U.S. to take steps against white supremacists and militia groups

by Reuters
Tuesday, 15 June 2021 11:09 GMT

(Updates with specific actions in headline, first paragraph)

By Jarrett Renshaw

June 15 (Reuters) - Five months after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Biden administration on Tuesday will unveil steps for federal and local officials and social media companies to battle national security threats posed by white supremacists and militia groups.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland will release a plan for increased information sharing, additional resources to identify and prosecute threats, and new deterrents to prevent Americans from joining dangerous groups.

The administration conducted a sweeping assessment earlier this year of domestic terrorism that labeled white supremacists and militia groups as top national security threats. The issue took on new urgency after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump who were trying to overturn Joe Biden's election victory.

The strategy stopped short of calling for new laws to fight domestic threats.

"We concluded that we didn't have the evidentiary basis, yet, to decide whether we wanted to proceed in that direction or whether we have sufficient authority as it currently exists at the federal level," said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement.

In his budget proposal released last month, Biden, who succeeded Trump on Jan. 20, is seeking $100 million in additional funding to train and hire analysts and prosecutors to disrupt and deter terrorist activity.

"The threat is elevated," the administration official said. "Tackling it means ensuring that we do have the resources and personnel to address that elevated threat."

The administration is also toughening the federal government's screening methods to better identify employees who may pose insider threats. They are looking to share those techniques with private companies.

That effort includes an ongoing review by the U.S. Department of Defense over how and when to remove military members who are found to be engaged in known domestic terrorist groups.

The Defense Department review is looking at, among other things, how to define extremists, the senior administration official said.

"They are doing this in a way they feel ratchets up the protection but also respects expression and association protections," the official said. (Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Dan Burns and Sonya Hepinstall)

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