Ali evaluates past and present threats of domestic violent extremism, calls for action by Congress and Administration

March 18, 2021

In recent articles, Javed Ali weighed in on the FBI’s investigation of the December 2020 Nashville bombing, and a new government threat assessment finding that the threat of attacks by domestic violent extremists could be “elevated” in 2021. In response, he’s also calling for urgent action by Congress and the Biden Administration to confront domestic extremism. 

Speaking with ABC News, Ali highlighted how a careful and thorough investigation by the FBI determined that last December’s suicide bombing by Anthony Warner in Nashville was not an act of domestic terrorism. Rather, Warner was driven by conspiracy theories and an intention to kill himself. "The FBI's statement regarding the investigation…[found] no ideologically-motivated fit either a legal definition or analytic construct for terrorism," Ali said. "Ultimately, the Nashville attack seems to be an outlier to the broader threat of domestic violent extremism in the United States, as recently demonstrated by the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January."

However, in evaluating the continued risks of domestic violent extremism (DVE) in 2021, his expert opinion aligned with a threat assessment report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The assessment identified that the threat of attacks by domestic violent extremists could be "elevated" this year. Ali, commenting to ABC News, found the consensus framework laid out by the intelligence community to be an important effort to provide clarity and precision to the interagency effort. The assessment establishes "a consensus framework for categorizing different elements of the DVE threat in the United States, which heretofore had only been individually established by organizations like the FBI and DHS." Establishing common language to describe potential threats helps "provide more clarity and precision in assessing the threats from the different categories established in this assessment," Ali added.

In response, Ali and Thomas S. Warrick, former DHS Deputy Assistant for Counterterrorism Policy and Director of the Future of DHS Project at the Atlantic Council, have published an op-ed in The Cipher Brief calling on Congress and the Biden Administration to take action early in 2021. The op-ed highlights the important progress that has been made by providing $1.8 billion in DHS funding to state and local governments to strengthen security, and that the agency has for the first time elevated domestic terrorism to a “National Priority” meaning an exponential increase in funding targeting the issue. While the authors praise the recent actions, funding allocations, and guidance provided by DHS and the Biden administration, they recognize that  “individual grants will be small and can only help to spur the start of much-needed training, outreach to communities of concern, or specific protection-related efforts.” While optimistic that this peak of domestic terrorism can once again be overcome, they call for Congress and the Biden administration to do more well in advance of the 2022 midterm elections. 

“Congress also needs to pass an emergency supplemental appropriation in the first half of 2021 to address a number of extremely urgent homeland security priorities, including addressing the growing surge of young migrants at the Southwest border and protecting the integrity of the 2022 midterm election,” they write.  “A third pillar of that effort needs to be more seriously addressing the threat of domestic terrorism, building on the initial $77 million announced on February 15, by giving the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice sufficient resources for a serious effort to take on domestic terrorism.” 

In short, the Ali and Warrick say “now—in early 2021—is the time to start addressing domestic terrorism with the urgency and seriousness that this threat to American democracy deserves.”

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