July 5, 2022


Through Education Matters

DOJ NatSec Leader: Lessons Learned from International Terrorism Can Guide Fight Against Escalating Domestic Terror

Assistant Lawyer Common Matthew G. Olsen delivered this keynote deal with at George Washington University’s Software on Extremism Symposium in Washington on June 15, 2022:

Very good afternoon. For those of you who do not know me, I am Matt Olsen, the Assistant Attorney Standard for National Security at the Division of Justice. I have been in this placement considering the fact that November of last yr, but I to start with came to NSD at its inception in 2006 as the senior job official overseeing the Department’s intelligence operate.

NSD was the initial new Division produced at DOJ in approximately a half century. Its founding eyesight was to consolidate the nationwide stability factors of DOJ into a solitary crew to carry out the Department’s mission of combatting terrorism, espionage and other threats to nationwide protection.

In the wake of 9/11, NSD fostered collaboration and unity of objective throughout DOJ as properly as with the intelligence community. As a Division, NSD unites prosecutors with attorneys across the intelligence group to ensure that we solution nationwide stability threats making use of each and every device and useful resource out there to the federal govt. So that founding eyesight proceeds to guide us currently, even as the workplace and the scope of its operate has grown in excess of the yrs.

Above the past decade, NSD has developed substantially in measurement and in the array of its get the job done. In addition to combatting intercontinental and domestic terrorism, the Division handles issues addressing nation state cyber threats, sanctions evasion and other threats to our countrywide safety.

The operate of NSD attorneys varies from representing the federal government in federal district and circuit courts, together with the International Intelligence Surveillance Court docket vetting for countrywide safety issues with delicate possible overseas investments in the United States taking part in coverage and legislative initiatives addressing the most pressing nationwide stability troubles of the working day and serving to American victims of overseas terrorism.

NSD’s evolution reflects the progress and adjustments in the threats we face. Nonetheless from day just one, counterterrorism has been at the main of our mission. That stays true currently.

When I was 1st at NSD, we predominantly centered on combating intercontinental terrorism by teams like al-Qaida. People threats have not gone away, and we go on to experience the threat of terrorist assaults on the homeland by international terrorist teams, specially ISIS. DOJ works each individual working day with our associates at the FBI and throughout the intelligence community to discover and disrupt international terrorist plots and to carry to justice these who would do us harm.

Above the final number of yrs, our state has observed the menace posed by domestic terrorism and loathe crimes raise – it’s an alarming pattern that we must confront. Communities throughout the United States have seen very first-hand the terrible prices inflicted by terrorism and violent extremism.

Final month, in Buffalo, New York, a gunman killed 10 folks at a grocery store. We’ve explained that Section is investigating that make a difference as a dislike criminal offense and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism. This morning, Lawyer Common Garland introduced that the Office has submitted a legal complaint charging the perpetrator with a number of counts of committing a despise criminal offense ensuing in dying, committing a dislike criminal offense involving an attempt to get rid of and for applying a firearm to commit murder.

As the Lawyer General mentioned, these functions of violence not only terrorize the people who are attacked, they harm total communities. And we will be relentless in combatting this sort of functions of violence.

We also see this mounting threat in the horrific attacks in Pittsburgh, El Paso, Charlottesville and somewhere else. Numerous other plots or threats have been disrupted. Just considering the fact that the spring of 2020, the variety of FBI investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists has additional than doubled.

As when I began at NSD in 2006, some of the most acute law enforcement worries come up in combatting terrorism, only this time the menace is both of those intercontinental and domestic.

Right now, the most significant terrorist danger to the United States is posed by lone actors or smaller cells who commonly radicalize on the web and search to attack gentle targets working with effortlessly available weapons. We see these threats manifested in two groups of extremists, both of those of which require actors based mostly in the United States: domestic violent extremists and homegrown violent extremists.

Domestic violent extremists, or DVEs, are people who find to dedicate violent prison acts in furtherance of social or political aims stemming from domestic influences — these kinds of as racial or ethnic bias, or anti-governing administration or anti-authority sentiments. By contrast, homegrown violent extremists, or HVEs, are folks who are motivated largely by overseas terrorist teams, but who are not getting particular direction from all those teams. That claimed, these folks are often enthusiastic and inspired by a combine of socio-political, ideological and personalized grievances in opposition to their targets.

No matter if they draw inspiration from foreign or domestic influences, once these persons make a decision to commit functions of violence, they pose comparable and important worries for law enforcement.

