Durbin, Schneider Reintroduce Legislation To Combat Domestic Terrorist Threat

WASHINGTON—Following a year of horrific incidents of domestic terrorism targeting religious and ethnic minorities and communities of color, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL-10) today reintroduced bicameral legislation to address the growing domestic-terrorism threat.  The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2020 would enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism by establishing offices dedicated to combating this threat; requiring federal law enforcement agencies to regularly assess this threat; and providing training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in addressing it.

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.  Last fall, DHS released its Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence, which noted that “White supremacist violent extremism, one type of racially- and ethnically-motivated violent extremism, is one of the most potent forces driving domestic terrorism.”

“Religious minorities and communities of color are at grave risk from the growing domestic terrorism threat facing the United States today,” said Durbin.  “For too long, we have failed to take action to combat this deadly menace in our own backyard.  The Federal government must step up to address this threat and ensure that more Americans are not violently attacked because of who they are or what they believe.”

“Across the country, our communities are facing a rising tide of domestic terror, particularly from violent far-right extremists and white supremacist organizations.  It is not enough to condemn hate, we need to equip law enforcement with the tools to identify threats and prevent acts of domestic terrorism,” Schneider said.  “I am proud to partner with Senator Durbin on this legislation to improve coordination between federal agencies on monitoring dangerous domestic extremism and stopping violence.”        

The bill authorizes 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 biannual 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 six months; 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, DHS, and the FBI to provide training and resources to assist State, local, and tribal law enforcement in understanding, detecting, deterring, and investigating acts of domestic terrorism.  Finally, the legislation would establish an interagency task force to combat white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the uniformed services.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act has been endorsed by leading civil rights organizations, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Muslim Advocates, Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Arab American Institute, Sikh Coalition, NAACP, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Human Rights Campaign, and Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism.

The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), as well as U.S. Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15), J. Luis Correa (D-CA-46), Gil Cisneros (D-CA-39), Jim Cooper (D-TN-05), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH-02), Ed Case (D-HI-01), Grace Meng (D-NY-06), Kendra Horn (D-OK-05), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-07), and Kathleen Rice (D-NY-04).

In 2012, as chairman of the Senate 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 DOJ, DHS, and FBI testified about the serious threat posed by violent domestic extremists.