- President Joe Biden on Friday said several intelligence departments would be working together to assess domestic terrorism.
- There have been calls to expand state security in light of the January 6 Capitol siege.
- However, those efforts face some legal and cultural obstacles.
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President Joe Biden ordered several intelligence agencies to review domestic terrorism in the US in the wake of the January 6 Capitol siege, however, his plans face a number of obstacles.
On Friday, the Biden administration announced that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Department of Homeland Security will work together to create a domestic terrorism threat assessment that could be used to determine policy, the Associated Press reported.
“The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we all know: The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
However, experts have said that Biden could face legal, political, and cultural obstacles. The Washington Post reported that even before the January attack, the FBI had warned about rising domestic terror threats, but critics have accused the agency of being “more primed” to focus on international threats over those at home since the 9/11 attacks.
“We have overlooked, not just over the last four years, but much longer than that some of the extremists within this country,” Sean Joyce, a former FBI special agent who served as deputy director from 2011 to 2013, told The Post.
Joyce said white supremacists have become a much greater threat than they were as a result.
John Brennan, who served as CIA director and White House homeland security adviser in the Obama administration, told The Post that similar to extremists during 9/11, white supremacists and those who stormed the Capitol have been radicalized through misinformation and “taught” that violence is an acceptable means to get their desired political outcome.
On January 6, Trump supporters breached the Capitol building and clashed with law enforcement, halting a joint session of Congress as lawmakers met to certify Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The mob was motivated by unproven claims about mass voter fraud spread by Trump. The riot resulted in the deaths of five people.
While there have been calls to instate new laws that target domestic terrorism, some have expressed opposition, citing concerns that such laws could target minority groups and further erode civil liberties. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is leading a call to not expand the security state.
“The Trump mob’s success in breaching the Capitol was not due to a lack of resources at the disposal of federal law enforcement, and in this moment we must resist the erosion of our civil liberties and Constitutional freedoms, however well-intentioned proposed security reforms may be,” Tlaib, and nine other Democrats, wrote in a letter to Congressional leadership. “We firmly believe that the national security and surveillance powers of the US government are already too broad, undefined, and unaccountable to the people.”
Brennan also told The Post that there may be many legal obstacles in pursuing domestic terrorists.
“How do you uncover these types of incubating threats while at the same time not violating or infringing upon those principles that we’re trying to protect?” Brennan asked. “It was a problem after 9/11. It is even moreso now, because you’re talking about US citizens and persons.”
Additionally, law enforcement cannot surveil citizens based on their political views, even if they are hateful or anti-government. And while federal law defines the concept of domestic terrorism, there isn’t a specific charge for it.
“We really do want to be very careful about criminalizing ideologies, no mater how poisonous and awful,” David Kris, a former senior Justice Department official, told The Post. “You’re entitled to have an opinion and entitled to express that opinion no matter how noxious. But when you cross the line from having or expressing an ideology to acting on it in ways that are violent, you’ve crossed the line.”