New attorney general will address domestic extremism threat, which Ali calls a “fifth wave” of U.S. terrorism

February 28, 2021

The United States is experiencing a ”fifth wave” of terrorism, according to Towsley Policymaker in Residence Javed Ali, after “Anarchist, Anti-Colonialist, New Left, and Religious” periods. He writes in an essay in The Cipher Brief that this wave “may have begun as early as the late 2000s, when the results of the economic downturn, the election of President Obama, and the rise populist political ideas started to play out domestically and set the conditions for future violence linked to this timeframe.” 

One manifestation of right-wing hate is the coopting of Christian religious symbols, according to an article in USA Today. Ali notes, "Comparisons between Al Qaeda and white nationalists who profess a twisted, extreme version of Christianity are apt. They were able to turn Islam into something very dark. I see the same thing playing out in the far-right space: These symbols are being hijacked for a completely different purpose. And it helps justify their actions."

He says that as attorney general, nominee Merrick Garland will address these issues, having had experience prosecuting the Oklahoma City bombing in the 1990s. 

"At a strategic level, this is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the administration," Ali said. "And it's not going to happen overnight; it's going to take probably a year or two to get all this stuff lined up and pointed in the right direction."

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