OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
A top Justice Department official said that the agency is launching a new special “domestic terrorism” unit in a move that will undoubtedly be viewed as reactionary and politically motivated by GOP critics.
According to a Reuters report, the DOJ appears to be using the Jan. 6, 2020, Capitol riot as the impetus for the new unit:
The U.S. Justice Department is creating a new unit to counter domestic terrorism following the 2021 U.S. Capitol attack, a senior official said on Tuesday, as it faces a growing threat from white supremacists and anti-government activists.
The move reflects a growing realization by U.S. national security officials that domestic extremists represent a threat on par with that posed by foreign militant groups such as Islamic State.
“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,” Matthew Olsen, the assistant attorney general of the department’s National Security Division, told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week.
“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,” Olsen added.
He went on to say that the new unit will be formed within the National Security Division to “ensure that these cases are properly handled and effectively coordinated” across the department and around the country.
The new unit, and Olsen’s claims, come after Attorney General Merrick Garland claimed to lawmakers in May that there is a rise in domestic extremist organizations and particularly white supremacists, but as is usually the case, neither he nor anyone else provided any concrete evidence or numbers.
By contrast, private intelligence organizations including Forward Observer have noted a distinct rise in left-wing groups that espouse anti-government views as well as animus towards conservatives and Republicans.
“Sabotaging shipping and transportation channels was a major part of the 2020 plan to disrupt the U.S. economy if former president Donald Trump remained in office. With detailed rail sabotage instructions accumulating online, this is one potential course of action for the Far Left if the GOP takes back control of the House and Senate in 2022 and the presidency in 2024,” the firm reported in September.
Since the Capitol riot, the Justice Department has charged more than 725 people, though none of them have been charged with any criminal actions related to “insurrection” or seditious activities. Furthermore, the FBI has already determined there was no extremist conspiracy to disrupt the electoral count or take down the government.
Notably, Reuters reported in August:
The FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result, according to four current and former law enforcement officials.
“Ninety to ninety-five percent of these are one-off cases,” said a former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. “Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.”
While that report noted that some “cells of protesters,” including members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, did coordinate to “break into the Capitol,” the FBI nevertheless found “no evidence that the groups had serious plans about what to do if they made it inside.”
All of which makes the formation of this special “domestic terrorism” unit dubious to critics who see it as the latest sign the Biden administration is targeting political opponents and supporters of former President Donald Trump in particular.
Republicans pushed back on Olsen and the plan to create the new unit.
“Has anyone been charged with the crime of insurrection following Jan. 6?” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) asked, though neither Olsen nor other DOJ officials with him could answer.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked how many ISIS suspects or others from terrorist watch list countries had crossed over the porous U.S. southwestern border, but again, no DOJ official had an answer.
“It’s been three to four thousand. We’ve had dozens of people on the terrorism watch list come across the southern border,” Graham said. “Here’s some advice – if you need more resources, you’ll get them from me, but if I were you, I’d go to the border and check out what’s going on, because it’s just a matter of time, in my humble opinion, that the broken southern border is gonna be an entryway for international terrorists who are going to come here and kill a lot of Americans if we don’t change the policy.”