FBI director warns of rise in domestic terrorism in congressional testimony l GMA
Former Senior FBI Officer – on the history of domestic terrorism in the United States and how to combat it
The January 6 events on Capitol Hill attracted the attention of security experts. Lauren Anderson, formerly a high-ranking FBI official, has worked in counterintelligence and counterterrorism for nearly 30 years..
Correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America” spoke with Lauren Anderson about the problem of domestic terrorism in the United States in connection with the events of January 6.
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Experts on the problem of domestic terrorism in the United States
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Alexander Yanevsky: Ms. Anderson, the storming of the Capitol in early January has brought renewed attention to the issue of domestic terrorism. What we need to know about her?
Lauren Anderson: Due to the events of January 6, the problem of domestic terrorism in the United States has become extremely serious. It is important to understand that domestic terrorism is not a new phenomenon for the United States – it has always existed. We saw it surge in the 1960s. What happened on January 6 was an outrageous event, and clearly an attempted rebellion. It was a terrorist act – this is how reasonable people look at it. These events are now being investigated. This is far from the first such investigation, but it is clearly one of the largest since the events of September 11, 2001. If we go back 50 years and compare the events of that time with those of today, we will see that the pendulum of domestic terrorism has swung from the left political sector to the right..
In the 1960s and 1970s, there were many terrorist attacks in the United States. In 1974 alone, more than two thousand explosions thundered in the country. Most of them were committed by the left, but also by those who advocated a solution to a particular problem or professed the same ideology. To be sure, in the 1960s, early 70s and early 80s, it was left-wing extremism that was responsible for most of the terrorist attacks. Interestingly, terrorist attacks in the 1970s led to the initial creation within the FBI of the concept of a joint counter-terrorism task force. The formation of the group was influenced by a series of actions in New York, which involved a Puerto Rican separatist group that advocated for the rights of Puerto Rico, which (upholding the rights of Puerto Rico – GA) is normal in itself. But the acts of violence they used made them a terrorist group. There was another organization – the “Communist Organization of May 19”. She was not truly communist in the sense in which we might relate to her. This organization is unique in that it was the first terrorist organization created and led by women. They were incredibly violent and active in the 1970s and early 80s. From the 1980s to the present day, we have seen a rise in extremist domestic terrorism, which is rising and falling. Here you can remember the explosion in Oklahoma City in 1995. In the same period, there were other events in this area..
AND I.: In the United States, there is no official definition of the term “domestic terrorism”, but there is “domestic violent extremism.” What is the reason?
L.A: Yes, in the United States there is no corresponding law on domestic terrorism, and there is no way to recognize this or that organization as an internal terrorist organization. This is in stark contrast to the approach to foreign or international terrorism. There is a mechanism in our laws to designate an organization or individuals as terrorist. However, while there are no laws that address this issue, there are rules developed by the US Department of Justice..
A bill passed unanimously in the House of Representatives last fall, which was then sent to the Senate, called the Prevention of Domestic Terrorism Act, where it was stopped by one of the senators. And then no one gave a convincing explanation. Legislators said there were some technical problems due to the wording. But in any case, what was unanimously adopted by the House of Representatives, the Senate refused to consider.
For decades, there have been mechanisms for the FBI to investigate what constitutes domestic terrorism, and that was what I did for 30 years in the FBI, investigating, for example, the Oklahoma City bombing. Timothy McVeigh was indicted on several counts: charges of murder and conspiracy. And Terry Nichols, who committed this act with him, was also charged with the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction..
AND I: What are the features of investigating such cases?
L.A .: Such cases are difficult to investigate. And there are several positives about the fact that it is difficult, because one of the things that we hold dear in this country is the First Amendment, our right to freely speak and express our opinion. The fine line between when simple conversation turns to actual violence is one of the challenges that the FBI as an agency and our government has had to face. If someone threatened the president, would the Secret Service immediately investigate that person to try to prove that it was just someone saying something or something more important behind it? So the First Amendment is part of the question: where to draw this line? Secondly, and I do not take this or that position, in fact, there was not enough political will to persecute the extreme right. But the FBI has always paid attention to cases involving domestic terrorism..
AND I.: The FBI also relies on informants in its work. To what extent their presence helps the Bureau in its daily activities?
L.A: Having an informant is an important component in the FBI’s job to determine if a crime is being committed. This information, according to our rules, despite what many people think, should be collected in the least intrusive way possible. So, for example, going for something like electronic surveillance is very expensive; there are also legal restrictions. However, it is difficult to establish a relationship with a person in an organization such as the Proud Boys. Recruitment is standard practice in the intelligence community. This is an attempt to get more intelligence and understand what the group of interest to us is trying to do – just communicate or actually collude?
AND I.: Recently it became known that the leader of the far-right organization Proud Boys, Henry Tarrio, was an FBI informant for a long time..
L.A .: I was surprised by this news because someone let this information go public. This is a huge problem, and when I saw it, my immediate reaction as a retired FBI officer was “Wow! I can’t believe anyone said this! ” If someone does business with you, disclosing such information puts that person’s life, livelihood, family and friends at risk. Therefore, information about those who cooperate with law enforcement agencies is kept very, very seriously. The FBI treats it differently and it is fenced in to prevent people from accessing it. But this fits very well with the type of investigative techniques the FBI uses in any kind of investigation, including domestic terrorism..
AND I.: When you worked for the FBI, did you experience some of the internal terrorist groups receiving funding from outside the United States??
L.A .: Interest Ask. I cannot speak specifically about what is happening now, because there is no access to information. Yet, knowing what I know from the previous period of my career, based on information in the public domain, American far-right groups did not receive much outside support. Whether the funds went to terrorist organizations that operated, for example, in the 1970s, remains to be seen. If such information appears, then the intelligence community will investigate it, and if it turns out to be true, then the case will be brought to its logical conclusion. Historically, in the United States, if we talk about right-wing extremism, we have not seen money coming from outside, from outside the country..
AND I.: What steps do you think the US government should take in the fight against domestic terrorism?
L.A .: Whatever your political views, we have not seen such a split in society for at least 50 years. First of all, it is necessary to remove politics from this, and assess the criminal behavior. We must abandon the politicization of the problem, because it is useless, because we are worried about criminal activity and what such people are trying to do, and not whether they support this or that president..
As noted in a study at the University of Maryland on radicalization in the United States, today, when people hear the word “radicalization,” people assume that it is about Islamist terrorism, and do not pay attention to the fact that anyone can be radicalized. For example, a white right-wing extremist is more likely to radicalize at a later age — around thirty-eight; if you look at the extreme left in political terms, then these are, as a rule, people from their twenties to thirty, adherents of Islamic extremism are people who are about twenty.
There is no one size fits all solution, but I think it is important to understand what this radicalization looks like. What happened on January 6th is one of the most outrageous things I’ve seen in my life. The events of that day must be fully investigated and a report similar to that of the September 9, 2001 Events Commission must be made. After working for the FBI for nearly 30 years, participating in the 9/11 investigation, working on many other terrorism investigations in the United States and abroad, as a citizen, as an individual, I have tremendous trust in the FBI and our law enforcement partners and their ability to work together. It remains to be seen what caused the horrific events of January 6, but there is a level of professionalism and dedication that is unmatched in the world..
Journalist. Graduated from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. He has worked on Channel 1 + 1 and Channel 5, on the Voice of America since 2014, and was one of two Voice of America correspondents covering the 2018 Russian presidential elections from Moscow. He pays attention to the topic of US-Ukrainian and US-Russian relations. Actively covered the case of Paul Manafort and Maria Butina.
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