Audit of DOJ’s Strategy to Address Domestic Violent Extremism

This June 2023 Audit of the Department of Justice’s Strategy to Address the Domestic Violent Extremism Threat had two objectives:

(1) evaluate the Department of Justice’s (DOJ or Department) efforts to develop a comprehensive strategy to address domestic violent extremism (DVE) in the United States, and (2) determine if the Department is effectively coordinating among Department stakeholders on the implementation of its strategy.

According to the report, DOJ defines DVE as people from the United States who seek to spread political or social goals through illegal acts of violence, without assistance or inspiration from foreign power or terrorist groups. While the Department has been combating DVE since 1995, the U.S. has seen a significant rise in domestic terrorism investigative activity, especially since the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the lead federal law enforcement agency responsible for investigating DVE threats, and categorizes DVE threats into 5 groups: 1) Anti-Government/Anti-Authority VEs (Militia, Anarchist, Sovereign Citizen); 2) Animal Rights/Environmental VEs; 3) Racially or Ethically Motivated VEs; 4) Abortion-Related VEs; 5) All other Domestic Terrorism Threats. However, DOJ and FBI officials made it clear that defining DVE threats are becoming increasingly more difficult. An array of ideologies spread over the Internet creates what the report calls “salad bar” ideologies, making it difficult to categorize them, track them and, in turn, prosecute them.

In the report, the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recommended seven ways to improve methods in addressing DVE threats. Some of the recommendations include improving the role of the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee (DTEC), evaluating DOJ’s strategic framework for addressing the DVE threat, and providing guidance to all DOJ law enforcement entities to insure consistency in understanding and identifying DVE threats. Included in the appendix of the report is a memorandum from Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer thanking DOJ OIG for the recommendations in the audit, and states that the fight against Domestic Violence Extremism is among the top priorities of the Department.

For more information, check out HSDL’s In Focus topic on Domestic Terrorism in the US.

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