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Senior Law Enforcement Officials Provide Assessments of Domestic Violent Extremist Threats

Senior Law Enforcement Officials Provide Assessments of Domestic Violent Extremist Threats

Created: Thursday, January 13, 2022 - 14:27
General Security and Resilience

On Tuesday, two senior U.S. law enforcement officials presented their assessment on the current domestic violent extremist threat environment to Congress. Providing testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI National Security Branch Executive Assistant Director Jill Sanborn and Department of Justice (DOJ) Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said, “[We] assess that the greatest terrorism threat to our country is posed by lone actors or small cells who typically radicalize online and look to attack soft targets with easily accessible weapons.” Sanborn also stressed the FBI has “prioritized the anti-government or anti-authority violent extremist threat to be commensurate with the threat posed by homegrown violent extremism, ISIS, and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism.”

The officials noted the number of FBI investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists has more than doubled since 2020. Due to the increasing threat and caseloads, Olsen announced DOJ is creating a new domestic terrorism unit, within its national security division. According to Olsen, “This group of dedicated attorneys will focus on the domestic terrorism threat, helping to ensure that these cases are handled properly and effectively coordinated across the Department of Justice and across the country.”

Another concern among law enforcement and intelligence officials is the growing number of bomb incidents. According to DOJ, in 2020 there were 428 bomb incidents in the U.S., a 71 percent increase from the previous year. In response, the FBI and DHS relaunched Operation Flashpoint, which involves the government working with local merchants across the country to report suspicious individuals who purchase materials that could be used to create bombs. “Certainly in my professional career, I think this [bomb threat] is the highest it’s ever been,” stressed David Mussington, the executive assistant director for infrastructure security at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). “These are risks to the American people and to critical infrastructure,” he said. Access the full testimony here, read a Washington Post article here, and read a related NBC News story.