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CD237: Hunting Domestic Terrorists

Congressional Dish

Release Date: 08/30/2021

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In the aftermath of January 6th, Congress passed a "Capitol Security" law and is considering other measures to deal with "domestic terrorists". In this episode, after we examine the new law, we take a look at the domestic terrorism related bills making their way through Congress, we analyze the laws already on the books which allow way too many Americans to be branded as "domestic terrorist" suspects, and we take a close look at the Biden administrations disturbing plans for investigating, preventing, and prosecuting American citizens for crimes they haven't committed yet.

Executive Producer: Christopher Grizzle

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Background Sources

Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD236: January 6: The Capitol Riot

CD235: The Safe Haven of Sanctions Evaders

CD228: The Second Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump

CD224: Social Media Censorship

Domestic Terrorism Policy and Strategy

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. August 13, 2021. “National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin”.

U.S. National Security Council. June 2021. National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. The White House.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. May 11, 2021. “DHS Creates New Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships and Additional Efforts to Comprehensively Combat Domestic Violent Extremism”.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. September 19, 2019. "Fusion Centers."

"John D. Cohen: Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security." No date. U.S. House of Representatives Document Repository.

John Cohen LinkedIn profile

U.S. Department of Defense Security Cooperation Agency. No date. "Humanitarian Assistance".

Perspectives on the "Domestic War on Terror"

Branko Marcetic. July 28, 2021. “The FBI’s Domestic 'War on Terror' Is an Authoritarian Power Grab.” Jacobin.

Ken Bensinger and Jessica Garrison. July 20, 2021. "Watching the Watchmen." BuzzFeed News.

Harsha Panduranga. June 21, 2021. “Why Biden’s Strategy for Preventing Domestic Terrorism Could Do More Harm Than Good.” Los Angeles Times.

Glenn Greenwald. June 2, 2021. “The New Domestic War on Terror Has Already Begun -- Even Without the New Laws Biden Wants.” Glenn Greenwald Substack.

Faiza Patel. February 16, 2021. "We Don’t Need More Terrorism Laws After the Capitol Riot. Just Look At Our 9/11 Mistakes." Brennan Center for Justice.

January 6 Capitol Riot Aftermath

Natalia Gurevich. August 24, 2021. “After Jan. 6 attack, US Capitol Police choose San Francisco for new field office.” KCBS Radio.

Barbara Sprunt. July 27, 2021. “Here Are The 9 Lawmakers Investigating The Jan. 6 Capitol Attack.” NPR.

Glenn Greenwald. July 8, 2021. "The Capitol Police, Armed With $2 Billion in New Funding, Expanding Operations Outside of D.C." Glenn Greenwald Substack.

United States Capitol Police. July 6, 2021. “After the Attack: The Future of the U.S. Capitol Police.”

Lexi Lonas. June 30, 2021. "Nearly 70 House lawmakers ask leadership to reimburse National Guard for Jan. 6 response.” The Hill.

Jacob Pramuk. May 20, 2021. "House passes $1.9 billion Capitol security bill that faces Senate roadblocks." CNBC.

Corporate and Government Partnerships

Rachael Levy. August 15, 2021. “Homeland Security Considers Outside Firms to Analyze Social Media After Jan. 6 Failure."

Anti-Defamation League. July 26, 2021. “PayPal Partners with ADL to Fight Extremism and Protect Marginalized Communities.”

Danny O'Brien and Rainey Reitman. December 14, 2020. “Visa and Mastercard are Trying to Dictate What You Can Watch on Pornhub.” Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Gillian Friedman. December 10, 2020. “Mastercard and Visa stop allowing their cards to be used on Pornhub.” New York Times.

Shannon Souza. October 12, 2020. “Credit and Debit Card Market Share by Network and Issuer.” The Ascent: A Motley Fool Service.

New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Christchurch Call.

“Anti-Defamation League.” Last edited March 30, 2012. SourceWatch.

Valens Global. "Who We Are."


