(CNSNews.com) – There are currently 850 domestic terrorism investigations under way in the United States, a top FBI official told Congress on Wednesday.
In his opening statement to the House Homeland Security Committee at a hearing on the rise of domestic terrorism, Michael McGarrity, assistant director of the counterterrorism division of the FBI, said that despite successes from the “hard work” of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, “domestic terrorism continues to pose a persistent threat to the homeland.”
“We currently have 850 predicated domestic terrorism investigations, and as we just saw a few weeks ago in California, the threat of domestic terrorism exists in every region of the United States and affects all walks of life,” McGarrity said.
“Our commitment to you and to fellow citizens is that we will continue to confront the threat posed by domestic terrorists with determination and dedication to our mission to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
According to McGarrity’s written statement, “The FBI categorizes terrorism investigations into two main programs: international terrorism and domestic terrorism. International terrorism includes cases in which subjects are members of designated FTOs, state sponsors of terrorism, and HVEs.”
FTO refers to foreign terrorist organizations, and HVE stands for homegrown violent extremists.
“The latter are individuals inside the United States who frequently are inspired by what we refer to as global jihad, who have been radicalized primarily in the United States, and who are not receiving individualized direction from FTOs. Domestic terrorists are individuals who commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as racial bias and antigovernment sentiment,” McGarrity wrote.
“Domestic terrorism is defined by statute as any act dangerous to human life that violates U.S. criminal laws and appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. The act in question must occur primarily within the jurisdiction of the United States,” McGarrity wrote.
According to McGarrity, “lone offenders, primarily using firearms” are the primary concern of the FBI, because “these lone offenders represent the dominant trend for lethal domestic terrorists.” He also said that there were “more arrests and deaths caused by domestic terrorists than international terrorists in recent years.”
“We believe domestic terrorists pose a present and persistent threat of violence and economic harm to the United States; in fact, there have been more arrests and deaths caused by domestic terrorists than international terrorists in recent years. We are most concerned about lone offenders, primarily using firearms, as these lone offenders represent the dominant trend for lethal domestic terrorists. Frequently, these individuals act without a clear group affiliation or guidance, making them challenging to identify, investigate, and disrupt,” he wrote.
“The FBI organizes domestic terrorism into four categories. First, racially motivated violent extremism is defined by the FBI as threats defined by bias relating to race held by the actor against others. These threats are often directed at religious or racial minorities. Anti-government, anti-authority extremism is defined as threats advocating for ideology contrary to established government systems, such as anarchist extremism, militia extremism, and sovereign citizen extremism,” he told the committee in his opening statement.
“Third, animal rights, environmental extremism is defined as threats derived from a belief that criminal actions are necessary to end cruelty and exploitation of animals and the environment. And the fourth, abortion extremism is defined as threats derived from both pro-life and pro-choice individuals who seek to advance their social and political agenda wholly or in part through the force of violence or in violation of federal law,” McGarrity added.
“Though domestic terrorism activity may fall outside of these four categories, the vast majority of our investigations can be categorized as one of the above,” he said. Furthermore, “It’s important to note that no investigation can be opened based solely on First Amendment protected activity. This includes hateful rhetoric and participation in rallies and protest.”
“Individuals affiliated with racially motivated violent extremism are responsible for the most lethal and violent activity. Racially motivated violent extremists are responsible for the majority of lethal attacks and fatalities perpetrated by domestic terrorists since 2000,” McGarrity said.