The Justice Department Refocuses on Domestic Terrorism

A committee that hasn’t met since 9/11 reconvenes to focus on domestic threats.

National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
June 4, 2014, 9:31 a.m.

U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er an­nounced on Tues­day that the Justice De­part­ment is re­con­ven­ing a com­mit­tee fo­cused on ad­dress­ing do­mest­ic ter­ror­ism threats that has not met in more than a dec­ade.

The Do­mest­ic Ter­ror­ism Ex­ec­ut­ive Com­mit­tee was cre­ated al­most 20 years ago in the af­ter­math of the Ok­lahoma City bomb­ing to pro­mote co­ordin­a­tion between dif­fer­ent ele­ments of the Justice De­part­ment, but it was dis­solved after the Septem­ber 11, 2001, at­tacks, when the coun­try’s at­ten­tion turned to threats from out­side the U.S.

The com­mit­tee will in­clude U.S. at­tor­neys, mem­bers of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Di­vi­sion, and mem­bers of the FBI. The gov­ern­ment will con­tin­ue to ad­dress threats from al-Qaida and oth­er ex­trem­ist groups abroad. “But we also must con­cern ourselves with the con­tin­ued danger we face from in­di­vidu­als with­in our own bor­ders who may be mo­tiv­ated by a vari­ety of oth­er causes from an­ti­gov­ern­ment an­im­us to ra­cial pre­ju­dice,” Hold­er said.

The Amer­ic­an Civil Liber­ties Uni­on told Re­u­ters that it will work with the Justice De­part­ment to en­sure that new policies do not res­ult in pro­fil­ing of sus­pects based on race or oth­er pro­tec­ted char­ac­ter­ist­ics. “At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Hold­er’s an­nounce­ment that the new task force will fo­cus on evid­ence of an­ti­gov­ern­ment an­im­us and ra­cial in­tol­er­ance raises con­cerns that it could be a sweep­ing man­date to mon­it­or and col­lect con­tro­ver­sial speech,” said Lee Row­land, a staff at­tor­ney at the ACLU.

At the same time, a re­newed em­phas­is on do­mest­ic ter­ror­ism could up­set some on the right who are mis­trust­ful of Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion policies. In 2009, then-Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment Sec­ret­ary Janet Na­pol­it­ano presided over an in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ment that pro­posed closer scru­tiny of “right-wing ex­trem­ism,” in­clud­ing some an­ti­abor­tion and anti-im­mig­ra­tion groups, gun own­ers, and re­cent war vet­er­ans. The re­port angered many con­ser­vat­ives when it was re­leased.

The move re­fo­cuses the Justice De­part­ment on do­mest­ic threats in the wake of events such as the shoot­ing at a Jew­ish Com­munity Cen­ter in Kan­sas City, Mo., in April.

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