Make America Safe Again, Pt. II
By: MPAC Policy Bureau
This week, the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) held a two-part hearing, titled “Domestic Terrorism and Violent Extremism: Examining the Threat of Racially, Ethnically, Religiously, and Politically Motivated Attacks”, examining the threat of domestic terrorism and racially motivated attacks. The hearings explored how the federal government, including Congress, can protect Americans from and prevent domestic terrorism through effective counterterrorism policies. We thank Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) and the Committee for prioritizing this issue and for taking the time to investigate how best to mitigate this threat.
The witness list for the first hearing included Wade Henderson, Eric Fingerhut, John Yang, Paul Goldenberg, and Dr. Seth G. Jones, and it focused on assessing the nature of the domestic terrorism in America today, including white supremacist violence and rising hate crimes. The most critical statements included those of Mr. Goldenberg and Mr. Henderson. The former indicated that law enforcement does not have sufficient powers to investigate and prosecute white supremacy, but Mr. Henderson cautioned against the introduction of a domestic terrorism charge and urged for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use the over 51 statutory ‘Federal Terrorism Charges’ and statutes that pose penalties under acts of terrorism.
The second hearing’s witnesses were Elizabeth Neumann, Maya Berry, Jonathan Greenblatt, and Brian Levin. This hearing primarily reviewed and deliberated prevention strategies. Ms. Neumann, who was previously the Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism & Threat Prevention at the DHS, offered some of the most compelling points. Ms. Neumann noted that our legal system treats similar crimes, like acts of terrorism committed by ISIS versus white supremacists, differently and urged for equal justice under law.
It is imperative that we as a nation prioritize addressing the threat of domestic terrorism in the form of white supremacy as a matter of critical national security. To this end, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and Emgage Action have developed a policy report entitled “The Double Standards of U.S. FTO vs. DTO Prosecution” as a guide for members Congress, federal agencies, and other key stakeholders.
Our top intelligence agencies, as well as the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security (DHS), have identified white supremacist violence as the single greatest threat to the American people; however, there is a clear discrepancy between these threat assessments and how these agencies allocate their resources. Despite the clear and persistent threat of white supremacy, the FBI and the DHS have disproportionately targeted, surveilled, prosecuted, and even entrapped American Muslims.
The safety of all Americans is of utmost importance. To ensure this, law enforcement agencies should use existing tools for preventing acts of terrorism to mitigate white supremacist violence. The FBI and Homeland Security must reevaluate their current counterterrorism approach, which still operates through a post 9/11 lens, collect more comprehensive and accurate data on white supremacy, and direct the tools and resources at their disposal to mitigate this threat.
MPAC looks forward to working with Chairman Peters, Ranking Member Portman and the rest of the Committee to ensure the safety of all Americans.