The Biden administration on Tuesday rolled out what it said is a new strategy to counter domestic terrorism — a series of changes to elevate the federal government’s response to an urgent problem, with renewed efforts to deter, detect and prosecute those who would use violence in pursuit of political aims.
“What we are focused on is violence,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told NBC News’ Pete Williams in an exclusive interview. “The incitement of violence, the drive to violence, the commission of violent acts.”
The strategy and an accompanying White House fact sheet call for more scrutiny of public social media posts and better coordination among security agencies. But after a 100-day review, the White House didn’t make a decision about what might be the biggest policy question with regard to what it says is the most urgent security threat to the U.S.: whether to seek a law with specific criminal penalties for committing or supporting domestic terrorism. White House officials said they didn’t have enough information and asked the Justice Department to further review the issue.
There is no crime of domestic terrorism and no direct domestic equivalent to the “material support for terrorism” statute, which has allowed federal prosecutors to win long prison terms for people convicted of helping Al Qaeda and the Islamic State terrorist group, no matter how modest their support.
Many experts and civil liberties advocates argue that the government doesn’t need more legal authority to prosecute terrorism. Some FBI agents assert the opposite, saying a new law would help quantify the problem and add more prosecutorial tools.