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?