Biden administration unveils plan to tackle domestic terrorism

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WASHINGTON – Five months after the attack on the United States Capitol, the Biden administration on Tuesday (June 15) will unveil new steps to combat the “elevated threat” posed by domestic terrorism, but will not – for now – seek legislation to battle home-grown threats.

Instead, in a national strategy to be publicly unveiled by US Attorney-General Merrick Garland, the administration is seeking increased information sharing, additional resources to identify and prosecute threats, and new deterrents to prevent Americans from joining dangerous groups.

The new approach comes after the administration conducted a sweeping assessment earlier this year of domestic terrorism that labelled white supremacists and militia groups as top national security threats.

The issue took on new urgency after the Jan 6 assault on the Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump who were trying to overturn Mr Joe Biden’s election victory.

The strategy calls for better information sharing among state, federal and local governments, along with better coordination among the federal government and social media companies.

But it stopped short of calling for new laws to combat domestic threats.

“We concluded that we didn’t have the evidentiary basis, yet, to decide whether we wanted to proceed in that direction or whether we have sufficient authority as it currently exists at the federal level,” a senior administration official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement.

In his budget proposal released last month, Mr Biden is also seeking US$100 million (S$132.6 million) in additional funding to train and hire analysts and prosecutors to disrupt and deter terrorist activity.

“The threat is elevated,” the administration official said. “Tackling it means ensuring that we do have the resources and personnel to address that elevated threat.”

The administration is also improving the federal government’s screening methods to better identify employees who may pose insider threats. They are looking to share those techniques with private companies.

That effort includes an ongoing review by the US Department of Defence over how and when to remove military members who are found to be engaged in known domestic terrorist groups.

The Defence Department review is looking at, among other things, how to define extremists, the senior administration official said.

“They are doing this in a way they feel ratchets up the protection but also respects expression and association protections,” the official said.

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