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Inside the Government, Addressing Domestic Terrorism Has Been Fraught

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The New York Times
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He said most of the racially motivated domestic terrorism cases were probably connected to white supremacy.But a look at the experience of the Homeland Security Department, which is responsible for collecting data on and analyzing threats to the United States, shows how political considerations have constrained efforts to give the problem more prominence and develop policies to counter it.During the Obama years, the pressure to minimize the problem came largely from outside the administration, primarily from Republicans who saw it as a diversion from fighting Islamic extremism but also to a lesser degree from people on the left concerned about the implications for the civil liberties of American citizens.Under Mr. Trump, the skepticism is rooted inside the White House.Officials at the department have felt they could not broach topics like domestic terrorism and white supremacist violence with Mr. Trump because he was not interested in those concerns, two people familiar with deliberations inside the administration said.At one point, Kirstjen Nielsen, then the homeland security secretary, sought a regular meeting with Mr. Trump to brief him on a variety of topics including domestic terrorism, but her proposal was rejected by the White House, a person with knowledge of the effort said.And Mr. Trump continues to harbor a deep distrust of the F.B.I., which has made public statements about the threat of domestic terrorists and racially motivated violence as growing national security threats.Since Mr. Trump took office, the Homeland Security Department has focused primarily on foreign terrorism and immigration, giving little attention to domestic extremism.In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Kevin K. Mr. Cohen said that problem made the job of defending the report much harder by raising substantial civil liberties concerns.“The C.I.A. and the intelligence community don’t have to distinguish between extreme ideas and violence because they deal with foreign actors whose speech and affiliations are not protected by the First Amendment,” Mr. Cohen said.Republicans pushed back against the idea that domestic terrorism was a serious national security threat for the duration of the Obama administration, even as local law enforcement officials said white supremacists and other right-wing groups were contributing to crime and endangering officers in the field.At the same time, Democrats were concerned that clamping down on domestic extremism could pose grave civil liberties risks. “Participants in the program withdrew.”The White House rejected the previous administration’s decision to counter violent extremism broadly, and instead focused primarily on foreign terrorism, limiting references to domestic extremism in its national counterterrorism strategy, people involved in the issue said.Republicans who are willing now to acknowledge a growing threat from domestic terrorism and white supremacy still face a difficult political challenge in navigating issues of race and identity, especially given their party’s heavy reliance under Mr. Trump on white voters.And their efforts would run up against Mr. Trump’s own focus on the threat from foreigners and immigrants.At a recent hearing, Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who is chairman of a House Oversight Committee subcommittee with jurisdiction over homeland security, told officials with the Homeland Security Department that “we could not find that it had any comprehensive strategy to address white supremacist violence.”The department, Mr. Raskin said in an interview, responded that it “would work on it and brief us at the end of the summer.”The department did not respond to requests for comment.Maggie Haberman, Michael D.

As said here by By KATIE BENNER