Please refer to the following attachments in responding to this discussion question. Also, feel free to reference any other sources you find to support your responses.
As stated in the attached assessment (FBI & DHS Assessment, 2021, p. 4) the term violent extremism is used to describe/define Domestic Terrorism (DT) threats in the following way:
In our discussion of DT threats, we use the words ‘violent extremism’ to define DT threats because mere advocacy of political or social positions, political activism, use of strong rhetoric, or generalized philosophic embrace of violent tactics may not constitute violent extremism, and may be constitutionally protected. Under FBI policy and federal law, no investigative activity may be based solely on First Amendment activity, or the apparent or actual race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity of the individual or group. The FBI does not investigate, collect, or maintain information on US persons solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment.
In a National Counterterrorism Center Conference Report (NCTC, 2020, p. 2), the following take-away/theme was noted:
There is no whole-of-government DT threat picture, largely because the US Government does not have a common terminology to describe the threat. The absence of a common understanding of how threat departments/agencies prioritize DT issues differently results in a lack of analytic research and production on DT threats, and in turn reinforces the lack of policymaker prioritization.
(1a) Regarding the term violent extremism (as it relates to defining Domestic Terrorism threats), described on page 4 of this assessment, in your opinion, at what point does ones speech (or group language) cross the line, moving from a free speech issue to a domestic extremism/threat(s)?
NOTE: Also, please refer to the following court cases in developing your response to question (1a) above:
Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969)
Watts v. United States, 394 U.S. 705 (1969)
https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/707/watts-v-united-states (Links to an external site.)
(1b) In your opinion, what are some effective ways to counter the types of DVE attacks described below (for years 2017, 2018, and 2019) and what roles should the federal government, state and local law enforcement, and the community play in combating/preventing DVE attacks in the future (e.g., gathering intelligence, planning, information sharing, prosecution, accessing target vulnerabilities, training, social media and other media outlets, etc.)?
See FBI/DHS Strategic Intelligence Assessment excerpts below:
NOTE: This current assessment was published in May 2021, further assessments/data for years after 2019 are still being processed and will most likely also address events like what occurred on Jan 06, 2021.
In 2017, law enforcement and racial minorities were the prevalent DVE targets in 2017, with race providing a principal focus for RMVEs espousing the superiority of the white race, and law enforcement and government continuing to represent key targets of interest for AGAAVEs, specifically MVEs and SCVEs. Numerous violent encounters also took place between perceived ideological opponents. Abortion-Related Violent Extremists and Animal Rights/Environmental Violent Extremists also remained sources of harm or economic damage through criminal acts of destruction, sabotage, or arson. (FBI & DHS, 2021, pp. 6-7)
In 2018, the FBI and DHS assessed DVEs posed a persistent and evolving threat of violence, with RMVEs advocating for the superiority of the white race and AGAAVEs, specifically SCVEs, engaging in lethal attacks. Abortion-Related Violent Extremists, Animal Rights/Environmental Violent Extremists, and Puerto Rican National Violent Extremists, which is a subset of the AGAAVE threat category, also caused harm and economic damage through criminal acts of property destruction and arson. The six fatal DVE attacks in 2018 underscored how DVEs acting as lone offenders continued to advance their extremist ideologies by engaging in lethal attacks and acts of violence against targets of opportunity, using rudimentary tactics and readily accessible weapons. DVEs were primarily enabled by their use of the Internet, including social media platforms, which has increasingly enabled individuals to radicalize online and engage other DVEs without having to join organized groups. (FBI & DHS, 2021, p. 7)
In 2019, the FBI and DHS assessed RMVEs, primarily those advocating for the superiority of the white race, likely would continue to be the most lethal DVE threat to the Homeland. Our agencies had high confidence in this assessment based on the demonstrated capability of RMVEs in 2019 to select weapons and targets to conduct attacks, and the effectiveness of online RMVE messaging calling for increased violence. Additionally, other DVEs likely would continue to engage in non-lethal violence and other criminal activity, and DVE reactions to socio-political events and conditions could increase attacks. The year 2019 represented the most lethal year for DVE attacks since 1995, with five separate DVE attacks resulting in 32 deaths, 24 of which occurred during attacks conducted by RMVEs advocating for the superiority of the white race. (FBI & DHS, 2021, p. 8)