2017-05-28

Countering Violent Extremism Needs An Overhaul

The Trump administration has indicated it plans to take the federal government’s Countering Violent Extremism program in a new direction. Media outlets report that it might be renamed the Countering Islamic Extremism program, or... Read more
The Trump administration has indicated it plans to take the federal government’s Countering Violent Extremism program in a new direction. Media outlets report that it might be renamed the Countering Islamic Extremism program, or Countering Radical Islamic Extremism. The current program, which seeks to deter potential attacks, certainly needs an overhaul. But not in the way the administration is suggesting. Read less
Los Angeles, CA ( Federal)
May 28, 2017
Submitted by: Erroll Southers

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Christopher Wray

FBI Director
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The most significant threat to our homeland is posed by lone actors who often radicalize online and seek out soft targets to attack with easily accessible weapons. We see these individualized threats manifested within both domestic violent extremists (DVEs) and homegrown violent extremists (HVEs). Although they have different... Read more

The most significant threat to our homeland is posed by lone actors who often radicalize online and seek out soft targets to attack with easily accessible weapons. We see these individualized threats manifested within both domestic violent extremists (DVEs) and homegrown violent extremists (HVEs). Although they have different ideologies, they both typically radicalize and mobilize to violence on their own and are both located primarily in the United States. Individuals who commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of ideological goals stemming from domestic influences—some of which include racial or ethnic bias, or strong anti-government or anti-authority sentiments—are described as DVEs, whereas HVEs are individuals inspired primarily by achieving global jihad, but not receiving individualized direction from Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

Domestic and homegrown violent extremists are often motivated and inspired by a mix of sociopolitical, ideological, and personal grievances against their targets, and more recently have focused on accessible targets to include civilians, law enforcement and the military, symbols or members of the U.S. government, houses of worship, retail locations, and mass public gatherings. Selecting these types of soft targets, in addition to the insular nature of their radicalization and mobilization to violence and limited discussions with others, challenges law enforcement to detect and disrupt the activities of lone actors before they occur.

The top threat we face from DVEs continues to be those we identify as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs), specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race, and who were the primary source of ideologically motivated lethal incidents of violence in 2018 and 2019. It is important to note that we have recently seen an increase in lethal DVE attacks perpetrated by anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, specifically militia violent extremists and anarchist violent extremists. Anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists were responsible for three of the four lethal DVE attacks in 2020. Also, in 2020, we saw the first lethal attack committed by an anarchist violent extremist in over 20 years.

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Christopher Wray

FBI Director
September 27, 2017

Currently, the FBI has designated the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) and homegrown violent extremists as the main terrorism threats to the Homeland. ISIS is relentless and ruthless in its campaign of violence and has aggressively promoted its hateful message, attracting like-minded extremists. The threats posed by foreign... Read more

September 27, 2017

Currently, the FBI has designated the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) and homegrown violent extremists as the main terrorism threats to the Homeland. ISIS is relentless and ruthless in its campaign of violence and has aggressively promoted its hateful message, attracting like-minded extremists. The threats posed by foreign fighters, including those recruited from the United States, are extremely dynamic. These threats remain the highest priority and create the most serious challenges for the FBI, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and our foreign, state, and local partners. We continue to identify individuals who seek to join the ranks of foreign fighters traveling in support of ISIS, as well as homegrown violent extremists who may aspire to attack the United States from within. In addition, we are confronting a surge in terrorist propaganda and training available via the Internet and social networking media. Due to online recruitment and indoctrination, foreign terrorist organizations are no longer dependent on finding ways to get terrorist operatives into the United States to recruit and carry out acts. Terrorists in ungoverned spaces—both physical and cyber—readily disseminate propaganda and training materials to attract easily influenced individuals around the world to their cause. They encourage these individuals to travel, or they motivate them to act at home. This is a significant transformation from the terrorist threat our nation faced a decade ago...

In addition to foreign terrorist organizations, domestic extremist movements collectively pose a steady threat of violence and economic harm to the United States. Some trends within individual movements will shift as most drivers for domestic extremism, such as perceptions of government or law enforcement overreach, socio-political conditions, and reactions to legislative actions, remain constant. We are most concerned about the lone offender attacks, primarily shootings, as they have served as the dominant mode for lethal domestic extremist violence. We anticipate law enforcement, racial minorities, and the U.S. government will continue to be significant targets for many domestic extremist movements.

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Christopher Wray

FBI Director
July 23, 2019

I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we've investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence, but it does include other things as well.

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Erroll Southers

Let's get real. We have a problem with white supremacist terrorism in the United States. Our latest example was in El Paso, but there...Read more

Let's get real. We have a problem with white supremacist terrorism in the United States. Our latest example was in El Paso, but there are dozens upon dozens of cases that preceded it, and the threat seems to be escalating. Why then has this administration not only left the threat unaddressed but has actively dismantled the very programs, offices and funding that were in place to meet it?

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Jen Psaki

White House Press Secretary
January 22, 2021

I also have some news to share on the President's response to domestic violent extremism.  The January 6th assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we have long known: The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat. 

The... Read more

January 22, 2021

I also have some news to share on the President's response to domestic violent extremism.  The January 6th assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we have long known: The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat. 

The Biden administration will confront this threat with the necessary resources and resolve.  We are committed to developing policies and strategies based on facts, on objective and rigorous analysis, and on a respect for constitutionally protected free speech and political activities. 

Our initial work on DVE will broadly fall into three areas.  The first is a tasking from President Biden sent to the ODNI today requesting a comprehensive threat assessment, coordinated with the FBI and DHS, on domestic violent extremism.  This assessment will draw on the analysis from across the government and, as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations. 

The key point here is that we want fact-based analysis upon which we can shape policy.  So this is really the first step in the process, and we'll rely on our appropriate law enforcement and intelligence officials to provide that analysis. 

The second will be the building of an NSC capability to focus on countering domestic violent extremism.  As a part of this, the NSC will undertake a policy review effort to determine how the government can share information better about this threat, support efforts to prevent radicalization, disrupt violent extremist networks, and more. 

There's important work already underway across the interagency in countering DVE, and we need to understand better its current extent and where there may be gaps to address, so we can determine the best path forward. 

The third will be coordinating relevant parts of the federal government to enhance and accelerate efforts to address DVE.  This considered, an NSC-convened process will focus on addressing evolving threats, radicalization, the role of social media, opportunities to improve information sharing, operational responses, and more. 

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Supporting info

Counter Violent Extremism Needs an Overhaul

- Dr. Erroll G. Southers

Exclusive: Trump to focus counter-extremism program solely on Islam - sources

- Reuters

Trump dismantled tools to fight white supremacist terrorism

- Dr. Erroll G. Southers

Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation: The January 6 Insurrection, Domestic Terrorism, and Other Threats

2021/03/02 - Federal Bureau of Investigation

Current Threats to the Homeland - Federal Bureau of Investigation

2017/09/27 - Federal Bureau of Investigation