Office of Government Relations

EPPN Series on Deradicalization: U.S. Government Response to Domestic Extremism

June 16, 2022
Office of Government Relations

In our second installment of the EPPN Series on Deradicalization, we focus on enumerating various ways that the U.S. federal government has sought to address the threat of domestic extremism. The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations has actively tracked these developments since the passage of the Executive Council Resolution on White Supremacy and Deradicalization as part of an effort to keep the church informed on deradicalization and efforts to help possible violent extremists reject their ideology and reintegrate into communities.

Installments in this series will be sent out weekly via the EPPN email list and posted on EPPN social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @TheEPPN.

Excerpts from Deradicalization: Recommendations for The Episcopal Church prepared by The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations and Office of Ecumenical Interreligious Relations, May 2021 

U.S. Government Response 

The U.S. government addresses domestic radicalization and terrorism primarily through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). DHS created the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Task Force in 2016. The task force was created to take advantage of work done in the aftermath of 9/11 to create “off ramps” for individuals who have engaged in extremist ideologies. The program identifies and supports the development of disengagement and rehabilitation programs for possible use by the criminal justice sector in cases involving violent acts of terror or extremist behavior. In 2020, DOJ additionally identified ideological and doctrinal reform efforts used by the Nation of Islam to pivot themselves away from their beliefs regarding black separatism and the relationship to the U.S. government. The department also expressed support of CVE tactics.

The Brennan Center for Justice published a report condemning the CVE approach to extremism. The report explains that CVE tries to use unproven indicators to find those at risk of being radicalized. It also explains that this approach from the federal government too often focuses on Muslims as perpetrators of violent extremism. DOJ and DHS have almost no resources or literature on White Power or Christian nationalist ideologies. The U.S. government response has varied by administration, but DHS has granted funds to various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) who have worked on disengaging right wing extremism, though this funding has been inconstant.  

The most significant policy proposal following the January 6th, 2021 Capitol insurrection, is The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021 (H.R. 350/S.4255). The DTPA would strengthen the federal government’s efforts to prevent, report on, respond to, and investigate acts of domestic terrorism by authorizing offices dedicated to combating threats of domestic extremism, requiring these offices to regularly assess relevant threats, and providing training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in addressing them. DTPA would authorize three offices, one each within DHS, DOJ, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to monitor, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism. The bill also requires these offices to provide Congress with biannual reports assessing the state of domestic terrorism threats, with a specific focus on white supremacists. Based on the data collected, DTPA requires these offices to focus their resources on the most significant threats. DTPA also creates the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, which would coordinate with United States Attorneys and other public safety officials to promote information sharing and ensure an organized joint effort to combat domestic terrorism. The legislation requires DHS, DOJ, and FBI to provide training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in understanding, detecting, deterring, and investigating acts of domestic terrorism, specifically naming white supremacy. Finally, DTPA directs DHS, DOJ, FBI, and the Department of Defense to establish an interagency task force to combat white supremacist infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement. 

Recent Developments in the U.S. Government Response 

The January 6th, 2021, attack where a mob estimated at over 2,000 individuals breached the Capitol Building seeking to disrupt the congressional process of affirming the 2020 presidential election results has led to the largest criminal investigation in American history. The investigation has been national in scope, arresting alleged rioters in nearly all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, while involving agents and prosecutors from nearly every FBI field office and U.S. Attorney’s office in the country. After the first year of investigations, under the leadership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and the FBI’s Washington Field Office, over 800 Americans have been arrested and charged with destruction of property, assaulting law enforcement personnel, targeting members of the media for assault, or other unlawful conduct. Conspiracy charges have been brought up against 40 of the defendants, most of whom prosecutors allege have ties to white supremacy extremist groups such as the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers. On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Capitol attack, Attorney General Merrick Garland reaffirmed the Department of Justice’s commitment to holding the perpetrators accountable for their violence and destruction. In his speech Garland said, “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.” As the investigations continue to develop, you can find the complete versions of most of the public court documents used to compile these statistics on the DOJ’s Capitol Breach Investigation Resource Page.

Additionally, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol is hosting public hearings on the information they gathered from their panel’s 10-month investigation. These hearings are presenting previously unseen material documenting January 6th, receiving witness testimony, previewing additional hearings, and providing the American people with a summary of the findings of the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power. You can keep up to date with the hearings by visiting the Select Committee’s website.

While the DOJ’s investigations into the perpetrators of the Capitol attack may currently be the most visible effort of the federal government to confront the violent and destructive nature of domestic extremism, their commitment to combatting the threats posed by hateful ideologies can be also be witnessed in the heightened attention and focus across federal agencies and Congress. Since the attack on the Capitol, multiple government agencies, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the DOJ, have assessed that Domestic Violent Extremism poses an elevated threat to the United States

On his first full day in office, President Biden directed the National Security Council (NSC) to prepare a 100-day comprehensive review of the U.S. government’s efforts to address domestic extremism. On June 15th, 2021, the White House released the country’s first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. In its findings, the report identified that the two most lethal elements of domestic extremism are racially/ethnically motivated violent extremists invested in white supremacy and anti-government violent extremists, such as militia extremists. Following the report’s assessments is a proposed strategy outlining a comprehensive framework centered on four strategic pillars to be implemented across the federal government and in coordination with non-federal partners to combat domestic extremism nationwide, specifically those who identify with white supremacist and anti-government militia ideologies. The pillars are as follows: (i) understand and share domestic terrorism–related information; (ii) prevent domestic terrorism recruitment and mobilization to violence; (iii) disrupt and deter domestic terrorism activity; (iv) confront long–term contributors to domestic terrorism.

The 117th Congress has also taken steps to address radical extremism by passing the first pieces of major hate crime legislation since the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed in 2009. In 2021, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law after it received overwhelming support from both chambers of Congress. The bill established grants for states to create state-run hate crimes reporting hotlines. It also authorizes grants for states and local governments to implement the National Incident-Based Reporting System and to conduct law enforcement activities or crime reduction programs to prevent, address, or respond to hate crimes. Additionally, the legislation improved the law enforcement reporting process for hate crimes and requires an expedited review of and reports of hate crimes facilitated by either a designated officer or an employee of the DOJ.

The second significant piece of hate crime legislation passed by the 117th Congress was the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. The bill was named after 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was kidnapped, beaten, and lynched in Mississippi during the summer of 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman. President Biden signed it into law on March 29th, 2022. The bill made lynching a federal hate crime and makes it illegal for an individual to conspire to commit a hate crime. This was a significant step for hate crime legislation as Congress failed to pass similar anti-lynching bills over 200 times in the last 100 years.

In May, both chambers of Congress held votes on the aforementioned Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021. The week after the horrific mass shooting committed by a White supremacist in Buffalo, New York, the House of Representatives passed the bill in a 222-203 vote. However, it failed to pass on the Senate side and progress has stalled because the legislation lacks the 60 votes necessary to pass with the current filibuster rules in place.

DHS has also increased the grants they provide to places of worship through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) due to the rising threat of domestic violent extremism and hate crimes. Ideologies ranging from white supremacy, religious intolerance, or anti-government views have motivated individuals to commit heinous acts of violence in places of worship. These attacks, including the mass shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, have made additional protections necessary to ensure that everyone in America can feel safe attending worship and expressing their religious beliefs. This administration has increased its support by providing “technical assistance to more than 7,000 faith-based and community leaders” by connecting them with funding opportunities that enable houses of worship to protect themselves using the now-doubled Nonprofit Security Grant Program. The grants are aimed at supporting physical security enhancements and preparedness activities for nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack.

To read the next installment click here.

To read the first installment click here.

The Office of Government Relations