WASHINGTON—Following the continued rise in horrific incidents of domestic terrorism and hate crimes targeting religious and ethnic minorities and communities of color, as well as the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 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 Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021 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) introduced the House companion legislation in January.
“We must recognize that threats to our homeland aren’t just coming from across the ocean; they’re also coming from across the street,” Durbin said. “As I have said on many occasions, I condemn all violence, regardless of ideology. But we need to be abundantly clear that white supremacists and other far-right extremists are the most significant domestic terrorism threat facing the United States today. This threat must be confronted with the full force of the federal government, which includes finally passing my Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act.”
“For years, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act has been ahead of the curve in recognizing and combatting the threat of racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism, including white supremacists. Though we may never know what those years of inaction have cost Americans, we can act now. I am confident that with Senator Durbin as the new Chair of the Judiciary Committee, the House and Senate will be able to work together to prevent some of the deadliest threats posed to Americans today and pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act,” said Schneider.
Last week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), released its assessment of the threat posed by domestic violent extremists. Specifically, the IC assessed that “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists”—a category consisting largely of white supremacist extremists—are most likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks against civilians, while violent militia extremists will continue to target law enforcement and government personnel and facilities. The assessment warns that the likelihood and lethality of domestic terrorist attacks may increase in 2021, among other reasons due to “narratives of fraud in the recent general election.”
Earlier this month, as Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Durbin led a domestic terrorism oversight hearing with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray.
The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021 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.