U.S. eyes ways to toughen fight against domestic extremists

A pro-militia supporter holds a constitution while chanting "Hands up. Don't Shoot" during a protest outside the Harney County Courthouse in Burns, Oregon. (Reuters)

The U.S. Justice Department is considering legal changes to combat what it sees as a rising threat from domestic anti-government extremists, senior officials told Reuters, even as it steps up efforts to stop ISIS-inspired attacks at home.

Extremist groups motivated by a range of U.S.-born philosophies present a “clear and present danger,” John Carlin, the Justice Department's chief of national security, told Reuters in an interview. “Based on recent reports and the cases we are seeing, it seems like we’re in a heightened environment.”

Over the past year, the Justice Department has brought charges against domestic extremist suspects accused of attempting to bomb U.S. military bases, kill police officers and fire bomb a school and other buildings in a predominantly Muslim town in New York state.

But federal prosecutors tackling domestic extremists still lack an important legal tool they have used extensively in dozens of prosecutions against ISIS-inspired suspects: a law that prohibits supporting designated terrorist groups.

Carlin and other Justice Department officials declined to say if they would ask Congress for a comparable domestic extremist statute, or comment on what other changes they might pursue to toughen the fight against anti-government extremists.

The U.S. State Department designates international terrorist organizations to which it is illegal to provide “material support.”

No domestic groups have that designation, helping to create a disparity in charges faced by international extremist suspects compared to domestic ones.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
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