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Sunday, March 7th, 2021

Democratic senators denounce DHS plan to refocus domestic counterterrorism program to ignore threats from white supremacist groups

A group of Democratic senators recently criticized a reported plan by the Trump Administration that aims to reorganize U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) efforts on countering violent extremism of all types to instead focus its efforts solely on Islamic extremism.

The group includes U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Critics have said the decision would ignore the threats that white supremacist groups and other extremist groups have on homeland security.

DHS currently defines countering violent extremism as efforts that aim “to address the root causes of violent extremism by providing resources to communities to build and sustain local prevention efforts and promote the use of counter-narratives to confront violent extremist messaging online.”

The senators said DHS efforts to curtail violent extremism should be viewed with an evidence-based approach and stopping it increases the government’s standing as a moral leader and helps advance U.S. foreign policy objectives.

“Singling out a specific religion as the focus of [countering violent extremism] efforts rather than violent extremism more broadly, while ignoring threats from white supremacist groups, would severely damage our credibility with foreign allies and partners as an honest broker in the fight against violent extremism, and prove divisive in communities across our country,” the senators said in a public letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, DHS Secretary John Kelly, Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis, and U.S. Agency for International Development Acting Administrator Wade Warren.

Tillerson, Kelly, Mattis and Wade have yet to formally respond to the letter.