Last week, a collection of 30 United States Representatives wrote to House and committee leadership to demand the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the government’s failure to address domestic terrorism and prevent this month’s assault on the Capitol.
Led by U.S. Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), and Anthony Brown (D-MD), the members denounced the government for being wholly unprepared to handle the risks posed by domestic terrorism, despite more than a decade’s worth of warnings. This culminated in an attack that left five dead, including one Capitol Police officer.
“On January 6, 2021, as Congress gathered to uphold our duty under the Constitution to certify our free and fair election, the seat of government dissolved into anarchy as rioters, many of them armed, breached Capitol security and made their way through the Capitol building, leaving destruction in their wake,” the representatives wrote. “Make no mistake: this was an act of domestic terrorism years in the making.”
In response, they seek a commission modeled after the 9/11 Commission formed in the wake of the deadly 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Many issues would be put on the commission’s plate, if authorized, from identifying the main trends in domestic terrorism over the past decade, to how federal law enforcement agencies have grown or adapted to these threats, mechanisms in place to monitor white supremacist penetrations into law enforcement, federal coordination with state and local law enforcement agencies and the role social media companies play in radicalizing individuals or spreading conspiracy theories used to radicalize and incite terrorists.
In making their case, the members cited numerous governmental and media reports noting a slew of concerning details. For one, that the recent attack was organized openly online, and for another, that three years ago, the U.S. Government Accountability Office was warning that 73 percent of lethal extremist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11 were undertaken by far-right, domestic extremists. This year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also labeled racially-motivated violent extremists to be national threat priorities. As the year ticked on, U.S. security officials warned of the threat from domestic terrorists to the 2020 presidential election both before and after domestic terrorists were charged with attempting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow state governments.
All this and more is on the table as Washington, D.C. continues to go into lockdown ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. In particular, the lawmakers are concerned about what Congress can do to better protect the U.S. from domestic terrorism without sacrificing civil rights and equal justice and to determine if modern statutes are enough to hold terrorists accountable.
“At the conclusion of its investigation, the commission should provide a report to Congress and the public and a briefing for Congress with its analysis, conclusions, and recommendations to ensure the federal government is fully equipped to respond to and prevent domestic terrorism and violent extremism,” the members wrote.