Assistant Lawyer Standard Matthew G. Olsen sent this keynote address at George Washington University’s System on Extremism Symposium in Washington on June 15, 2022:
Excellent afternoon. For these of you who never know me, I am Matt Olsen, the Assistant Attorney Typical for Countrywide Security at the Section of Justice. I’ve been in this place since November of past year, but I 1st came to NSD at its inception in 2006 as the senior profession official overseeing the Department’s intelligence work.
NSD was the 1st new Division developed at DOJ in practically a fifty percent century. Its founding eyesight was to consolidate the national stability parts of DOJ into a one team to carry out the Department’s mission of combatting terrorism, espionage and other threats to national security.
In the wake of 9/11, NSD fostered collaboration and unity of reason throughout DOJ as effectively as with the intelligence local community. As a Division, NSD unites prosecutors with attorneys across the intelligence neighborhood to guarantee that we strategy nationwide stability threats using just about every instrument and resource readily available to the federal federal government. So that founding vision continues to tutorial us these days, even as the office environment and the scope of its perform has grown over the a long time.
Above the earlier ten years, NSD has developed substantially in measurement and in the assortment of its function. In addition to combatting intercontinental and domestic terrorism, the Division handles matters addressing country point out cyber threats, sanctions evasion and other threats to our nationwide protection.
The function of NSD lawyers may differ from representing the governing administration in federal district and circuit courts, such as the International Intelligence Surveillance Courtroom vetting for national security worries with sensitive potential international investments in the United States collaborating in policy and legislative initiatives addressing the most urgent countrywide protection concerns of the working day and assisting American victims of abroad terrorism.
NSD’s evolution displays the expansion and alterations in the threats we facial area. Nonetheless from day a person, counterterrorism has been at the main of our mission. That remains genuine right now.
When I was 1st at NSD, we predominantly concentrated on combating intercontinental terrorism by teams like al-Qaida. Individuals threats have not absent absent, and we carry on to deal with the risk of terrorist attacks on the homeland by international terrorist teams, primarily ISIS. DOJ operates each working day with our companions at the FBI and throughout the intelligence group to determine and disrupt foreign terrorist plots and to deliver to justice individuals who would do us damage.
In excess of the last few several years, our place has witnessed the danger posed by domestic terrorism and despise crimes maximize – it is an alarming pattern that we need to confront. Communities across the United States have witnessed very first-hand the awful charges inflicted by terrorism and violent extremism.
Past thirty day period, in Buffalo, New York, a gunman killed 10 folks at a grocery retail store. We have said that Section is investigating that subject as a detest criminal offense and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism. This morning, Attorney Typical Garland declared that the Section has submitted a felony complaint charging the perpetrator with multiple counts of committing a detest criminal offense ensuing in dying, committing a loathe crime involving an attempt to kill and for using a firearm to commit murder.
As the Lawyer Common claimed, these acts of violence not only terrorize the people today who are attacked, they damage complete communities. And we will be relentless in combatting these types of functions of violence.
We also see this growing danger in the horrific assaults in Pittsburgh, El Paso, Charlottesville and in other places. Numerous other plots or threats have been disrupted. Just since the spring of 2020, the variety of FBI investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists has extra than doubled.
As when I begun at NSD in 2006, some of the most acute legislation enforcement problems come up in combatting terrorism, only this time the menace is both of those international and domestic.
Right now, the most major terrorist menace to the United States is posed by lone actors or tiny cells who commonly radicalize on line and search to assault gentle targets utilizing quickly accessible weapons. We see these threats manifested in two teams of extremists, equally of which involve actors based in the United States: domestic violent extremists and homegrown violent extremists.
Domestic violent extremists, or DVEs, are individuals who seek to commit violent prison acts in furtherance of social or political goals stemming from domestic influences — this sort of as racial or ethnic bias, or anti-government or anti-authority sentiments. By distinction, homegrown violent extremists, or HVEs, are folks who are impressed largely by international terrorist groups, but who are not receiving unique direction from people teams. That claimed, these folks are generally motivated and influenced by a blend of socio-political, ideological and particular grievances from their targets.
Whether they attract inspiration from international or domestic influences, when these persons decide to commit functions of violence, they pose very similar and significant challenges for legislation enforcement.
Since of the insular and often quick mother nature of their radicalization and mobilization to violence – such as constrained discussion of strategies with many others and the use of encrypted communications – there are much less possibilities to detect and disrupt plots ahead of they come about. These actors have obtain to easily offered, exceptionally impressive weapons. And we have to be obvious about this – the capacity of violent extremists to acquire armed forces-quality weapons in this state contributes to their means to eliminate and inflict hurt on a mass scale. They frequently choose tender targets this sort of as residences of worship, retail areas and mass public gatherings. Tragically, we know from knowledge how these components can be a fatal mixture.