Since of the insular and typically fast mother nature of their radicalization and mobilization to violence – which includes restricted dialogue of designs with other folks and the use of encrypted communications – there are much less prospects to detect and disrupt plots before they occur. These actors have entry to easily obtainable, very potent weapons. And we have to be obvious about this – the potential of violent extremists to obtain military-grade weapons in this state contributes to their potential to get rid of and inflict harm on a mass scale. They normally opt for comfortable targets these types of as homes of worship, retail places and mass community gatherings. Tragically, we know from experience how these variables can be a fatal blend.

I want to emphasize that this is among the the most challenging and complex danger landscapes that I have seen in in excess of 20 years functioning in counterterrorism. We know that countering the menace of violent extremism within the United States will go on to require sustained awareness and assets. And we need to have to rise to meet up with this developing threat, whilst nonetheless maintaining our concentration on terrorist companies based abroad.

Allow me turn to how we answer. And here’s a bit of excellent news: our encounter about the previous 20 decades gives us hard-attained lessons. We have crafted, in excess of the decades, a lengthy and typically effective file of combating international terrorism. As we confront the climbing risk of domestic terrorism, we will have to deliver to bear the insights we have gained over the previous two decades.

I’ll spotlight some of all those vital counterterrorism lessons and examine briefly how they advise and guideline our strategy.

To start with, our work should be driven by danger intelligence to be productive. This suggests making sure that we thoroughly monitor information and depend on expert assessment to refine our strategy, priorities and means about time.

This operate is presently nicely-underway at DOJ when it will come to domestic extremism. Early very last calendar year, the Department issued new advice to the subject on reporting and monitoring investigations linked to domestic terrorism. As the Deputy Attorney Normal famous previously this 7 days, we are getting a info-driven approach to understanding the risk and to marshaling a coordinated, nation-vast response.

We are regularly working to discover extra not just about the scope of the difficulty, but also the mother nature of the threats and menace actors. For illustration, the Intelligence Neighborhood evaluate that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists are the most likely to perform mass-casualty assaults towards civilians.

We also know that white supremacist groups have the most persistent and regarding transnational connections. But they are not the only classification we are worried about. Although racially enthusiastic extremists were being the key source of deadly attacks by violent extremists in 2018 and 2019, three of the four lethal DVE assaults in 2020 had been carried out by people the FBI categorizes as “Anti-Governing administration or Anti-Authority” extremists.

This menace-driven technique necessitates that we preserve the operational versatility to modify to a danger landscape that can change swiftly. Our strategy is built to boost the target, know-how and sources demanded by the DT risk, while also ensuring that all means remain obtainable for the total array of counterterrorism demands.

Next, we will have to leverage the entire variety of our legal authorities to avert, look into and prosecute all varieties of terrorism. In the global terrorism context, this often implies leveraging military, law enforcement, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities. When it arrives to domestic violent extremism, in which law enforcement equipment are paramount, we glimpse to deploy a variety of criminal and civil regulations.

For example, functions of domestic terrorism may also represent dislike crimes. A detest crime — which is violence enthusiastic by issues like race, religion, gender or sexual orientation — may also be built to coerce a civilian population or impact federal government plan, which is the domestic terrorism definition. When that comes about, we request: What is the greatest and strongest software in DOJ’s arsenal we can use to respond?  How can we be as helpful as possible to keep those who terrorize our communities accountable and to obtain justice for the victims?

A person detail we have found is that when it comes to racially inspired domestic terrorism, such as white supremacist violence, typically loathe crimes statutes are the most efficient resources. The the latest occasions in Buffalo are a superior illustration of that – the Civil Legal rights Division is taking the direct and NSD is supporting them. Based on all those points, we really feel that is the strongest attainable posture for the Section. At the stop of the working day, we’re one particular staff doing work together to provide justice.

3rd, as with global terrorism, domestic terrorism circumstances are of nationwide relevance and require national-amount coordination. NSD was designed to address exactly these sorts of difficulties: to balance equities, deliver topic make a difference expertise and coaching, and make certain regularity in strategy and unity of reason.

Now we, alongside with the FBI, are climbing to meet up with the troubles of the existing danger landscape. And critically this is an place in which coordination is essential to guard civil legal rights and civil liberties and to ensure that constitutionally shielded exercise is by no means seen as a result of the lens of nationwide protection threats.

We have acquired from IT how to strike the suitable stability in between headquarters and the subject to ensure ideal leadership visibility, abilities and help are specified to terrorism issues – even though recognizing that the frontline perform is having spot in U.S. Attorneys’ Workplaces and FBI Subject Offices throughout the country. This is not just a bureaucratic issue. All of us who have worked in or with federal legislation enforcement know how essential it is to get that balance correct.

Fourth, we need to don’t forget the value of partnerships to an successful counterterrorism response. That involves partnerships across the federal governing administration, with condition and area regulation enforcement, and with worldwide authorities.

