Durbin Introduces Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced new legislation to address the growing threat of white supremacist groups and other violent domestic extremists. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism by requiring federal law enforcement agencies to regularly assess those threats and provide training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in addressing these threats.

According to a May 2017 intelligence bulletin by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), white supremacist extremism poses a persistent threat of lethal violence, and white supremacists were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016—more than any other domestic extremist movement. 

Violent white supremacist groups and other right-wing extremists are the most significant domestic terror threat facing the United States today,” said Durbin. “But too often when violent tragedy strikes our people, the conversation only shifts to terrorism if the perpetrator is from another country. Our own federal law enforcement agencies recognize that terrorism is on the rise in our own backyard, and it’s time that Congress take steps to address it.” 

The bill authorizes existing Justice Department (DOJ), DHS, and FBI offices that are responsible for monitoring, analyzing, investigating, and prosecuting domestic terrorism. The bill also requires these offices to issue joint annual reports to the House and Senate Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Intelligence Committees that assess the domestic terrorism threat posed by white supremacists; analyze domestic terrorism incidents that occurred in the previous year; and provide transparency through a public quantitative analysis of domestic terrorism-related assessments, investigations, incidents, arrests, indictments, prosecutions, convictions, and weapons recoveries. 

The DHS, DOJ, and FBI offices would be required to focus their limited resources on the most significant domestic terrorism threats, as determined by the number of domestic terrorism-related incidents outlined in the joint report. 

The legislation also codifies the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee (DTEC), an interagency task force which was originally created by the Department of Justice in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing.  

Additionally, the bill requires DOJ’s State and Local Anti-Terrorism Program to include training and resources to assist State, local, and tribal law enforcement in understanding, detecting, deterring, and investigating acts of domestic terrorism. The legislation also requires the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces and State, local, and regional fusion centers, which coordinate with DHS, to (1) share intelligence to address domestic terrorism activities; (2) conduct annual, intelligence-based assessments of domestic terrorism activities in their jurisdictions; and (3) formulate and execute a plan to combat domestic terrorism activities in their jurisdictions.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act has been endorsed by leading civil rights organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Arab American Institute, Muslim Advocates, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). 

In 2012, as chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, Durbin held a hearing on the threat of violent right-wing extremism after a white supremacist murdered six worshippers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Officials from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) testified about the serious threat posed by violent domestic extremists.