The Biden administration’s top law enforcement officials promised Wednesday to commit resources to fight and deter the threat of domestic terrorism in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas attended a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee and testified on the issue of domestic extremism.
Garland and Mayorkas both stated that white supremacist groups are the greatest domestic national security challenge endangering the United States.
“Domestic violent extremists pose an elevated threat in 2021 and in the FBI’s view, the top domestic violent extremist threat we face comes from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race,” Garland told legislators during the hearing.
The hearing revealed the conflicting priorities of the two political parties, as Republicans focus on the border crisis and the overwhelmed immigration system, while Democrats emphasize funding and expanding the role of organizations responsible for preventing attacks like the January 6 insurrection.
In response to a question from Republican Senator Richard Shelby, who asked whether the Justice Department was exercising the same scrutiny over the violent unrest in Portland, Ore., and other major metropolitan areas, Garland redirected the conversation back to the Capitol incident.
“We don’t care what the ideology is, violations of law are pursued and are prosecuted. I think it’s fair to say that in my career as a judge, and in law enforcement, I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol,” Garland said. “There was an attempt to interfere with the fundamental passing of an element of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power. And if there has to be a hierarchy of things that we prioritize, this would be the one we’d prioritize. It is the most dangerous threat to our democracy. That does not mean that we don’t focus on other threats.”
The committee asked Mayorkas about a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) internal review which evaluated its own employees for beliefs considered extremist.
“That sends chills down my spine that we have to even be doing that,” Senator Patrick Leahy remarked.
The DHS has announced that it is creating a special domestic terror bureau within the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. This initiative follows reports of DHS plans to closely screen social media platforms for extremist plots.
Mayorkas dismissed the concerns that the massive influx of migrants entering the United States could pose a significant national security threat.
“We don’t have any evidence to suggest that the threat on the border with respect to a foreign terrorist is any greater today than it was last year, the year prior, or the years over the past decade,” he commented.