Laws

H.R. 3237: Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (Capitol Police Funding)

Sponsor: Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)

Status: Signed into law, 2021

May 20 House Vote Breakdown
Congressional Budget Office Score

Law Outline

TITLE I: DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Emergency funding appropriated...

  • $600 million for the National Guard
  • $500 million for the "Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid" account

TITLE II: DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Emergency funding appropriated...

  • $25 million for Refugee and Entrant Assistance for Afghans

TITLE III: LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Emergency funding appropriated...

  • $11.6 million for the House of Representatives for coronavirus related expenses.
  • $ 8 million for the Senate Sergeant at Arms for coronavirus related expenses
  • $346 thousand for the families of late members of Congress Ronald Wright and Alcee Hastings.
CAPITOL POLICE

Emergency funding appropriated...

  • $37.5 million for "Salaries" account for January 6 related expenses

    • $3.6 million is for retention bonuses
    • $6.9 million for hazard pay
    • $1.4 million for a wellness program for the Capitol Police officers
  • $33 million for "General Expenses" account for January 6 related expenses

    • At least $5 million must be spent on "reimbursable agreements with State and local law enforcement agencies"
    • At least $4.8 million for protective details for Congress
    • $2.6 million for physical protection barriers and other civil disturbance unit equipment
    • $2.5 million to the US Marshalls Service for providing counseling to Capitol Police officers.
    • $800,000 for coronavirus expenses
  • $35.4 million for mutual aid and training

    • $9 million for payments to other local law enforcement partners who responded on January 6
    • Leaves $25 million for Capitol Police training
ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL

Emergency funding appropriated...

  • $22 million for coronavirus expenses
CAPITOL POLICE BUILDINGS, GROUNDS AND SECURITY

Emergency funding appropriated to the Capitol Police and Architect of the Capitol Police...

  • $300 million to repair January 6th damage
    • $281 million for windows, doors, and enhances physical security
    • $17 million for security cameras
GENERAL PROVISIONS

Sec. 310: No Permanent Fencing

  • No funds now or in the future can be used to install "permanent, above ground fencing around the perimeter, or any portion thereof, of the United States Capitol Grounds.

TITLE IV: BILATERAL ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, MIGRATION AND REFUGEE ASSISTANCE

Emergency funding appropriated...

  • $100 million for "humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and to assist Afghan refugees"
  • $500 million for the "United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund"
GENERAL PROVISIONS

Extension and Modification of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program (See episode CD238)

TITLE V: DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

STATE AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSISTANCE

Emergency funding appropriated...

  • $1.1 million for reimbursements for protecting Joe Biden between his election and inauguration

USA PATRIOT Act

Sponsor: James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI)

Status: Signed into law, 2001

Bills

S. 1896: Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act

Sponsor: Doris Matsui (D-CA)

Status: Introduced, May 28, 2021

S. 937: COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act

Sponsor: Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

Status: Enacted, March 23, 2021

H.Res. 272: Calling for the designation of Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization

Sponsor: Lauren Boebert (R-CO)

Status: Introduced to the House, March 26, 2021

S. 963: Domestic Terrorism and Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Sponsor: Richard Durbin (D-IL) Status: Sent to the Senate for consideration March 25, 2021

S. 964: Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021

Sponsor: Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Status: Introduced, March 24, 2021

H.R. 657: District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act

Sponsor: Eleanor Norton (D-DC) Status: Introduced, February 1, 2021

S. 130: District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act

Sponsor: Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Status: Introduced January 28, 2021

H.R. 350: Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021

Sponsor: Brad Schneider (D-IL)

Status: Introduced January 19, 2021

H.R. 4192: Confronting the Threat of Domestic Terrorism Act

Sponsor: Adam Schiff (D-CA)

Status: Died in 116th Congress


The Hearings

Resources and Authorities Needed to Protect and Secure the Homeland

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
July 27, 2021

Testimony heard from Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security

37:00 DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: Domestic terrorism is the most lethal and persistent terrorism related threat to the United States today. That is why we are requesting $131 million to support innovative methods to prevent domestic terrorism, while respecting privacy, civil rights and civil liberties.


