Blue Dogs Back Legislation to Combat Domestic Terrorism Threats

August 6, 2019 by Dan McCue
Former El Paso residents Monica Martinez, right, McKinney and her daughter Tory, 15, attend a candle light vigil held at Dr. Glenn Mitchell Memorial Park on Aug. 5, 2019 in McKinney, Texas for the victims of recent shootings. The non-political event was held to remember and honor the victims and families of recent shootings in El Paso, Dayton, Ohio and Gilroy, Calif. The event happened to be held about 10 minutes from where the El Paso, Texas assailant lived. (Stewart F. House/Dallas Morning News/TNS)

WASHINGTON – In the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, the Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats announced its endorsement Tuesday of H.R. 1931, Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2019, a bill aimed at addressing the growing threat of white supremacists and other violent right-wing extremists. 

The legislation, which was introduced in the House by  Blue Dog Representatives Brad Schneider, D-Ill., and Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, as well as Representative Robin Kelly, D-Ill., would enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism by requiring federal law enforcement agencies to regularly assess this threat and provide training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in addressing it.

A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, right-wing extremists killed more people in 2018 than in any year since 1995, the year when a federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed.

In addition, a May 2017 intelligence bulletin published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, stated white supremacist extremism poses a persistent threat of lethal violence, and white supremacists were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016—more than any other domestic extremist movement.

“The threat posed by white supremacists and other violent far-right extremists is growing, and we need to update our laws to reflect this dangerous source of domestic terrorism,” said Representative Schneider.

“Our bill is a necessary first step to improve coordination between federal law enforcement agencies and direct their attention to containing the threat. El Paso, Gilroy, and Dayton now join Charleston, Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, and too many other American communities shattered by hate-fueled violence. We need to act with urgency to address the threat of domestic terrorism, and I welcome the support of the Blue Dog Coalition to make progress on this legislation.”

Representative Lou Correa, D-Calif., the Blue Dog Coalition’s co-chair for communications, said the caucus believes in a strong national security for the nation, and that’s why its backing the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act.

“Ensuring Americans are safe from domestic terrorism is a commonsense issue we should all support. Our nation’s law enforcement must be empowered to address domestic terrorism with the same vigor we confront international threats,” Correa said.

“White supremacy and hate have no place in this country,” Representative Gonzalez agreed.

“We cannot ignore the rising threat of white nationalism and home-grown terrorism, and the recent mass shooting in El Paso should alarm every lawmaker and American,” he continued. “By enacting this law, we seek to curb hateful violence and provide our law enforcement agencies at every level with resources to assess domestic terror threats and protect the American people.”

The legislation requires the Justice Department, DHS, and FBI to issue joint annual reports to the House and Senate Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Intelligence Committees that assess the domestic terrorism threat posed by white supremacists; analyze domestic terrorism incidents that occurred in the previous year; and provide transparency through a public quantitative analysis of domestic terrorism-related assessments, investigations, incidents, arrests, indictments, prosecutions, convictions, and weapons recoveries.

The DHS, DOJ, and FBI offices would be required to focus their resources on the most significant domestic terrorism threats, as determined by the number of domestic terrorism-related incidents outlined in the joint report.

The legislation codifies the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee (DTEC), an interagency task force which was originally created by the Department of Justice in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. 

Additionally, the bill requires DOJ, DHS, and the FBI to provide training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in understanding, detecting, deterring, and investigating acts of domestic terrorism. 

The legislation also requires the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces and state, local, and regional fusion centers, which coordinate with DHS, to (1) share intelligence to address domestic terrorism activities; (2) conduct annual, intelligence-based assessments of domestic terrorism activities in their jurisdictions; and (3) formulate and execute a plan to combat domestic terrorism activities in their jurisdictions. 

Finally, the legislation would establish an interagency task force to combat white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the uniformed services.

The bill has been endorsed by a number of civil rights organizations, including Muslim Advocates, Anti-Defamation League, and the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism.

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