I want to emphasize that this is among the most challenging and intricate menace landscapes that I have noticed in around 20 a long time performing in counterterrorism. We know that countering the menace of violent extremism inside the United States will carry on to need sustained awareness and resources. And we will need to increase to meet this expanding danger, even though nonetheless sustaining our aim on terrorist organizations centered abroad.
Allow me turn to how we reply. And here’s a little bit of very good news: our practical experience in excess of the previous 20 many years supplies us hard-attained classes. We have constructed, over the many years, a long and generally thriving record of combating global terrorism. As we confront the soaring menace of domestic terrorism, we will have to convey to bear the insights we have acquired more than the past two a long time.
I’ll emphasize some of those crucial counterterrorism lessons and discuss briefly how they notify and information our tactic.
Initially, our work ought to be driven by menace intelligence to be successful. This usually means ensuring that we diligently track info and count on qualified analysis to refine our system, priorities and methods in excess of time.
This perform is by now effectively-underway at DOJ when it arrives to domestic extremism. Early previous yr, the Office issued new steerage to the subject on reporting and monitoring investigations similar to domestic terrorism. As the Deputy Lawyer Standard noted previously this 7 days, we are taking a info-pushed tactic to comprehending the danger and to marshaling a coordinated, nation-broad reaction.
We are constantly operating to discover additional not just about the scope of the difficulty, but also the nature of the threats and menace actors. For instance, the Intelligence Community evaluate that racially or ethnically enthusiastic violent extremists are the most most likely to perform mass-casualty attacks in opposition to civilians.
We also know that white supremacist groups have the most persistent and concerning transnational connections. But they are not the only class we are concerned about. When racially motivated extremists ended up the main supply of lethal attacks by violent extremists in 2018 and 2019, three of the 4 deadly DVE assaults in 2020 were carried out by persons the FBI categorizes as “Anti-Governing administration or Anti-Authority” extremists.
This threat-pushed technique involves that we protect the operational adaptability to adjust to a menace landscape that can shift quickly. Our strategy is intended to boost the emphasis, knowledge and sources demanded by the DT danger, though also ensuring that all resources keep on being available for the whole selection of counterterrorism demands.
2nd, we need to leverage the entire selection of our authorized authorities to stop, investigate and prosecute all types of terrorism. In the intercontinental terrorism context, this frequently indicates leveraging navy, law enforcement, intelligence and diplomatic abilities. When it will come to domestic violent extremism, in which regulation enforcement instruments are paramount, we seem to deploy a vary of prison and civil rules.
For instance, functions of domestic terrorism could also represent detest crimes. A hate crime — which is violence determined by matters like race, religion, gender or sexual orientation — may possibly also be intended to coerce a civilian inhabitants or impact federal government plan, which is the domestic terrorism definition. When that occurs, we request: What is the greatest and strongest device in DOJ’s arsenal we can use to answer? How can we be as productive as doable to keep these who terrorize our communities accountable and to accomplish justice for the victims?
One matter we have uncovered is that when it comes to racially determined domestic terrorism, such as white supremacist violence, generally loathe crimes statutes are the most successful equipment. The modern occasions in Buffalo are a good illustration of that – the Civil Legal rights Division is having the guide and NSD is supporting them. Based mostly on all those specifics, we experience that is the strongest achievable placement for the Section. At the close of the working day, we’re 1 workforce performing collectively to provide justice.
Third, as with intercontinental terrorism, domestic terrorism instances are of national importance and involve countrywide-level coordination. NSD was established to tackle specifically these forms of troubles: to harmony equities, deliver matter make any difference know-how and instruction, and assure consistency in method and unity of purpose.
Now we, along with the FBI, are mounting to meet up with the worries of the current risk landscape. And critically this is an region in which coordination is important to defend civil rights and civil liberties and to be certain that constitutionally shielded exercise is under no circumstances considered as a result of the lens of countrywide protection threats.
We have discovered from IT how to strike the suitable harmony concerning headquarters and the field to guarantee ideal management visibility, skills and guidance are offered to terrorism issues – whilst recognizing that the frontline get the job done is having put in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI Subject Places of work all over the region. This is not just a bureaucratic stage. All of us who have labored in or with federal legislation enforcement know how significant it is to get that harmony proper.
Fourth, we should remember the significance of partnerships to an powerful counterterrorism response. That involves partnerships across the federal federal government, with condition and neighborhood law enforcement, and with intercontinental authorities.
