UPDATE: WASHINGTON – On March 11, 2021 The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5602, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2020 (DTPA). Congressmen Brad Schneider’s (IL-10) bipartisan bill passed the House by an overwhelming vote, and had previously passed committee on a bipartisan 24-2 vote. A Senate companion bill is led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). Video of Schneider’s speech on behalf of the bill can be found here.
Tulsi Gabbard Warns Against the Danger of New ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Laws
The January 6 attack on the US Capitol shocked the nation. Now, as so often occurs in the wake of tragedy, some Washington politicians are using the opportunity to push for an expansion of their power—hoping Americans are too shell-shocked to object.
A bipartisan group in Congress has introduced the so-called “Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act Of 2021.” It would expand the surveillance and police powers of the national security state in the name of combatting dangerous extremism.
“America must be vigilant to combat those radicalized to violence, and the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act gives our government the tools to identify, monitor and thwart their illegal activities,” Congressman Brad Schneider, one of the bill’s lead sponsors, said. “Combatting the threat of domestic terrorism and white supremacy is not a Democratic or Republican issue, not left versus right or urban versus rural. Domestic Terrorism is an American issue, a serious threat that we can and must address together.”
The Bill Is Drawing Backlash
We all surely agree that true domestic terrorism is reprehensible. But many progressive lawmakers are speaking out against the hasty push to expand government power and warning of the threat it poses to civil liberties. They warn these powers will undoubtedly be used against many more people and disfavored groups than just violent radicals like those who attacked the Capitol.
Former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a progressive Democrat, called this push “so dangerous” in a Fox News interview.
“We don’t have to guess about where this goes or where it ends,” Gabbard argues, “When you have people like former CIA Director John Brennan openly talking about how he’s spoken with appointees and nominees in the Biden administration who are already starting to look across our country for these types of movements… that in his words make up this ‘unholy alliance’ of ‘religious extremists,’ ‘racists,’ ‘bigots’ … even ‘libertarians.’”
.@joebiden Your leadership is needed now to denounce those like John Brennan & Rep Schiff who are advocating for targeting half the country as potential domestic terrorists. Truly unite the American people around our Constitution & the rights that are endowed to us by our Creator pic.twitter.com/OpemBm4biS— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) January 24, 2021
.@JohnBrennan: Biden intel community “are moving in laser-like fashion to try to uncover as much as they can about” the pro-Trump “insurgency” that harbors “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians” pic.twitter.com/SjVXWhPhR8— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 20, 2021
“So, when you look at their process as they’re building this profile of a potential ‘extremist,’ what are we talking about?” she asked. “Are we talking about evangelical Christians? Somebody who is pro-life? Libertarians? People who attended a Trump rally?”
“[This would] lead to a very dangerous undermining of our civil liberties… and a targeting of almost half the country,” Gabbard concluded.
Read text of H.R. 350: Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act after press release below.
Press Release For The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act Of 2021 Introduced In House
Bipartisan Bill Would Strengthen Law Enforcement Efforts to Prevent, Report On, Respond To, and Investigate Acts of Domestic Terrorism
WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Brad Schneider (IL-10), Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (NY-10), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Rep. Robin Kelly (IL-02), Rep. Don Bacon (NE-01), Rep. Vicente González (TX-15), Rep. Fred Upton (MI-06), Rep. Lou Correa (CA-46), and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced the introduction of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (DTPA) of 2021, H.R. 350. A Senate companion bill is led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).
“Following the terrifying attack on the Capitol this month, which left five dead and many injured, the entire nation has been seized by the potential threat of more terrorist attacks in Washington and around the country. Unlike after 9/11, the threat that reared its ugly head on January 6th is from domestic terror groups and extremists, often racially-motivated violent individuals. America must be vigilant to combat those radicalized to violence, and the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act gives our government the tools to identify, monitor and thwart their illegal activities. Combatting the threat of domestic terrorism and white supremacy is not a Democratic or Republican issue, not left versus right or urban versus rural. Domestic Terrorism is an American issue, a serious threat that we can and must address together,” said Rep. Brad Schneider (IL-10).
“I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill, which we need now more than ever. In the wake of the domestic terrorist attack on our Capitol two weeks ago, it is painfully clear that the current approach to addressing the real and persistent threat posed by white nationalism and similar ideologies is not working. We must not allow hate crimes and domestic terrorism to continue unchecked. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this important and timely bill as quickly as possible,” said Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (NY-10).
