Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas touted Biden administration’s approach to fighting domestic terrorism at a hearing Wednesday in front of a Congress still debating the cause of the January 6 US Capitol riot.
“In our country, espousing an extremist ideology is not a crime nor is expressing hateful views or associating with hateful groups,” Garland told the Senate Appropriations Committee. “But when someone tries to promote or impose an ideology through acts of violence, those acts can be the most dangerous crimes we confront as a society.”
Mayorkas, asked directly by Sen. Patrick Leahy if “white supremacy extremists remain the most persistent lethal threat?” said yes.
“I do believe they, they do at this time, Mr. Chairman,” Mayorkas said.
The Justice Department is reevaluating the structure of all its components to ensure they are fully prepared to confront the persistent threat of domestic violent extremism and domestic terrorism, Garland said.
The effort comes as the Justice Department plans to say it has arrested 430 people in connection with the insurrection.
“What we witnessed that day was an intolerable assault not only on the Capitol building and the brave law enforcement personnel who sought to protect it, but also on a fundamental aspect of our democracy — the peaceful transfer of power,” Garland’s written testimony stated.
Garland had largely stayed out of the political fray in his previous Capitol Hill appearances this year, yet his testimony on Wednesday will touch on a subject that’s become a keen interest to Congress — the January 6 insurrection.
President Joe Biden has asked Congress for more than $100 million in additional funding to address the rising threats of domestic terrorism and domestic violent extremism.
New Homeland Security domestic intelligence office
Mayorkas touted his agency’s work on domestic terrorism.
The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced a “dedicated domestic terrorism branch” within the department’s intelligence office.
The new office — called the “Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships” or “CP3” — will be aimed at improving the department’s ability to combat terrorism and targeted violence, DHS said in a statement.
“CP3 will help build local prevention frameworks to provide communities with the tools they need to combat terrorism and targeted violence,” said Mayorkas on Tuesday. “Individuals who may be radicalizing, or have radicalized, to violence typically exhibit behaviors that are recognizable to many but are best understood by those closest to them, such as friends, family, and classmates.”
This is at least the third iteration of this prevention office within DHS and will replace the Trump-era Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention.
The American Civil Liberties Union took immediate issue with the announcement, admonishing DHS for “renaming” past efforts.
“Despite promises to end ‘violent extremism’ programs that were ineffective, discriminatory and harmful to Muslims and communities of color, President Biden’s administration appears to be expanding these efforts and simply renaming them,” said Manar Waheed, ACLU senior legislative and advocacy counsel. “Reframing a failed approach as a new Homeland Security measure is the latest attempt to dress the wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
This story has been updated with activity from the hearing.