Justice Department’s domestic terrorism unit should come with new terrorism laws
If the new unit doesn’t come with a willingness to call political, antigovernment violence “terrorism,” then what’s the point?

The Department of Justice has a new domestic terrorism unit, a response to a threat that The Washington Post noted “has intensified dramatically in recent years.” It sure has. Matthew G. Olsen, head of DOJ’s National Security Division, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that since Spring 2020, the FBI’s domestic terrorism investigative caseload has doubled. But it took a full year after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on our U.S. Capitol for DOJ to get around to forming a unit of lawyers to deal with the kinds of threats that Jill Sanborn, the FBI’s head of national security, calls “the most lethal” facing the country.

FBI field offices and U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the nation are stretched to the max to combat racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and anti-government violent extremism. For decades, the FBI has had dedicated domestic terrorism units, but creating such a unit at DOJ is welcome news that’s long overdue. Still, I have questions. Does this new unit signal meaningful and much needed change in the battle against a growing insurgency, or will it amount to administrative window dressing?


How January 6 security lapses enabled 2021’s Capitol attack
The 2022 mid-term elections may show us if our law enforcement agencies have learned from Jan. 6.

The November midterm elections may serve as more than just a reflection of which party America’s voters want to control Congress. They may also be a test of how much our law enforcement and domestic security agencies have learned from the lapses that led to last year’s Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.

The prospect of highly contentious battles over certification of election results, particularly in key U.S. Senate races, coupled with the real possibility that the House select committee will have made criminal referrals of high-profile Jan. 6 instigators, portends a volatile threat environment that will challenge law enforcement to get it right this time.


Former President Donald Trump already faces a future filled with legal battles in multiple federal, state and local jurisdictions from Georgia to the District of Columbia to New York state and Manhattan. And, now, a British court decision against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could resurrect the two seminal questions from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation: Did Trump obstruct justice, and did his campaign collude with Russia? Assange, an Australian citizen sitting in Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh in southeast London, may hold the key that reopens the prosecutive possibilities.

On Friday, a U.K. court ruled that Assange can be extradited to the U.S. to face espionage charges stemming from his 2010 publication of State Department and Defense Department files provided by Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst.


Republicans are working to create the perception that all crime is Democrats’ fault.

It didn’t take long for the right to blame the left for America’s deadliest school shooting in three years. Just four days after the tragic shooting that left four people dead and seven others injured at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Michigan, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro put the blame on “liberal school personnel” who, she said, had seen enough warning signs from the 15-year-old suspect not to send him back to his classroom but to suspend him from school.

Notably, Pirro didn’t blame conservatives, even though between Tuesday’s deadly school shooting and her show Saturday, the GOP, in blocking a bill that would have required background checks at gun shows, once again demonstrated its opposition to taking even the most modest step to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Instead, Pirro stuck to a popular conservative narrative that liberals are the root cause of violence in our society.


FBI involvement in cover-up of Malcolm X assassination produces more questions than answers
Today’s FBI agents are forced to study the lessons of the agency’s past abuses.

Last week in New York City, a state court judge dismissed the first-degree murder convictions of two men who each served more than 20 years in prison for the 1965 killing of Malcolm X. One of those wrongly convicted men wasn’t even alive to hear the government apologize. Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the current Manhattan district attorney, offered an apology on behalf of law enforcement which he stated, “failed the families of the two men.”

Now, 56 years after the murder of the fiery African American minister and former spokesman for the Black nationalist group, the Nation of Islam, the exonerations of Muhammad A. Aziz, now 83, and Khalil Islam, who died at 74 in 2009, leave us with more questions than answers, especially questions related to the conduct of law enforcement agencies. Previous suspects who were never arrested are dead. So we shouldn’t limit ourselves to asking, “Who did it?” The bigger question is “Why was the truth suppressed?”


How Trump steered America’s police straight into the Oath Keepers
How did radical, even violent, extremism infiltrate the ranks of police departments across the country?

