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Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Domestic Terrorism

09/24/2012 -The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held ahearinglast week to explore the threat of domestic terrorism in light of the shooting in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in August. Lawmakers asked witnesses to discuss hate crimes and domestic terrorism, as well as share ways the government can combat such threats.

In his testimony, Daryl Johnson, CEO of DT Analytics urged the committee to take domestic terrorism more seriously. Johnson, a former analyst with the Department of Homeland Security, told lawmakers that “we are currently seeing an upsurge in domestic non-Islamic extremist activity, specifically from violent right wing extremists.”

Johnson noted that, since the 2008 presidential election, 12 non-Islamic extremists have shot 27 law enforcement officers. Of these officers, 16 died. In other crimes, a dozen mosques were firebombed, an abortion doctor was murdered while attending church, two assassination plots against abortion doctors were thwarted, and six women’s health clinics were attacked with explosives.

Because of successful tactics used against domestic terrorism groups in the 1980s, many members of these groups have “abandoned the traditional terrorist organizational model…and have embraced the tactics of lone offenders,” said Johnson. This means that the government will have to shift its tactics once again to stop the rise of domestic terrorist attacks.

To do this, Johnson advocates more study of domestic terrorists. He notes that the FBI published an annual report on the subject between 1980 and 2005. However, the FBI has stopped publishing the report. “This annual publication was an extremely valuable tool not only for law enforcement, but also for academia, media outlets, and the general public,” said Johnson.

Along these same lines, Johnson urged that law enforcement agencies develop state and regional domestic terrorism working groups. Such groups could provide timely information to federal officials about growing cells. The federal government, in turn should increase its strategic analysis capabilities. “Nongovernment organizations that monitor extremism, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, have more analysts assigned to conduct strategic analysis on domestic non-Islamic extremism than the U.S. government,” Johnson said.

Johnson was critical of the government’s emphasis on suspicious activity reporting. Johnson said the tactic is “too time consuming and yields an inordinate number of false positives.” Johnson urged authorities to instead focus on “extremist belief systems that have a proven track record of inciting individuals toward violence.”