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Durbin Reintroduces Legislation to Combat Rising Domestic Terrorist Threat

WASHINGTON – Following the continued rise in horrific incidents of domestic terrorism and hate crimes targeting religious and ethnic minorities and communities of color, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reintroduced legislation to address the growing domestic terrorism threat.  The tragic mass shooting earlier this month in Allen, Texas, in which the shooter reportedly wore a tactical vest with a patch associated with far-right extremists and posted images of himself online with Nazi emblems, demonstrates the continued threat posed by white supremacists and other violent extremists. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2023 would enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism by establishing offices dedicated to combating this threat; requiring federal law enforcement agencies to regularly assess this threat; and providing training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in addressing it.  Durbin has introduced this legislation every Congress since 2017.  U.S. Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL-10) will introduce the House companion to Durbin’s legislation.

“We must recognize that threats to our homeland are increasingly coming from across the street instead of across the ocean.  As I have said on many occasions, I condemn all violence, regardless of ideology.  But we need to be abundantly clear that violent white supremacists and violent militia extremists are the most significant domestic terrorism threat facing the United States today,” said Durbin.  “As we watch one community after another torn apart by sickening acts of violence, the members of this Senate have to go beyond thoughts and prayers.  If members are willing to take the most basic step to save lives, I urge them to support my Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act.  This threat must be confronted with the full force of the federal government.”

Along with Durbin, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2023 authorizes Justice Department (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and FBI offices that are responsible for monitoring, analyzing, investigating, and prosecuting domestic terrorism.  The bill also requires these offices to issue joint biannual 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 six months; 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 limited 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 also 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.  Finally, the legislation would establish an interagency task force to combat white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the uniformed services.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is endorsed by the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights; the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism; the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund; Human Rights Campaign; Bend the Arc: Jewish Action; and the Sikh Coalition.

In May 2022, Senate Republicans filibustered the House-passed Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act

Last June, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled “Examining the ‘Metastasizing’ Domestic Terrorism Threat After the Buffalo Attack.”  This hearing—the Committee’s third on domestic terrorism last Congress—explored the continued threat posed by violent white supremacists and other extremists, as well as the federal government’s response to this threat.  Durbin’s opening statement from that hearing is available here.

Durbin has been working to address the growing threat of domestic violent extremist groups and individuals (DVEs), including racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists and violent white supremacists, for years.  Durbin first held a hearing on the domestic terrorism threat in 2012, after a white supremacist murdered seven Sikh worshipers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.  In March 2021, Durbin held his first oversight hearing as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee on domestic terrorism and FBI oversight.