The Biden administration’s Department of Justice is launching a specialized unit dedicated to sifting out domestic terrorism.
In a statement on Tuesday during testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the January 6 Capitol riot, Assistant Attorney General for national security, Matthew Olsen announced that the Department of Justice will establish a unit dedicated to address what the agency sees as a growing threat to American democracy.
“The threat posed by domestic terrorism is on the rise,” Olsen said. “The number of FBI investigations over the past two years since March 2020 has more than doubled.” Olsen cited as examples the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, the 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the 2017 shooting at the Congressional Baseball game practice, and the 2015 shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Olsen also made note of the anniversary of the Capitol riot and pointed out that the DOJ has arrested more than 725 people for their involvement in the Capitol breach, including more than 300 on felony charges.”
“The attacks in recent years underscore the threat that domestic terrorism continues to pose to our citizens, to law enforcement officers, to public officials, and to our democratic institutions,” Olsen added. “Based on the assessment of the intelligence community, we face an elevated threat from domestic violent extremists.”
Speaking before the Committee, Olsen explained that domestic terrorists are motivated by ideology and personal grievances. Additionally, he noted the DOJ has recently observed “a growing threat from those who are motivated by racial animus, as well as those who ascribe to extremist anti-government and anti-authority ideologies.
Despite the threat posed by domestic terrorists, Olsen acknowledged that the DOJ is still actively monitoring threats from foreign terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
“Today, investigating and prosecuting domestic violent extremists is one of our top priorities,” Olsen said, noting that the partnership between federal prosecutors and the FBI stands at the front line against domestic terrorism.
During a speech, Olsen outlined the role of the National Security Division in coordinating prosecutions relating to terrorism, which includes a team of prosecutors trained to handle such cases.
“In addition, I have decided to establish a domestic terrorism unit to augment our existing approach,” Olsen stated. “This group of dedicated attorneys will focus on the domestic terrorism threat, helping to ensure that these cases are handled properly and effectively coordinated across the Department of Justice and across the country.”
Olsen concluded his statement be assuring the committee that the Department of Justice does not prosecute individuals based on their beliefs and only pursues them if they commit violent crimes.