“Walking through the Capitol today, you can still see the marks of the devastating attack on our democracy that occurred on January 6th. Representative Schneider and I first introduced the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act in 2017 to combat the threat of violent white supremacists and other domestic terrorists, and today we are urging our colleagues to join us in passing this critical piece of legislation. After the attack on our Capitol, I hope that Congress can finally come together and do something to address domestic terrorism in America as quickly as possible,” said Senator Durbin (D-IL).
“Homegrown, violent domestic terrorism from white supremacists, and other racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists, remains a serious ongoing threat that demands the full coordination and efforts of our federal law enforcement agencies. We must provide the necessary tools for our law enforcement to investigate, prevent, and prosecute these heinous, violent crimes,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick (PA-01). “This bill would also direct resources for investigations into hate crimes incidents with a nexus to domestic terrorism. As a former FBI Supervisory Special Agent, I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that would codify offices within our federal law enforcement agencies to combat and prevent domestic terrorist activities and threats.”
“White supremacy and domestic terrorist organizations have no place in America. Rhetoric from the outgoing President and right-wing political leaders have emboldened white nationalist groups to pursue violence as a means to an end. On January 6, we experienced the terror of white nationalism in full display as domestic terrorists attacked our Nation’s Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. This bill would provide federal agencies with the resources they need to keep Americans safe from the threat of home-grown terrorism and strengthen partnerships with state and local law enforcement to combat hateful violence. The Domestic Terror Prevention Act is more important than ever as we work to root out and rid America of this cancer,” said Rep. Vincente González (TX-15).
“In the military and in Congress, we take an oath to defend our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” said Rep Don Bacon (NE-02). “Just as U.S. operations overseas have helped drive significant decreases in international terrorism over the last five years, we’ve seen domestic terrorism in the United States grow dramatically over the same time period. We must acknowledge that America is not immune to this growing threat, and we must counter it with the same resolve with which we have battled international terrorism and Islamic extremism. This is important bi-partisan legislation and I thank Representative Schneider for his leadership.”
“After 911, our government correctly took bold steps to defend American lives against foreign terrorism, and prevent another attack against our nation. Yet, during this time, we overlooked the ever-growing threat homegrown domestic terrorists posed to American lives,” said Rep. Lou Correa (CA-46). “As the legislative branch of our federal government, we have a duty to support the efforts of our public safety, police, and national security agencies. This legislation gives out nation’s defenders the tools they need to find, arrest, and prosecute individuals in our society intent on harming their fellow Americans.”
“The attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this month was the latest example of domestic terrorism, but the threat of domestic terrorism remains very real. We cannot turn a blind eye to it,” said Rep. Fred Upton (MI-06). “The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act will equip our law enforcement leaders with the tools needed to help keep our homes, families, and communities across the country safe.”
“We recently witnessed hate groups, white power movements and violent conspiracy networks unite to terrorize Washington, DC. We must now focus national resources on preventing and investigating acts of domestic terrorism from the community level on up,” said Rep. Robin Kelly (IL-02). “The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021 will help prevent further hate crimes and acts of domestic terrorism that have continually plagued our communities and nation. Congress cannot delay in passing this vital legislation.”
Last Congress, DTPA overwhelmingly passed the House in a two-thirds voice vote after passing out of the House Judiciary Committee 24-2. In the Senate, Senator Durbin brought the bill on the Senate floor, only to be blocked by Senator Ron Johnson.
The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021 would strengthen the federal government’s efforts to prevent, report on, respond to, and investigate acts of domestic terrorism by authorizing offices dedicated to combating this threat; requiring these offices to regularly assess this threat; and providing training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in addressing it.
DTPA would authorize three offices, one each within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to monitor, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism. The bill also requires these offices to provide Congress with joint biannual reports assessing the state of domestic terrorism threats, with a specific focus on white supremacists. Based on the data collected, DTPA requires these offices to focus their resources on the most significant threats.
DTPA also codifies the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, which would coordinate with United States Attorneys and other public safety officials to promote information sharing and ensure an effective, responsive, and organized joint effort to combat domestic terrorism. The legislation requires DOJ, FBI, and DHS to provide training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in understanding, detecting, deterring, and investigating acts of domestic terrorism and white supremacy. Finally, DTPA directs DHS, DOJ, FBI, and the Department of Defense to establish an interagency task force to combat white supremacist infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement.
The legislation is nearly identical to the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2020, which was endorsed by a broad coalition, including the Anti-Defamation League, Arab American Institute, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, Human Rights Campaign, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Muslim Advocates, NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Sikh Coalition, Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, Jewish Federation of Chicago, and Unidos.