Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you for that introduction. I also want to thank the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the McCain Institute for inviting me to speak today and for the inspiring work you do to confront extremism, protect civil rights, and defend our democracy.
From my time at the FBI to the National Security Division to my time as the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor in the White House to today – I have witnessed the broadening of the threat posed by terrorism. We must maintain the focus on international terrorism while also addressing the growing risk of domestic terrorism and the appalling rise in hate crimes.
That’s why one year ago this week, Attorney General Garland announced the Biden Administration’s National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. The purpose of this first-of-its-kind strategy is to coordinate efforts across government to confront the heightened threat of domestic terrorism. The National Strategy reflects the evolving and heightened domestic terrorism threat that we face today.
The Justice Department was a natural fit to help lead this effort. Combating extremist attacks and hate crimes and protecting civil rights have been central to our mission since the department’s founding over 150 years ago.
Today, that work is as urgent as ever.
At the Justice Department, we did not need to be reminded of the threats posed by domestic violent extremism and the rise in hate crimes. But the anti-Semitic terrorist attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, earlier this year and the racially-motivated violent extremist attack in Buffalo last month – and so many other tragic incidents in the past year – have brought these threats into stark focus for communities across America.
The intelligence community has assessed that the most lethal domestic terrorism threat is posed by racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and by militia violent extremists.
We continue to be in that elevated threat environment. On the one-year anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, FBI Director Wray observed that, “the problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country.”
Our investigative efforts must be intelligence led and threat driven – and they are. The number of FBI investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists has more than doubled since the Spring of 2020, as has the number of FBI personnel responding to that threat.
Unfortunately, this increase in resources is needed as we have seen a record increase in hate crimes in the United States – rising to their highest level in 12 years. In response, the FBI has elevated hate crimes and criminal civil rights violations to the highest-level national threat priority, increasing the resources for hate crimes prevention and investigations, and making hate crimes a focus for all 56 of the bureau’s field offices.
The threat environment and the resource demands mean that collaboration across the department, interagency and state and local levels is more important than ever.
DOJ’s National Security and Civil Rights Divisions, now more than ever, are closely coordinating to leverage all of the department’s expertise. The National Security Division has established a dedicated unit for domestic terrorism investigations.
Even before the National Strategy was released last year, the department was stepping up its efforts. In the first weeks of the new administration my office convened the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee. Originally created in the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, this body – the DTEC – serves as an important interagency coordinating mechanism on domestic terrorism issues.
We have also changed the way our prosecutors and investigators report and track investigations with a domestic terrorism nexus in order to provide a more accurate picture of the threat across the entire country. As we did in the wake of 9/11, and to ensure we have a national picture of the threat and our investigations, we are taking a data-driven approach to tacking this problem and emphasizing a coordinated and consistent approach to disrupting these threats.
These efforts advance one of the strategy’s central goals of improving information sharing across and outside of the federal government.
The FBI is on the front lines of our efforts including through the nearly 200 Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country and through the work of its Domestic Terrorism-Hate Crimes Fusion Cell to ensure seamless information sharing across the organization.
And in each U.S. Attorney’s Office we are bringing together expertise to track domestic terrorism and hate fueled violence – each U.S. Attorney’s Office has an Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council as well as a Civil Rights Coordinator. And we have enhanced domestic terrorism training in all of our U.S. Attorney’s offices to ensure that our personnel are best prepared to tackle these issues.
And because failing to acknowledge the existence of hate crimes can make victims and communities feel devalued by and disconnected from government, law enforcement and society at large, we are increasing the visibility of our efforts to combat hate and domestic terrorism. We aim to deter these crimes, communicate intolerance for them and ensure that there is accountability for crimes that inflict harm not only on an individual victim, but on entire communities.
Toward that end, the FBI is hosting regional conferences regarding federal civil rights and hate crimes laws to encourage reporting and to build trust with the communities we serve. We have also launched an FBI-led National Anti-Hate Crimes Campaign involving all 56 FBI field offices.
We are adding or expanding key positions. The Attorney General recently designated a new Anti-Hate Crimes Resources Coordinator and Language Access Coordinator to help ensure that individuals have the resources they need. And the Civil Rights Division now has as a facilitator who ensures expedited review of hate crimes matters.
We can’t come together on this topic without acknowledging and condemning the appalling rise in violence that we have seen from a range of ideologies directed at public officials – including against members of the Supreme Court. We do not tolerate this criminal behavior and have taken steps to address it, including members of U.S. Marshals Service working round the clock to help protect members of the court and to support the Marshal of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Police.
My message to the department – including the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices around the country – too many of which have or will respond to a critical incident – is that we do our work as one department. A department deeply committed to disrupting and confronting terror and hate, with the National Security Division leading the response to domestic terrorism, working in lock step with the Civil Rights Division when, as has been the case all too often in recent months, bias motivated extremism and hate crimes rears its head.
The men and women of the Justice Department are working every day to combat hate and extremism not only because it is our job, but because we believe that no one in our country should fear violence or threats of violence because of who they are. We believe it is our collective responsibility to do all we can to confront hate in all its forms.
Thank you for inviting me here today and for your collective leadership in protecting all Americans from hate and extremist violence.