The White House is stepping up efforts to combat domestic extremism, increasing funding to prevent attacks, weighing strategies historically used against foreign terrorist groups and more openly warning the public about the threat, reports the New York Times. In an intelligence report delivered to Congress last month, the administration labeled white supremacists and militia groups as top national security threats. The White House is also discussing with members of Congress the possibility of new domestic terrorism legislation and executive orders to update the criteria of terrorism watch lists to potentially include more homegrown extremists. The Homeland Security Department has begun a review of how it handles domestic extremism.
For the first time this year, the department designated domestic extremism as a “national priority area,” requiring that 7.5 percent of the billions in grant funds be spent on combating it. Researchers say that the U.S. is years behind European countries like Germany and Norway in understanding the threat of far-right extremism.
During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing last month, Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, noted the United States did not have a statute that would empower prosecutors to charge and investigate homegrown extremists with the same tools that are used against terrorism suspects from abroad. The absence of a law does not hinder the FBI from investigating such threats, but prosecutors are forced to rely on a patchwork of other charges for domestic extremism, including for the attack on the Capitol.
The Homeland Security Department this year allocated $77 million for state and local governments to train police officers and improve intelligence-sharing across states. Separately, the agency doubled the number of grants for organizations developing projects to research prevention strategies, including “off boarding” those vulnerable to radicalization.
The allocation of $20 million, which has not been awarded yet, comes after the Trump administration gutted the grants before restoring $10 million in the last year of his term.