DOJ creates new post to oversee domestic terror cases

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The Justice Department this week created a new office to coordinate investigations into domestic terrorism, a top official said on Wednesday, following a wave of violent shootings that have incited new fears about homegrown terror.

The new domestic terrorism counsel will serve “as our main point of contact for U.S. attorneys working on domestic terrorism matters,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said during an event at George Washington University, according to prepared remarks.

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The new lawyer will help “identify trends to help shape our strategy, and to analyze legal gaps or enhancements required to ensure we can combat these threats,” Carlin added, by providing “insights from cases and trends from around the country.” Carlin is the head of the Justice Department’s national security division.

Justice Department officials declined to offer the name of the person filling the new position.

Creation of the role comes after a string of deadly shootings in cities across the country, which have reignited concerns about domestic extremism from adherents of radical forms of Islam and other ideologies.

Shootings in Charleston, S.C., Chattanooga, Tenn., and elsewhere have elevated concerns about the different kinds of “lone wolf” individuals who may seek to wreak violence in the United States for a multitude of reasons. 

In particular, many Obama administration officials have raised alarms that adherents of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are becoming increasingly radicalized through the Internet and then launching plots to carry out attacks at home.

“We have witnessed a surge in individuals inspired by this extremist ideology who want to conduct attacks inside the United States,” Carlin said on Wednesday.

However, some critics of the government’s approach have warned that its narrow focus on Islamic extremism has left it blind to other radicals, such as white supremacists, militant environmentalists or adherents of ultra-conservative “sovereign citizen” movements, who believe they are not beholden to any government authority. 

Carlin on Wednesday made a point of acknowledging that perceived imbalance.

“Looking back over the past few years, it is clear that domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists remain a real and present danger to the United States,” he said. “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.”

According to analysis from the New America Foundation, nearly twice as many Americans have been killed by attacks from right-wing extremists in the years since 9/11 than by Islamic jihad. 

Still, Carlin argued that part of the reason there have not been major terror attacks in the U.S. on the scale of 9/11 was because of the government's focus on preventing those plots. 

"We need to remain dedicated," he said, "because they still want to do those attacks and if we weren’t out there disrupting and deterring, unfortunately I think they would."

Updated at 5:14 p.m.