Global Economy

After years of focusing on Islamic extremism, US turns focus inwards on domestic terrorism

(This story originally appeared in on Jun 15, 2021)

Acknowledging the growth of domestic terrorism in a country that for long years trained its guns on Islamic terrorism beyond its shores, the Biden White House on Tuesday published its first ever national strategy for countering domestic extremism, five months after a violent, mostly white mob stormed the US Capitol in Washington.

Describing the domestic threat as more serious now than potential attacks from overseas, the 32-page strategy seeks to coordinate efforts across the government in law enforcement and prevention, while addressing the factors contributing to the problem, such as systemic racism, which many on the right of the political spectrum refuse to acknowledge.

Anticipating right-wing objections that the Democratic administration could use counterterrorism tools to persecute supporters of former President Donald Trump, the strategy calls for domestic terrorism to be tackled in an “ideologically neutral” manner, while protecting civil liberties.

“Our approach will protect both the nation and the civil liberties of its citizens,” the White House said in a fact sheet that cited federal law to define domestic terrorism as “activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

Although the strategy does not mention race or religion, President Biden has explicitly mentioned white supremacy as a clear and present danger to American ideals. On his first full day in office, the 46th President of the US ordered a review of government efforts to address domestic terrorism, unprecedentedly describing it “the most urgent terrorism threat the United States faces today.”

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“We cannot ignore this threat or wish it away,” Biden said in the introduction to the national strategy paper.

The domestic counter-terrorism strategy paper comes amid stray but growing accounts of white nativist-on-colored immigrants attacks, including in global entrepots such as New York City.

In one of the four pillars identified by the strategy paper, the administration pledged to address the long-term contributors that are responsible for much of today’s domestic terrorism, including reducing and protecting Americans from racial, ethnic, and religious hatred, and stemming the flow of firearms to individuals intending to commit acts of domestic terrorism.

“We will work to ensure that law enforcement operates without bias in countering domestic terrorism and provides for the public safety of all Americans. In a true democracy, violence cannot be an acceptable mode of seeking political or social change,” a fact sheet accompanying the paper said.

“The US Government will also work to find ways to counter the polarization often fueled by disinformation, misinformation, and dangerous conspiracy theories online, supporting an information environment that fosters healthy democratic discourse,” it added.


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