Bill to strengthen federal government’s response to domestic terrorism introduced in House

A bill designed to strengthen the federal government’s ability to prevent and investigate acts of domestic terrorism was introduced in the House this week.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021 (H.R. 350) DTPA would authorize three offices — one each within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — to monitor, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism.

The bill also requires these offices to provide Congress with joint biannual reports assessing the state of domestic terrorism threats, with a specific focus on white supremacists. Based on the data collected, the bill requires these offices to focus their resources on the most significant threats.

“Homegrown, violent domestic terrorism from white supremacists, and other racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists, remains a serious ongoing threat that demands the full coordination and efforts of our federal law enforcement agencies. We must provide the necessary tools for our law enforcement to investigate, prevent, and prosecute these heinous, violent crimes,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), one of the bill’s sponsors, said. “This bill would also direct resources for investigations into hate crimes incidents with a nexus to domestic terrorism.”

It was also sponsored by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Don Bacon (R-NE), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), and Vicente González (R-TX), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Lou Correa (D-CA), and Fred Upton (R-MI-). A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Durbin (D-IL).

“Following the terrifying attack on the Capitol this month, which left five dead and many injured, the entire nation has been seized by the potential threat of more terrorist attacks in Washington and around the country. Unlike after 9/11, the threat that reared its ugly head on January 6th is from domestic terror groups and extremists, often racially-motivated violent individuals,” Schneider said. “America must be vigilant to combat those radicalized to violence, and the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act gives our government the tools to identify, monitor, and thwart their illegal activities.”

The legislation also codifies the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, coordinating with United States Attorneys and other public safety officials to promote information sharing and work together to combat domestic terrorism. It requires DOJ, FBI, and DHS to provide training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in detecting, deterring, and investigating acts of domestic terrorism and white supremacy.

“In the military and in Congress, we take an oath to defend our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Bacon said. “Just as U.S. operations overseas have helped drive significant decreases in international terrorism over the last five years, we’ve seen domestic terrorism in the United States grow dramatically over the same time period. We must acknowledge that America is not immune to this growing threat, and we must counter it with the same resolve with which we have battled international terrorism and Islamic extremism.”

Further, the legislation directs DHS, DOJ, FBI, and the Department of Defense to establish an interagency task force to combat white supremacist infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement.

Dave Kovaleski

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