Each and every U.S. Attorney’s Office coordinates a group of federal and point out and neighborhood officers in every single district – we contact it the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council or ATAC, for brief. The ATACs do the job in near partnership with Joint Terrorism Activity Forces in the FBI to advertise education and facts-sharing amid our legislation enforcement associates, in both of those intercontinental and domestic terrorism matters.
This schooling and facts-sharing is critical offered that there are many far more point out and community regulation enforcement officers on the floor than there are federal agents. They are possible to be the initially regulation enforcement officers to identify individuals scheduling terrorist functions within just their communities. When it comes to blocking assaults just before they can come about, federal, condition and local associates perform together to examine terrorist threats and determine whether or not federal or state intervention is doable to disrupt a plot and protect the public.
Fifth, our counterterrorism priority is prevention. We identify that prevention calls for a broader response. We will need to have interaction with civil society and attract on applications to understand paths to radicalization, like giving guidance to community engagement, to efforts to avert targeted violence and to work addressing psychological health concerns that could guide to violence.
At DOJ, we are providing technological guidance and coaching to state and community law enforcement by a recently-established Anti-Terrorism Schooling Method, building sources for neighborhood legislation enforcement companies on terrorism prevention and detest crimes, and conducting local community engagements and delivering avoidance sources by means of a specified web page for education point out and neighborhood officers.
Sixth, and I feel most importantly, we must adhere to our core values, no matter the magnitude of the danger or the troubles it may possibly pose. These values are our source of countrywide energy – and they are the basis for all our do the job. We will zealously guard the To start with Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly and affiliation. We will have to cherish those essential commitments, even when confronted with text and beliefs that are abhorrent and distressing to us and our fellow Individuals.
Many of the domestic violent extremists who have fully commited acts of terror in new many years – in Charleston, in El Paso, in Charlottesville, in Buffalo – have been animated by the hateful ideology of racism, intolerance and white supremacy exclusively. We need to not wait to say that this sort of sights are improper and betray main American values. And we ought to be candid that this kind of views are aspect of an ideology that is progressively mobilizing people today to dedicate acts of violence.
But in the United States, hate itself is not a crime. DOJ investigates and prosecutes violent extremists for their prison functions and not for their beliefs or dependent on their associations, and no matter of ideology. We are committed to defending the constitutional legal rights and civil liberties of all Americans and to safeguarding the exercising of secured speech, peaceful protests and political activity. The Office of Justice does not and will not open investigations only based on Very first Modification-shielded exercise.
We keep sacred the legal rights of individuals to peacefully physical exercise those people freedoms. But when people today or teams try out to market or impose an ideology by means of functions or threats of violence, those people acts can be among the most unsafe crimes we confront as a modern society. When violent extremists find to hurt other individuals in the title of ideology – any ideology – we will use each individual instrument we have to deter and disrupt such functions, to hold persons harmless, and to bring perpetrators to justice.
I’ll stop by sharing a little little bit about what we are doing to use these classes to our attempts combatting domestic violent extremism.
Before this 12 months I introduced that we would be developing a Domestic Terrorism Unit inside of our counterterrorism segment. Last month, we formally stood up that unit following consultations with the Department’s leadership, the Civil Legal rights Division, the FBI and other DOJ elements.
Drawing on skills throughout NSD and the Section far more broadly, the DT Device has several capabilities: prosecuting and coordinating domestic terrorism cases building education and policies on domestic terrorism matters and supporting the work of the Office in implementing a complete-of-federal government technique on countering domestic terrorism. The unit’s composition preserves flexibility and enables us to improved assist the FBI, which has committed teams for dealing with domestic terrorism and intercontinental terrorism issues.
We recognize that countering domestic terrorism ought to be a full-of-Department hard work. We are fully commited to making a construction for Office of Justice elements, like the Civil Rights Division and federal prosecutors all over the country, to perform collaboratively and deliver to bear all readily available equipment to keep violent extremists accountable.
With the DT Device in spot, we are at this time developing inside DOJ insurance policies to ensure that NSD’s involvement in considerable domestic terrorism issues will align with our lengthy-standing part in international terrorism situations. These changes will assure a risk-driven, dependable, country-extensive solution to combating the menace.
Just as importantly, the DT Unit can act as a important safeguard to guarantee that we deal with the risk in a method that is regular with our values. In this do the job, as in all our of our perform, we continue to be dedicated to guarding the constitutional legal rights and civil liberties of all Individuals.
I’ll conclude by echoing what the Lawyer Basic claimed this early morning in Buffalo about the threats that violent extremism poses to the basic safety of the American folks and American democracy. For the Justice Division, confronting these crimes is a authorized obligation and a ethical obligation. No a person, when they go to the grocery retailer or the business office or their location of worship or anywhere else, should really have to reside in dread of violence.