to defending and protecting our basic freedoms, which belong to all Americans in equal measure, and which are not only the foundation of our democracy – they are our enduring advantage in the world.
— President Biden

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