The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday announced it is forming a unit to combat domestic terrorism as national security officials warn of a “persistent and evolving” threat of violent extremism within the U.S.
Matthew Olsen, the assistant attorney general for national security, made the announcement as he noted that the number of domestic terror investigations launched by the FBI has more than doubled since March 2020.
Olsen was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“We face an elevated threat from domestic violent extremists — that is, individuals in the United States who seek to commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of domestic social or political goals,” Olsen said.
“Domestic violent extremists are often motivated by a mix of ideologies and personal grievances. We have seen a growing threat from those who are motivated by racial animus, as well as those who ascribe to extremist anti-government and anti-authority ideologies,” he added. “We also remain vigilant to the persistent threat from international terrorist groups, particularly al-Qaida and ISIS.”
“I decided to establish a domestic terrorism unit to augment our existing approach,” said Olsen.
“This group of dedicated attorneys will focus on the domestic terrorism threat, helping to ensure that these cases are handled properly and effectively coordinated across the Department of Justice and across the country.”
The announcement follows a vow from Attorney General Merrick Garland to prioritize combating domestic terrorism.
FBI National Security Branch Executive Assistant Director Jill Sanborn also testified at the hearing, echoing other national security experts in warning of lone-wolf actors.
“The greatest terrorism threat facing the United States today remains that posed by lone actors or small cells, who typically radicalized online and look to use easily accessible weapons to attack soft targets,” she said.