2:27:00 Sen. Jon Ossoff (GA): According to DHS, FBI data from 2015 to 2019, 65 Americans were tragically killed in domestic terrorist attacks. And I want to put that in context by referring to CDC homicide data over the same period of 2015 to 2019. 94,636 Americans killed by homicide over that same period.


2:27:15 Sen. Jon Ossoff (GA): What leads you to the conclusion that the level of threat from domestic violent extremists and the level of threat posed by potential domestic terrorists has risen to the extent that it justifies this bureaucratic focus and this budgetary focus you've requested, for example, resources to establish a new dedicated domestic terrorism branch within DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis.


2:28:00 DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: What we see is an increasing amount of social media traffic that is based on ideologies of hate, and extremism, false narratives, and an increasing connectivity to violence - intention to commit violent acts. And so that is what causes us to conclude that this is the greatest terrorist related threat that we face in our homeland today.


2:28:15 DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: What we seek to do is more effectively disseminate what we learn about those trends - mindful of rights of privacy and civil rights and civil liberties - disseminate that information to our state, local, tribal, territorial partners on the one hand, and importantly, to equip local communities, to empower them to address the threat in their own neighborhoods.

Terrorism and Digital Financing: How Technology is Changing the Threat

House Committee on Homeland Security: Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism
July 22, 2021

Testimony was heard from the following Department of Homeland Security officials:


3:15 Rep. Elise Slotkin (MI): Some of the online platforms and online tech allow easy access for thousands, if not millions of users to donate money through online campaigns. For example, crowdfunding through PayPal, GoFundMe, and Amazon have become popular ways in recent years for extremist groups to raise money. To put this in context, according to the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, from about 2005 to 2015, just about every extremist group they tracked featured a PayPal button on their website. Now, even though PayPal and other payment processing platforms became aware of the issue and began to ban extremists from their flat platforms, which is a great first step, these groups have persevered and maintained a strong online presence.


5:00 Rep. Elise Slotkin (MI): But just as nefarious groups have changed their fundraising tactics after crackdowns by payment processors like PayPal, when law enforcement begins following and cracking down on illicit Bitcoin use, terrorist fundraisers advise supporters to use other cryptocurrencies to avoid detection. This was the case of a pro ISIS website that requested its supporters send money via Monero, another cryptocurrency instead of Bitcoin because of its privacy and safety features.


6:00 Rep. Elise Slotkin (MI): But we know we have an uphill battle. Our subcommittee really stands ready to help the department with what you need. If you need changes to legislation, if you need resources, we want to hear more from you, not less.


56:55 Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ): I hear the phrase that it enables the democratization of currency. And every time someone says we're democratizing something, it kind of ends the conversation. That's sort of good. I don't really understand what that means in this context. I think it's an abstraction, whereas ransomware attacks are not an abstraction. They're hurting people, every single day. So I'm not sure if I see it. And I think we do need to expand this conversation to ask that fundamental question, whether the challenges that you are facing - that we are asking you to deal with - in protecting us against all of these social ills, are challenges that are necessary, inescapable and inevitable. And I think we have to ask, what is the good? What is the positive social value of this phenomenon that is also creating all of this harm? And you know, I think when you look at the history of how we built modern economies in the United States and around the world, we started three or 400 years ago with multiple currencies that were unregulated and not controlled by governments and in every modern economy, we built what we have today when government decided no, we're going to have one currency that is issued and regulated by government. And I think I could ask you - we don't have time - how we can better regulate cryptocurrency, but I think if we regulated it, it wouldn't be crypto anymore. And so what would be the point? So I come back to the question, should this be allowed? Thank you. I yield back.

Examining the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol, Part II

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Committee on Rules and Administration
March 3, 2021
Hearing on C-SPAN Day II, Part I Hearing on C-SPAN Day II, Part II

Testimony was heard from:

  • Robert Salesses, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense and Global Security at the U.S. Department of Defense
  • Major General William Walker, Commanding General of the DC National Guard
  • Jill Sanborn, Assistant Director, Counterterrorism Division Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice

06:42 Sen. Gary Peters (MI): But the January 6 attack must mark a turning point. There can be no question that the domestic terrorist threat and concluding violence driven by white supremacy and anti-government groups is the gravest terrorist threat to our homeland security. Moving forward, the FBI, which is tasked with leading our counterterrorism efforts, and the Department of Homeland Security, which ensures that state and local law enforcement understands the threats that American communities face must address this deadly threat with the same focus and resources and analytical rigor that they apply to foreign threats such as ISIS and Al Qaeda.

