DOJ unveils new domestic terror unit as U.S. faces ‘persistent and evolving’ threats a year after Jan. 6, officials warn

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  • The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it was creating a unit to combat domestic terrorism as national security officials warned of a “persistent and evolving” threat of violent extremism within the US.
  • The new unit was unveiled days after the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol invasion, when hundreds of former President Donald Trump supporters violently stormed the building.
  • A DOJ official told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the FBI has more than doubled the number of investigations it has opened into suspected domestic terrorists since the spring of 2020.

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The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it was creating a unit to combat domestic terrorism as national security officials warned of a “persistent and evolving” threat of violent extremism within the US.

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The new unit was unveiled days after the first anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, when hundreds of former President Donald Trump supporters violently stormed the building and forced lawmakers to flee their chambers, Temporarily halted the transfer of power to President Joe Biden. ,

The DOJ and the FBI have clarified that the attack on the Capitol is being “investigated as an act of domestic terrorism,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen for the DOJ’s National Security Division. He said it was “perfectly appropriate” to do so under the scheme. definition of domestic terrorism in federal criminal law.

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During a hearing on domestic terror threats in the wake of the Capitol riots, Olsen told the Senate Judiciary Committee the establishment of a “domestic terror unit” is “to augment our current approach.”

“This group of dedicated lawyers will focus on the threat of domestic terrorism, helping to ensure that these cases are properly and effectively coordinated by the Department of Justice and across the country,” Olsen said.

Olsen also noted that since the spring of 2020, the FBI has more than doubled the number of investigations it has opened into suspected domestic terrorists.

Jill Sanborn, executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, told senators during the hearing that the domestic terror threat is “continuous and evolving,” although foreign threats remain the government’s focus.

The biggest source of domestic terror threats, Sanborn said, is from single actors or small cells that typically radicalize online, find easily accessible weapons and then attack “soft targets,” such as civilians. public meeting.

The two most prevalent categories of domestic violent extremism today are racist extremism and anti-government extremism, Sanborn said. The FBI considers white supremacist extremists and anti-government extremists, especially anti-government fighters, to be the deadliest threats.

The DOJ’s investigation into the January 6 attacks, meanwhile, is the largest ever criminal investigation, with more than 725 people arrested and charged in connection with the riots. According to the DOJ, the FBI is still trying to identify more than 350 others who they believe led to violence at the Capitol, more than 250 of whom may have attacked officers.

Like most other issues on Capitol Hill, the politics surrounding the Capitol riot has become a battlefield of increasing partisan polarization. Republicans allied with Trump, still the de facto leader of the GOP, have raided the bipartisan House select committee investigating the riots. Others in the GOP have sought to downplay the attack or compare it with violence that occurred during or after protests against police brutality and racism, which spread across the country in the summer of 2020.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, member of the judiciary panel, appeared on Fox News program to apologize last week After coming under fire from the right for what he called a “violent terrorist attack” on January 6.

, CNBC’s Seveni Campos

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