National Security

DHS report finds ‘significant gaps’ in agency’s domestic extremism approach

Greg Nash

A task force established by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas found the department has “significant gaps” in its approach to battling domestic violent extremism.

Established shortly after the Biden administration took office in the months after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, the task force found that a lack of guidance on what constitutes domestic violent extremism and how to report it has inhibited the department even as it increasingly seeks to communicate with the public about the risks posed by extremism.

“The Working Group assessed that the Department has significant gaps that have impeded its ability to comprehensively prevent, detect, and respond to potential threats related to domestic violent extremism within DHS,” the working group wrote.

“These gaps, which the Department is working with urgency to close, may have impacted DHS officials’ ability to adequately identify and address related threats.”

The report details the lack of a formal definition of domestic violent extremism within the DHS or training on how to identify it and report it.

The task force’s recommendation comes after a DHS Office of Inspector General report described how employees within DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis failed to forward concerning information they saw online in the days and weeks leading up to the Capitol attack. 

Employees detailed how they were unsure what language was serious enough to be elevated, an issue that partially stemmed from a lack of formal training.

The task force also found issues with the DHS’s data collection, which it said made tracking cases difficult.

The department “did not track domestic violent extremism allegations as their own sub-category of misconduct. Instead, such allegations were classified under another sub-category,” the report found.

Alternatively, the FBI tracks cases based on types of domestic violent extremism, which includes those who are motivated by race or ethnicity or anti-government sentiments, among other categories.

The report also dedicates significant space to ensuring that DHS employees themselves are not radicalized, despite finding “very few instances of the DHS workforce having been engaged in domestic violent extremism.”

While recent department actions show its serious focus on extremism, the task force recommended highlighting that focus in recruitment materials.

“One of the most effective methods of preventing domestic violent extremists from entering the DHS workforce is to discourage individuals engaging in violent extremist activities from applying to the Department in the first place,” the group wrote.

It also called for additional training for DHS employees that vet new hires, including on methods to go beyond a traditional background check and “expanding the use of publicly available information, including social media, beyond personnel security vetting, to identify or investigate potential violent extremist activity within the DHS workforce.”

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Department of Homeland Security DHS domestic extremism domestic violent extremism

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