Last fall, an anonymous hacker leaked a list of almost 40,000 past and present members of the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group that often recruits military and police personnel. Reporters at NPR and WNYC/Gothamist scoured the data and ran the apparent members logs against rosters of active police officers in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles.

Now, an investigative report Friday by those same reporters reveals what many have long suspected: Active-duty police officers in some of our country’s largest departments are members of the Oath Keepers, which is also now under increased scrutiny for some members’ roles in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. At least 18 Oath Keepers associates, including the head of the militia organization, have been charged in the Capitol assault.


Police killings won’t be reduced with a ‘shoot to incapacitate’ policy
Attempting to turn a gun into something less than a lethal weapon will get more people hurt and killed.

Louis Dekmar, the police chief in LaGrange, Georgia, is trying to change the way his department shoots people. According to The Washington Post, Dekmar isn’t changing the deadly force policy or the type of firearm issued or even trying to reduce the number of times his police officers shoot. He’s trying to change what body parts they aim at. The chief is training his officers to, when possible, shoot at the legs, pelvis or abdomen, rather than the prevailing law enforcement protocol of aiming for “center mass.”

Dekmar, who has led the department in the town of about 30,000 people for 26 years, means well. He wants to reduce the number of shootings by police that end in fatalities. But meaning well and making sense aren’t the same thing. In this case, what the chief is doing may get even more people killed — including his own officers.


How the FBI protects American intel: a bizarre case study
What motivates people to become spies? Certainly not money, the FBI discovers.

On Saturday, a Navy nuclear engineer and his wife were arrested in West Virginia by the FBI and accused of attempting to pass extremely sensitive secrets about submarine technology to another country in violation of the Atomic Energy Act. Jonathan and Diana Toebbe of Maryland are charged with contacting a foreign nation, offering cutting-edge secrets about American nuclear-powered submarines and then engaging in multiple clandestine exchanges of classified information with undercover FBI agents in return for $100,000 in cryptocurrency.

Some of the restricted data the couple are accused of trying to sell was information about the nuclear propulsion system of Virginia-class fast attack submarines, the technology at the heart of a recent deal the U.S. and the United Kingdom struck with Australia. It’s the kind of technology that gives the U.S. a crucial edge over adversaries in the race for quieter, less detectable submarines and warships. According to the criminal complaint, each Virginia-class submarine costs about $3 billion and includes the latest in stealth and weapons systems technology. And it’s the kind of advanced military secret that nations such as China and Russia would pay just about anything for.


FBI called in to help teachers as extremist violence gets personal
The far right was quick to characterize the attorney general’s order as an attempt to suppress free speech and as an attack on parents. The truth is quite different.

Any parent who has a kid in Little League Baseball is familiar with the agreement they sign that governs parental conduct at games and that reminds them to be a role model for their kids. If only such agreements applied to school board meetings.

Violent threats — even death threats — against school board members have become increasingly common as school boards across the nation meet to consider mask mandates, vaccine requirements and how to teach topics that include the history of race and its impact on our society. The hostility directed at its members has led the National School Boards Association to call upon President Joe Biden to help protect them as they go about trying to serve their communities.


The consequences of something as serious as domestic partner violence shouldn’t depend on what state you live in.

The death of Gabby Petito, which has been ruled a homicide, has focused discussions on a range of issues, from “missing white woman syndrome” to federal laws against unauthorized debit card use to the contemporary phenomenon of crowdsourced crime solving. There’s another topic signaling for attention, just as it did Aug. 12, when a police officer engaged with Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, after someone witnessed a physical altercation between the two. This issue is intimate partner violence, and the disparity across states in the laws governing how police respond to such cases.

On Thursday, we learned that the Moab City Police Department will launch a review of how it handled its encounter with Petito and Laundrie, wherein their officer decided to not arrest either party. The department will wisely ask another law enforcement agency to conduct the review.