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World

Washington unveils plan to combat domestic terrorism

  • The Biden administration wants first to improve information sharing on extremist groups or individuals at the federal and local level.
15 Jun 2021

WASHINGTON: The US government on Tuesday unveiled its "national strategy" to fight domestic terrorism, an issue that is a priority for President Joe Biden after the assault on Congress in January and the rise of white nationalist extremists.

"Domestic violent extremists, motivated by a range of ideologies pose an elevated threat to our country in 2021," a senior administration official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, and specifically those who espouse the superiority of the white race and anti-government militia violent extremists, [pose] the most lethal threat," the official said.

The government plan is however "ideologically neutral" and consists of four pillars that are broad orientations rather than concrete measures, with the goals of "prevention, interruption and dissuasion" while preserving individual freedoms.

The Biden administration wants first to improve information sharing on extremist groups or individuals at the federal and local level.

To this end the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have set up a new nationwide system for reporting terrorism-related cases.

The government also wants to thwart the recruitment of violent extremists and calls for violence in collaboration with large technology platforms and social media networks.

Washington announced in May that it was joining the Christchurch Call, an international movement against the online dissemination of extremist content, which former president Donald Trump had refused to join.

The government will also improve the system for prosecuting extremists by recruiting additional analysts, investigators and prosecutors.

It will likewise seek to ensure that police forces or the military do not employ extremists.

The fourth pillar is based on countering "long-term drivers and enablers of domestic terrorism, including economic inequality, those who feel left behind by the 21st century economy, structural racism and the proliferation of guns," the official said.

Biden promised in his January 20 inauguration speech that the country would confront and defeat "the rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism" after a string of deadly racist or anti-Semitic attacks in recent years.

In March, FBI chief Christopher Wray told Congress that the number of federal investigations working on "domestic terrorism" had doubled from 1,000 to 2,000 since he took office in 2017.

The country was shocked by the deadly January 6 assault on Congress by Trump supporters. Nearly 500 people have been arrested for their roles in the attack, according to the FBI.

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