The Department of Justice is creating a new unit focused on domestic terrorism, citing an “elevated” threat from extremists in the U.S.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the number of FBI investigations into suspected domestic violent extremists has more than doubled since last spring.
“We have seen a growing threat from those who are motivated by racial animus, as well as those who ascribe to extremist anti-government and anti-authority ideologies,” Olsen said.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. criminal code defines domestic terrorism as violence intended to coerce or intimidate a civilian population and influence government policy. However, there is no standalone federal domestic terrorism charge, “meaning prosecutors have to rely on other statutes.”
Jill Sanborn, the executive assistant director in charge of the FBI’s national security branch, also testified at the Senate hearing. She said the most significant threat comes from lone extremists who radicalize online and look to carry out violence at so-called “soft targets.”
“This includes both homegrown violent extremists inspired primarily by foreign terrorist organizations as well as domestic violent extremism,” Sanborn said.
During the hearing, Democratic senators focused on the January 6 Capitol riot, while Republicans focused on 2020’s “anti-police riots.”
“Those anti-police riots rocked our nation for seven full months,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said.
The agencies say they treat violence from domestic extremists the same regardless of their ideology. Sanborn said the FBI has more than 800 investigations stemming from the 2020 unrest and has arrested more than 250 people. Meanwhile, Attorney General Merrick Garland recently noted that the DOJ had charged more than 725 people connected to January 6.