Last week, Executive Assistant Director Jill Sanborn of the FBI’s National Security Branch provided a statement to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on the FBI’s role in combating domestic terrorism. In her remarks, Sanborn noted the FBI remains confident in an assessment it made in 2020 that the greatest terrorism threat to the U.S. is from lone actors or small cells who typically radicalize online and look to attack soft targets with easily accessible weapons. She added that the FBI sees these threats manifested within both domestic violent extremists (DVEs) and homegrown violent extremists (HVEs), which she emphasized as two distinct threats.
While both of are located primarily in the U.S. and most frequently radicalize and mobilize to violence on their own, they are motivated by different sources. Individuals who commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of social or political goals stemming from domestic influences – some of which include racial or ethnic bias, or anti-government or anti-authority sentiments – Sanborn described as DVEs, whereas she defined HVEs are individuals who are inspired primarily by global jihad, but not receiving individualized direction from foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs). For DVEs, she said the top threat comes from those categorized as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race. For HVEs, she said the FBI assesses they represent the greatest, most immediate threat to the U.S., adding the FBI remains concerned that foreign terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al Qa’da intend to carry out or inspire large-scale attacks within the country.
Looking forward, Sanborn explained the FBI assesses DVEs pose an elevated threat of violence, and that some of these actors have been emboldened in the aftermath of the breach of the U.S. Capitol. She added the FBI expects racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, and other DVEs citing partisan political grievances will very likely pose the greatest domestic terrorism threats in 2021 and likely into 2022.