President Biden in the John F. Kennedy Conference Room in the White House Situation Room. (Photo by Adam Schultz)

Biden Administration releases the first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. Senior administration official talks about everything you need to know about the lines of effort Biden is taking against domestic violent extremism in America. 

On Tuesday morning, the Biden administration released the first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.

In his speech in Tulsa, the President announced that the strategy would be released soon and delivered. Since January 20th, Biden has been focused on addressing the elevated threat of domestic terrorism. “He has been equally focused on ensuring that countering domestic terrorism takes place within the context of upholding American civil rights and civil liberties,” a Senior Administration official told The Pavlovic Today. 

To get an objective and fast-paced review of the threats America is facing, during his first week in the office, President Biden has tasked the intelligence and law enforcement communities to produce a comprehensive assessment of today’s domestic violent extremists.

The goal underpinning such assessment was to establish a factual basis about the risks that domestic terrorists pose. An unclassified summary of that study conducted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence ( ODNI ) was released in March. The study found that violent domestic extremists motivated by a range of ideologies pose an elevated threat to Americans in 2021 with racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and specifically those who espouse the superiority of the white race and anti-government militia violent extremists, posing the most lethal threat. 

The IC assessed that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) and militia violent extremists (MVEs) present the most lethal DVE threats, with RMVEs most likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks against civilians and MVEs typically targeting law enforcement and government personnel and facilities. 

Further, it found that violent extremists who promote the superiority of the white race have the most persistent transnational connections and may be in frequent contact with violent extremists abroad. However, the Administration official said, “It’s important to underscore that this study, provided to us by ODNI did not find a robust nexus between domestic terrorism, and foreign actors.”

The official stressed that this is largely today “An inside-out problem, not an outside-in problem, although we do know that our adversaries are seeking to sow divisions in our society.” 

Under Federal law, “domestic terrorism” is defined as “activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The main lines of effort of the new national strategy revolve around the four pillars.

1. The first pillar builds directly off the ODNI threat assessment and seeks to understand, analyze and share domestic terrorism-related information. 

The Department of Justice in the Federal Bureau of Investigation has implemented a new system to track domestic terrorism cases nationwide. The Department of State,  the intelligence and law enforcement communities will continue to learn more from foreign partners about the international dimension of the threat of domestic terrorism. “Our goal is to enhance domestic terrorism analysis and improve information sharing to law enforcement at the federal, state, local, tribal and territorial levels, and where appropriate with private sector partners,” the administration official said. 

2. The second pillar revolves around preventing domestic terrorism, recruitment, and mobilization to violence.

For the first time, the Department of Homeland Security has designated domestic violence extremism as a national priority area. $77 million will be allocated to the state, local, and other partners to prevent, protect against, and respond to violent domestic extremism. The Department of Defense is incorporating training for service members separating or retiring from the military, potentially targeted by those seeking to radicalize them. The Biden administration will also augment efforts to address online terrorist recruitment and mobilization to violence through increased information sharing with the technology sector and the creation of innovative approaches to fostering digital literacy and building resilience to terrorist recruitment and mobilization. According to the administration official, they will work with The Christchurch Call. This forum “Allows us to leverage other governments that share our concerns in this area, as well as our commitment to free expression online in addressing some of these challenges with tech companies, and doing so with civil society stakeholders, fully integrated into the conversation.”

A great deal of the relevant recruitment radicalization does happen online, and the Biden administration will work with social media companies on information sharing “to facilitate their more assertive, voluntary enforcement of their terms of service on their platforms to protect other users from those who might post threats of violence,” the administration official said.

“The previous administration had decided against participation in this important endeavor and we determined that it was in our interest to join it and to work collaboratively with countries that share our values and with the private sector in countering these pernicious developments in which online platforms are used to promote radicalization and violence,” said the administration official. 

3. The third pillar involves the disruption and deterrence of domestic terrorist activity.

 US Attorney’s offices and FBI field offices across the country have formally named domestic terrorism the top priority. They are tracking, comprehensively domestic terrorism-related cases reallocating or requesting appropriate funding and resources as needed to target a threat. 

Over $100 million in additional resources will be allocated for the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that America has enough analysts, investigators, prosecutors, and resources to tackle domestic terrorism when the law has been broken.

4. The fourth pillar of this strategy involves confronting long-term contributors to domestic terrorism. This strategy component will focus on long-term drivers and enablers of domestic terrorism, including economic inequality, those who feel left behind by the 21st-century economy, structural racism, and gun proliferation.

“When individuals who meet the existing standard, meaning known or suspected terrorists with international connectivity, when they meet those standards they will be considered for appropriate watchlisting, regardless of their ideology,” the administration official said. 

The goal of the new strategy is to be “ideologically neutral,” and to have in place “sort of mechanisms for anyone who believes an error has been committed to redressing procedures available to individuals in appropriate circumstances to seek a correction, they believe one is appropriate.”

To read the national strategy in its integral version click here

Ksenija Pavlovic McAteer

Ksenija Pavlovic is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Pavlovic Today, The Chief White House Correspondent. Pavlovic was a Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Fellow in the Political Science department...

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