This week the Department of Justice created a new position aimed at coordinating investigations into the growth and threat of domestic terrorism. Current Assistant Attorney General John Carlin announced the move today during a speech focusing on the DOJ’s efforts to combat extremism at home.

From today’s remarks at the George Washington University – Southern Poverty Law Center event [emphasis mine]:

At NSD [National Security Division], in order to ensure that we are gaining the benefits of the information and input from those eyes on the ground from around the country, and in recognition of a growing number of potential domestic terrorism matters around the United Sates, we have created a new position to assist with our important work in combatting domestic terrorism. Just this week, we appointed a new Domestic Terrorism Counsel to serve as our main point of contact for U.S. Attorneys working on domestic terrorism matters. The new DT Counsel will not only help ensure that DT cases are properly coordinated, but will also play a key role in our headquarters-level efforts to identify trends to help shape our strategy, and to analyze legal gaps or enhancements required to ensure we can combat these threats. The new counsel will also play an important role with the DTEC by providing its members with insights from cases and trends from around the country.

This isn’t unexpected. The Obama Administration has been rustling around in their concern over domestic terrorism all year; high profile shootings in Chattanooga, Charleston, and elsewhere have made the Administration’s job a lot easier in this regard. These threats, coupled with the increasing number of Americans attempting to travel abroad to join ISIS, have fanned the flames and helped officials justify the creation of this new effort.

Carlin didn’t specify who would be tapped to fill the new role, but he did speak at length about what the DOJ hopes to focus on. Specifically, homegrown terrorism—and specifically white supremacy:

“We recognize that, over the past few years, more people have died in this country in attacks by domestic extremists than in attacks associated with international terrorist groups,” Carlin said

“Among domestic extremist movements active in the United States, white supremacists are the most violent. The Charleston shooter, who had a manifesto laying out a racist world-view, is just one example,” Carlin said, before also noting killings by white supremacists in Kansas and Wisconsin.

While he spoke about the threat posed by the Islamic State terror group, he emphasized that law enforcement is focused on racist and anti-government ideologies, and that such ideologies may pose a more serious threat than ISIS.

“More broadly, law enforcement agencies nationwide are concerned about the growth of the “sovereign citizen” movement. According to one 2014 study, state, local and tribal law enforcement officials considered sovereign citizens to be the top concern of law enforcement, ranking above ISIL and Al Qaeda-inspired extremists,” he said.

This is an interesting aside, considering a recent Congressional report revealed that ISIS attack plots doubled in 2015. Islamic extremism may not be the country’s most immediate threat—at least in terms of numbers—but I would argue that it’s unwise to push those concerns off to the side, even if he’s just doing it to tout the DOJ’s new program.

I’m not ready to pass full judgment on this program—we’re still learning about it, after all—but I will say it sounds like the echo of an awfully familiar drumbeat. Extremism in all forms is a worthy target for DOJ investigators, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering just how far the Administration will go in using this program to push hot button policy initiatives like gun control, at the expense of civil and constitutional liberties.

Follow Amy on Twitter @ThatAmyMiller


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