Countering Domestic Terrorism Draws Support from Lawmakers

August 3, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
Countering Domestic Terrorism Draws Support from Lawmakers
SUVs outside the Senate side of the Capitol on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — Congress is trying to figure out how to confront the evolving threat of domestic terrorism that increasingly uses the internet to recruit sympathizers.

The government doesn’t want to squelch free speech but it does want to halt disinformation that fuels hate crimes, according to lawmakers and witnesses at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

They mentioned as examples the violence against Asian Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic, attacks on churches and synagogues and the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building.

“We need to get serious about taking on these heinous threats and the violence associated with them,” said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.


Numerous federal laws can be used to prosecute hate crimes but preventing them is a separate challenge, Peters said.

“The federal government has failed to track rising domestic terrorism threats,” he said.

The motives behind the hearing were consistent with the Biden administration’s policy reversal on domestic terrorism.

President Donald Trump refused to address the issue. President Joe Biden is trying a proactive approach.

Shortly after taking office in January, Biden ordered the National Security Council to develop a strategy for managing domestic terrorism threats. The team’s report released in June called White supremacists and other ethnically-motivated extremists “the most persistent and lethal threats” facing the United States.

The Homeland Security Department, with support of Congress, organized its Center for Prevention Programs and Partnership in May to centralize efforts of its agencies against domestic terrorism. Much of its $77 billion in grant funding is being used by the FBI to identify potential threats, such as through closer monitoring of social media.

Some witnesses at the Senate hearing made suggestions on how the federal government should deal with the threats.

Paul Goldenberg, president of Cardinal Point Strategies, a public policy consulting firm, warned against a rising tide of targeted, violent attacks against vulnerable communities traditionally disliked by hate groups.


“What was once unthinkable has become almost anticipated,” Goldenberg said.

Domestic terrorists are adopting recruiting and organizing strategies similar to international terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, much of it focusing on use of social media, he said.

“They know this is our Achilles heel,” Goldenberg said.

The COVID-19 pandemic that compelled more people to remain at home and surf the internet has made the groups’ disinformation and recruiting campaigns more effective, he said.

Last month, a group of senators introduced a bill intended to protect religious groups that sometimes suffer the wrath of hate groups.

The Pray Safe Act would establish a federal clearinghouse to offer religious groups information on safety and security, access to grants and training opportunities. 

An example of why the legislation is needed that was mentioned during the hearing was the Oct. 27, 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven members of the congregation were killed and six injured by a lone gunman known for anti-Semitic sentiments.

“This is a threat to communities all across our country,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who introduced the Pray Safe Act, said about domestic terrorism.

John Yang, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said he was concerned about intensified hate crimes directed at East Asians since the start of the pandemic, which is blamed on the Chinese. One of them he discussed was the March 16, 2021, shooting spree at three Atlanta-area spas that killed eight people, six of them Asian women.

“Some difficult themes have emerged,” Yang said.


He added that anti-Asian antagonism did not begin and end with the pandemic.

“Asian Americans are seen as the perpetual foreigner,” Yang said.

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

U.S. Senate

December 1, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Senate Says FTX Cryptocurrency Collapse Shows Need for Government Regulation

WASHINGTON — A Senate committee on Thursday nearly eliminated uncertainties about whether the government will regulate the cryptocurrency industry soon... Read More

WASHINGTON — A Senate committee on Thursday nearly eliminated uncertainties about whether the government will regulate the cryptocurrency industry soon as lawmakers reviewed the collapse of digital financial firm FTX. FTX’s cryptocurrency exchange held assets of more than 1 million users worth about $32 billion at... Read More

Obama Heads to Ga. as Warnock Seeks Big Early Vote Advantage

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia voters have cast more than 1 million ballots ahead of the Dec. 6 U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic... Read More

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia voters have cast more than 1 million ballots ahead of the Dec. 6 U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, with Warnock looking to juice an apparent Democratic head start in early voting with a visit Thursday from... Read More

November 30, 2022
by Dan McCue
GOP Senators Oppose Advancing NDAA Unless Military Vaccine Mandate Canned

WASHINGTON — A group of U.S. senators led by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they will... Read More

WASHINGTON — A group of U.S. senators led by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they will oppose passage of this year’s defense spending authorization unless the chamber votes to repeal the current COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military personnel. In a letter to... Read More

November 30, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Senate Tries to Smooth Out Snags in $1.2T Infrastructure Law

WASHINGTON — A Senate committee tried to tweak the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law Wednesday to make sure the government... Read More

WASHINGTON — A Senate committee tried to tweak the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law Wednesday to make sure the government is getting a good deal with its record investment to boost the economy. The five-year program won wide approval during the Senate Environment and Public Works... Read More

November 29, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Big Grocery Merger Gets Chilly Reception by Senators Worried About Price and Quality

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel showed a cynical attitude toward a proposed $24.6 billion merger of major grocery chains Kroger... Read More

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel showed a cynical attitude toward a proposed $24.6 billion merger of major grocery chains Kroger Co. and Albertsons Cos. during a hearing Tuesday. The chief executive officers promised consumers would benefit if the Federal Trade Commission approves the merger. Kroger announced... Read More

Murkowski Withstands Another Conservative GOP Challenger

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican, has twice withstood challenges from more conservative factions of... Read More

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican, has twice withstood challenges from more conservative factions of her party; more than a decade ago, she mounted a historical write-in campaign to beat a tea party favorite, and this year she won reelection after inflaming the... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top