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Justice Department Creating Domestic Terrorism Unit

Justice Department Creating Domestic Terrorism Unit

Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers last May that domestic violent extremist groups, particularly white supremacists, posed a growing threat to the US. Now the Biden administration is creating a new unit in the justice department to counter domestic terrorism following the deadly Capitol attack on January 6, 2021, by supporters of Donald Trump. Five people died around the Capitol attack and more than 100 police officers were hurt; in the year that has elapsed, many Americans have called for accountability for the extremists who ransacked the halls of Congress and a way to stave off future attacks on democracy.

Matthew Olsen, the assistant attorney general of the National Security Division, said during a hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee that the number of FBI investigations into suspected domestic violent extremists had more than doubled since the spring of 2020. Testifying days after the United States observed the first anniversary of the violent attack on Congress, in which Trump supporters sought to stop certification of Joe Biden’s election victory, Olsen said the nation faces “an elevated threat from domestic violent extremists” who still believe the election was stolen.

[Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images]
In November, a top FBI official told Congress the bureau was conducting around 2,700 investigations related to domestic violent extremism. And while the DoJ national security division has a counter-terrorism section, Olsen told the committee he decided to create a specialized domestic terrorism unit “to augment our existing approach”.

Olsen said the new unit will be housed within the national security division and will work to “ensure that these cases are properly handled and effectively coordinated” across the department and around the country. The DoJ has so far brought criminal charges against more than 725 participants, including members of, or people associated with, far-right groups or militia including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and the Three Percenters.

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