Homeland Security Launches a Review of Domestic Extremism in its Ranks

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 1, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday launched an internal review to root out what it calls “domestic violent extremism” within the agency, as officials have focused on preventing acts of domestic terrorism in the wake of the January 6 Capitol riots.

“As we work to safeguard the nation and our values, we must be vigilant in our efforts to identify and combat domestic violent extremism within both the broader community and our own organization,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in a memo to staff, according to CNN. ABC noted that DHS “did not cite any specific incidents in announcing the review.”

“Violent extremism has no place at DHS and we will work with urgency and focus to address it,” Mayorkas added.

According to the department, senior officials across the agency will “immediately begin a comprehensive review of how to best prevent, detect, and respond to threats related to domestic violent extremism within DHS.”

Senior officials will work to determine whether extremist ideology is prevalent in the department’s various agencies, including the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service and the Coast Guard. The review will be no small undertaking: Homeland Security has more than 240,000 employees. 

Senior officials will establish a process for agents who are found to have an association with extremist groups or who share those beliefs online or while on duty, Mayorkas said. 

Mayorkas noted that he is “mindful of the constitutional right to free speech.”

“There is a marked difference between that right and violence in furtherance of extremist ideologies,” he added.

He indicated that the team would create training and resources for employees and hold listening sessions for officers and agents.

Mayorkas called domestic extremists “the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to our country today.”

The department’s review follows the completion of a 60-day “stand down” at the Pentagon to address extremism after a number of veterans participated in the Capitol riot. A “stand down” occurs when the defense secretary deems an issue important enough to be addressed through discussions across the force, according to the New York Times.

The Pentagon said a group would be assembled to review how to improve its vetting process for recruits and to educate service members who may be targeted by extremist organizations.

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