State and Local Responses to Domestic Terrorism: The Attack on the U.S. Capitol and Beyond

House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism
March 24, 2021

Testimony was heard from:

  • Dana Nessel, Attorney General, Michigan
  • Aaron Ford, Attorney General, Nevada
  • John Chisholm, District Attorney, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin

07:19 Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI): The post 9/11 era of security where the threats come from abroad is over. In the 20 years of the post 9/11 era, they came to an end on January 6th, the new reality is that we have to come to terms with is that it's our extremists here at home, seeking to explain internal divisions that pose the greatest threat.

Dollars Against Democracy: Domestic Terrorist Financing in the Aftermath of Insurrection

House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy
February 25, 2021

Testimony was heard from:

  • Iman Boukadoum, Senior Manager, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Lecia Brooks, Executive Director, Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Daniel Glaser
    • Global Head Jurisdictional Services and Head of Washington, DC Office at K2 Integrity
    • Senior Advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
    • Board member at the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority
    • Former Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, U.S. Department of the Treasury
  • Daniel Rogers Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer at Global Disinformation Index
  • Daveed Gertenstein-Ross, CEO of Valens Global

03:28 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): In the wake of the attacks of September 11th, we recast the entire federal government and worked feverishly to defund terrorist streams. To effectively disrupt domestic extremist groups, we need to better understand their financing.


23:11 Daniel Glaser: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to talk about how the US government can employ similar tools and strategies against white nationalists and other domestic terrorist groups as it has employed against global jihadist groups over the past two decades.


27:42 Daniel Glaser: Potential measures in Treasury's toolbox include the issuance of guidance to financial institutions on financial type policies, methodologies and red flags, the establishment of public private partnerships, the use of information sharing authorities, and the use of geographic targeting orders. Taken together these measures will strengthen the ability of financial institutions to identify, report and impede the financial activity of domestic extremist groups and will ensure that the US financial system is a hostile environment for these groups.


30:10 Daniel Rogers: These groups leverage the Internet as a primary means of disseminating their toxic ideologies and soliciting funds. One only needs to search Amazon or Etsy for the term q anon to uncover shirts, hats, mugs, books and other paraphernalia that both monetize and further popularize the domestic violent extremist threat. Images from that fateful day last month are rife with sweatshirts that say, Camp Auschwitz that until recently were for sale on websites like Teespring and cafe press. As we speak at least 24 individuals indicted for their role in the January 6 insurrection, including eight members of the proud boys have used crowdfunding site gifts and go to raise nearly a quarter million dollars in donations. And it's not just about the money. This merchandise acts as a sort of team jersey that helps these groups recruit new members and foment further hatred towards their targets. We analyze the digital footprints of 73 groups across 60 websites, and 225 social media accounts and their use of 54 different online fundraising mechanisms, including 47 payment platforms and five different cryptocurrencies, ultimately finding 191 instances of hate groups using online fundraising services to support their activities. The funding mechanisms included both primary platforms like Amazon, intermediary platforms, such as Stripe or Shopify crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe, payments facilitators like PayPal, monetized content streaming services, such as YouTube, super chats, and cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. All of these payment mechanisms were linked to websites or social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, telegram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, gab, picshoot and others. The sheer number of companies I just mentioned, is the first clue to the scale and the scope of the problem.


43:25 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): Mr. Glaser, you you, though suggested something new that I'd like to give you a maybe 30 seconds, 42 seconds I have left to elaborate on you said you were taught you were hopeful for sanctions like authorities against domestic actors. You did nod to constitutional civil liberties concerns. But give us another 30 seconds on exactly what you mean. And perhaps most importantly, what sort of fourth amendment overlay should accompany such authority?


