Sending Office: Honorable Adam B. Schiff
Cosponsors: Lynch, Cisneros, Rose, Hastings, Napolitano, Holmes Norton, Malinowski
Last week, I introduced the Confronting the Threat of Domestic Terrorism Act (H.R. 4192), legislation that for the first time would create a federal domestic terrorism crime, and I hope you will consider cosponsoring this timely and important legislation.
The bill would create a criminal statute specifically covering violent terrorist acts by domestic actors without links to foreign organizations. In the wake of the horrific attack in El Paso earlier this month, coming on the heels of other white supremacist
attacks like the ones at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, it is time to put domestic terrorism on a par with its international counterpart.
Prosecutors and FBI agents need additional tools to respond to the rising threat of domestic terrorism. And we need to stop treating domestic terrorism as anything less than a systemic threat to public safety. The FBI’s leadership has testified to
congressional oversight committees that domestic terrorists have caused more deaths in the United States than international terrorists in recent years. White supremacists were among those responsible for the majority of lethal attacks and fatalities since
2000 and make up a significant portion of the FBI’s ongoing domestic terrorism investigations.
My legislation would create a new standalone criminal statute for specific, violent terrorist acts that does not require a nexus to international terrorist organizations. It would also apply penalties to those who threaten or conspire to commit domestic terrorist
attacks; and make it a crime to provide “material support” to domestic terrorism. By passing a domestic terrorism statute, Congress would send an important and overdue message that terrorist attacks are no less corrosive and damaging if they
are motivated by homegrown hateful ideologies than if they are planned or inspired by al Qaeda or ISIS.
Most importantly, creating a domestic terrorism statute would provide investigators and prosecutors an important new resource to target and combat white nationalists and others who would plan or carry out terrorist attacks, something that former senior national
security officials like former Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary McCord, have cited in support of passing such a law. Other prominent former prosecutors
and national security experts like
Barbara McQuade and
Harry Litman have similarly called for the passage of a domestic terrorism statute.
In response to valid concerns that a domestic terrorism statute could be misused to target constitutionally protected activities or peaceful groups, my legislation is narrowly crafted and includes a variety of protections. Among other things, it requires
that before any charges may be brought, the Attorney General or their deputy provide a written certification that in their judgement the crimes committed meet the standards of the statute – including the requirement that the offender intended to intimidate
or coerce a civilian population or to influence government policy through coercion or intimidation. It further requires the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to prepare a public report on the civil liberties implications of the statute within
four years of passage. Finally, unlike the international terrorism context, it does not empower the executive branch to designate domestic terrorism organizations, something that potentially raises serious First Amendment issues.
When violence fueled by homegrown, hateful ideology poses a more immediate threat to the safety and security of Americans than an international terrorist organization, it’s time for our laws to catch up. In just the few days since I introduced this bill,
at least one individual with links to white supremacist groups was arrested by the FBI in Ohio for threatening to attack a Jewish community
center. This is not a threat we can afford to ignore any longer.
If you would like to cosponsor H.R. 4192 or if you have any questions, please contact Jeff Lowenstein in my office (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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