Each individual U.S. Attorney’s Office environment coordinates a team of federal and point out and regional officers in each and every district – we get in touch with it the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council or ATAC, for quick. The ATACs perform in near partnership with Joint Terrorism Undertaking Forces in the FBI to promote instruction and facts-sharing amongst our legislation enforcement partners, in both of those worldwide and domestic terrorism issues.

This training and info-sharing is vital provided that there are many a lot more condition and local legislation enforcement officers on the ground than there are federal brokers. They are very likely to be the initial law enforcement officials to discover people today setting up terrorist acts in their communities. When it comes to stopping assaults just before they can come about, federal, state and nearby partners perform alongside one another to consider terrorist threats and decide whether or not federal or condition intervention is achievable to disrupt a plot and defend the public.

Fifth, our counterterrorism precedence is prevention. We acknowledge that prevention needs a broader reaction. We need to have interaction with civil society and draw on applications to comprehend paths to radicalization, such as furnishing assist to neighborhood engagement, to efforts to avoid qualified violence and to get the job done addressing psychological overall health issues that may perhaps direct to violence.

At DOJ, we are providing technical aid and teaching to state and local legislation enforcement via a recently-produced Anti-Terrorism Coaching Method, creating sources for nearby regulation enforcement organizations on terrorism prevention and hate crimes, and conducting community engagements and giving avoidance means by means of a specified website for coaching state and nearby officials.

Sixth, and I imagine most importantly, we must adhere to our main values, no matter the magnitude of the threat or the difficulties it might pose. These values are our source of countrywide toughness – and they are the basis for all our perform. We will zealously shield the Initial Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly and affiliation. We need to cherish people basic commitments, even when confronted with terms and beliefs that are abhorrent and unpleasant to us and our fellow Us citizens.

Numerous of the domestic violent extremists who have fully commited acts of terror in new decades – in Charleston, in El Paso, in Charlottesville, in Buffalo – have been animated by the hateful ideology of racism, intolerance and white supremacy specially. We should not be reluctant to say that such views are incorrect and betray core American values. And we should be candid that this sort of sights are section of an ideology that is progressively mobilizing men and women to dedicate functions of violence.

But in the United States, loathe itself is not a crime. DOJ investigates and prosecutes violent extremists for their criminal acts and not for their beliefs or based on their associations, and irrespective of ideology. We are fully commited to guarding the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Individuals and to safeguarding the physical exercise of guarded speech, peaceful protests and political action. The Section of Justice does not and will not open investigations exclusively based on To start with Amendment-protected activity.

We hold sacred the legal rights of persons to peacefully work out all those freedoms. But when people today or teams try to market or impose an ideology via functions or threats of violence, those people acts can be amid the most perilous crimes we confront as a society. When violent extremists seek out to harm some others in the identify of ideology – any ideology – we will use each and every software we have to prevent and disrupt this sort of acts, to keep persons safe and sound, and to convey perpetrators to justice.

I’ll end by sharing a small bit about what we are doing to apply these classes to our attempts combatting domestic violent extremism.

Earlier this year I introduced that we would be creating a Domestic Terrorism Unit within just our counterterrorism part. Previous month, we formally stood up that unit adhering to consultations with the Department’s management, the Civil Legal rights Division, the FBI and other DOJ parts.

Drawing on experience across NSD and the Department a lot more broadly, the DT Device has numerous functions:  prosecuting and coordinating domestic terrorism circumstances acquiring training and policies on domestic terrorism issues and supporting the function of the Department in implementing a entire-of-authorities method on countering domestic terrorism. The unit’s framework preserves overall flexibility and enables us to far better aid the FBI, which has committed groups for managing domestic terrorism and worldwide terrorism matters.

We understand that countering domestic terrorism need to be a full-of-Division energy. We are committed to developing a framework for Division of Justice factors, together with the Civil Legal rights Division and federal prosecutors all around the region, to function collaboratively and convey to bear all readily available resources to hold violent extremists accountable.

With the DT Unit in place, we are now acquiring internal DOJ insurance policies to make sure that NSD’s involvement in substantial domestic terrorism matters will align with our long-standing job in global terrorism circumstances. These improvements will guarantee a threat-driven, consistent, country-extensive strategy to combating the danger.

Just as importantly, the DT Unit can act as a critical safeguard to assure that we handle the risk in a manner that is regular with our values. In this operate, as in all our of our operate, we continue being fully commited to safeguarding the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Americans.

I’ll conclude by echoing what the Legal professional Standard mentioned this morning in Buffalo about the threats that violent extremism poses to the security of the American folks and American democracy. For the Justice Department, confronting these crimes is a lawful obligation and a ethical obligation. No a person, when they go to the grocery store or the office or their spot of worship or anyplace else, really should have to live in anxiety of violence.

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