43:52 Daniel Glaser: Well, thank you, thank you for the question. The fact is, the Treasury Department really does not have a lot of authority to go after purely domestic groups in the way that it goes after global terrorist organizations that simply doesn't have that authority. You could imagine an authority that does allow for the designation of domestic organizations, it would have to take into account that, the constitutional restrictions. When you look when you read the a lot of the court decisions, there's concerns could be addressed in the statute, there's concerns. A lot of the scrutiny is heightened because sanctions are usually accompanied with acid freezes. But you could imagine sanctions that don't involve asset freezes that involve transaction bounds that involve regulatory type of requirements that you see in Section 311 of the Patriot Act. So there's a variety of ways that both the due process standards could be raised from what we see in the global context.


48:21 Rep. French Hill (AZ): On 314 in the Patriot Act, is that a place where we could, in a protected appropriate way make a change that relates to this domestic issue? Or is that, in your view, too challenging? Daveed Gertenstein-Ross: No, I think it's a place where you could definitely make a change. The 314-A process allows an investigator to canvass financial institutions for potential lead information that might otherwise never be uncovered. It's designed to allow disparate pieces of information to be identified, centralized and evaluated. So when law enforcement submits a request to FinCEN, to get information from financial institutions, it has to submit a written certification that each individual or entity about which the information is sought is engaged in or reasonably suspected of engaging in terrorist activity or money laundering. I think that in some cases 314-A, may already be usable, but I think it's worth looking at the 314-A process to see if in this particular context, when you're looking at domestic violent extremism, as opposed to foreign terrorist organizations, there are some tweaks that would provide ability to get leads in this manner.


1:15:04 Iman Boukadoum: What we submit is that the material support for terrorism statute, as we know, there are two of them. There's one with an international Nexus that is required. And there's one that allows for investigating material support for terrorism, domestic terrorism, in particular, as defined in the patriot act with underlying statutes that allows for any crimes that take place within the United States that have no international nexus. And we believe that that second piece of material support for terrorism statute has been neglected and can be nicely used with the domestic terrorism definition as laid out in the Patriot Act. And we hope that statutory framework will be used to actually go after violent white nationalists and others.

The Capitol Insurrection: Unexplained Delays and Unanswered Questions (Part II)

House Committee on Oversight and Reform
June 15, 2021
Testimony was heard from:

  • General Charles E. Flynn, Commanding General, U.S. Army Pacific
  • Lieutenant General Walter E. Piatt, Director of the Army Staff, U.S. Army
  • Christopher Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

2:51:19 Chris Wray: Among the things that we've taken away from this experience are a few. One, as you heard me say in response to an earlier question, we need to develop better human sources, right, because if we can get better human sources, then we can better separate the wheat from the chaff in social media. Two, we need better data analytics. The volume, as you said, the volume of this stuff is, is just massive, and the ability to have the right tools to get through it and sift through it in a way that is, again, separating the wheat from the chaff is key. And then the third point that I would make is we are rapidly having to contend with the issue of encryption. So what I mean by that is, yes, there might be chatter on social media. But then what we have found and this is true in relation to January 6th, in spades, but it was also true over the summer in some of the violence that occurred there. Individuals will switch over to encrypted platforms for the really significant, really revealing communications. And so we've got to figure out a way to get into those communications or we're going to be constantly playing catch up in our effort to separate as I said, the wheat from the chaff on social media.


3:16:54 Chris Wray: As for social media, I think there's, there's it's understandable that there's a lot of confusion on this subject we do not we have very specific policies that Ben at the Department for a long time that govern our ability to use social media and when we have an authorized purpose and proper predication, there's a lot of things we can do on social media. And we do do and we aggressively do but what we can't do, what we can't do on social media is without proper predication, and an authorized purpose, just monitor, just in case on social media. Now, if the policies should be changed to reflect that, that might be one of the important lessons learned coming out of this whole experience. But that's not something that that currently the FBI has the either the authority or certainly the resources frankly, to do.


Executive producer contact information 

Robyn Thirkill


Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations


Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)