US Is Failing to Address 'Persistent and Lethal Threat' of Domestic Terrorism, Report Finds

Adam Gabbatt / Guardian UK
US Is Failing to Address 'Persistent and Lethal Threat' of Domestic Terrorism, Report Finds A man mourns at a memorial at the scene of a shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in May. (photo: Lindsay Dedario/Reuters)

Federal government has continued to focus ‘disproportionately’ on international terrorist threats despite spate of racist shootings

The FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are failing to properly address the threat of domestic terrorism, predominantly from white supremacist and anti-government extremists, according to a Senate committee report released on Monday.

The Senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee spent three years investigating domestic terrorism and the federal response.

It found that the FBI and the DHS have “failed to systematically track and report data on domestic terrorism” and have not allocated sufficient resources to countering the threat.

The report comes after a spate of racist shootings in 2022. On Monday, a white man who shot 10 Black people to death in a Buffalo grocery store in May pleaded guilty to murder and hate-crime charges.

Both the FBI and the DHS have identified domestic terrorism, in particular white supremacist violence, as the “most persistent and lethal terrorist threat” to the US, the committee said.

But the federal government has continued to focus “disproportionately” on international terrorist threats, it found.

“Despite this acknowledgement and multiple analyses, plans, and national strategies across multiple administrations, this investigation found that the federal government has continued to allocate resources disproportionately aligned to international terrorist threats over domestic terrorist threats,” the report said.

The report added that the federal government “still fails to comprehensively track and report data on domestic terrorism despite a requirement from Congress to do so”.

According to the Anti-Defamation League there have been 333 “right-wing extremist-related killings” in the last 10 years, with 73% of those at the hands of white supremacists.

Black Americans have increasingly found themselves the target of hate crimes. Between 2019 and 2020, hate crimes against Black Americans rose by 46%, the New York Times reported. Earlier this year, 57 historically Black colleges and houses of worship were targeted by bomb threats.

The Senate committee report cites a 2021 study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which found there were 110 domestic terrorist plots and attacks in 2020, compared with 65 such cases in 2019 and 70 in 2017 – the previous high.

The report found that the FBI and DHS have “different definitions for ‘domestic terrorism’, which could lead to the two agencies categorizing the same event as different types of terrorism”.

It said that in 2019 the FBI changed its reporting procedures to combine all forms of racially motivated extremism, including the pre-existing category of “white supremacist violence”, into one category called “racially motivated violent extremists”.

“This change obscures the full scope of white supremacist terrorist attacks, and it has prevented the federal government from accurately measuring domestic terrorism threats,” the report said.

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