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tv   FBI and Homeland Officials Testify on Domestic Terrorism  CSPAN  November 3, 2021 9:30am-10:55am EDT

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it is in the senate. do you intend to do anything in the board diversity area? >> it's probably more than you would like to ear. i asked staff for recommendations in two areas -- >> we will leave this taped program for live coverage. to capitol hill now as fbi and homeland security officials testify before the house intelligence committee on the agency's efforts to counter domestic terrorism. this is live coverage on c-span3.
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[ no audio ] >> without objection, the chair may declare a recess at any time. america is under threat according to a joint dhs/fbi report mandated by this committee. 2019 was the most lethal year for domestic violent extremist attacks since 1995, the year of the oklahoma city bombing. a majority of those killed in
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2019 were killed by extremists advocating for superiority of the white race by white supremacists. one year ago, the acting secretary of homeland security wrote they have been lethal in their targeted attacks. this past april, the intel committee assessed that racially motivated violent extremists and militia violent extremists, including those who advocate for the superiority of the white house, present the most lethal domestic threat and are most likely to conduct mass casualty attacks. a few weeks ago, the fbi is tracking more than 2,700 domestic terrorism threats. we have seen the devastation of this threat firsthand in these very halls. january 6, capitol attack by insurrectionists who attempted to use deadly force to prevent congress from counting electoral votes from a fair and free election.
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the first time since the civil war. america did not have a peaceful transfer of power. five people died that day. several capitol police officers took their lives in the dramatic aftermath. many more were injure and still suffer the effects. that affected me, too, in deeply personal ways. a man was arrested returning to his truck from the riot at the capitol. he was carrying two pistols. in his truck was a small arsenal. 11 molotov cocktails, rifle, shotgun, two pistols. loaded as well as a crossbow, several machetes and a stun gun along with smoke devices. that man had something else in his truck. he had a list. my name was on it. next to my name was written one of two muslims in the house of
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representatives, when in fact there are three. as someone who was directly targeted on january 6, this issue is so personal to me. former police officer, as a black man, as a muslim, i'm concerned. more importantly, as an american who fights for equity, for democracy, freedom, i understand it. as we work to prevent future attacks, we must remember domestic terrorism tears at the fiber of this country in ways that extend beyond lives lost. the pastor of breyercreek church told "the washington post" in april that his predominantly black church, one of several attacked in 2015, remains on edge to this day. trauma is a way of life for us, he says. trauma cannot, must not be a way of life for americans. domestic terrorism is not new. it rises from hatred, division
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as old as america. we are all aware that the victims come from minority and marginalized communities. it is evolving and expanding, fuelled by disinformation and amplified on social media. we must evolve to meet this threat and to counter this we have to name it. equally important is how we go about preventing it. we must ensure that as we rise to meet the challenge of domestic terrorism, we do so in a way that protects civil rights and civil liberties. it's a challenge in counterterrorism, the need for freedom and security. the domestic terrorism mission
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must remain narrow. congress's oversight must be rigorous. i'm glad to see my colleagues across the aisle embrar concerns for protecting civil rights and civil liberties and counterterrorism. many of us can get some kind of resolve to help the subcommittee better understand the domestic terrorism threat. we welcome john cohen, senior official performing duties of the undersecretary at the department of homeland security. timothy langdon at the fbi. we ask you to help clarify for the american people the limited by vital role of the commission. when most americans hear intelligence, they think of the cia officer recruiting spies or nsa analyst listening to phone calls. collection on domestic terrorism
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must remain consistent. it's gathering publically available information or information gathered in law enforcement investigations. analysts then review it to better understand the threat and help policy makers mitigate. we ask you today, how are you distinguishing from protected speech on these online platforms from conduct and escalation to violence? how are you working with the private sector and social media companies in particular to identify and share information about these threats while protecting individual privacy rights on these platforms? grateful for your presence and i stand ready and eager to assist you in your mission as we all do. i will turn to ranking member crawford for any comments he wishes to make. >> members have raised concerns about the intelligence committee in collecting and conducting surveillance of u.s. persons without a foreign next us.
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it's the guiding authority, states the role is to provide information on foreign security threats and the intention of foreign powers and organizations. they are looking at foreign collection. any nexus with those in the united states plotting violence. we are not doing that today. this hearing has no classified portion, no opportunity to hear from the witnesses on ic collection of any foreign nexus domestic violent extremism. it's not the first event the house intelligence committee held this year on domestic terrorism. i hope the intention is not to communicate that there is an interest in expanding the role of u.s. intelligence entities, their resources or authorities to look inward at u.s. citizens. these carefully authorized care -- capabilities were never intended for domestic abuse. the use of national intelligence program funds and authorities
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should be for targeting foreign threats, not surveiling americans. government action to counter domestic extremism is an area fraught with overreach that impacts civil liberties. over the past few weeks, we have seen the danger of federal government taking action for political purposes. the attorney general's memo directing the fbi to hold 94 meetings across the u.s. to look at allegations of threats towards school officials without having any data or requests from state and local law enforcement points to significant government overreach motivated by politics and intended to intimidate american parents. i understand that the attorney general memo references violence and threats of violence. however, general garland testified in the weeks that the driving force for his memo was a letter from the national school board association, which refers to complaining parents as possible domestic violent -- extremists and the need to use the patriot act to monitor these threats.
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the fact the attorney general allowed these to drive government action demonstrates the critical need for vgilance for the role in the domestic arena. there's a role. anyone who threatens or commits acts of violence must face legal consequences. there must be a clear boundary between the role for law enforce money and surveillance tools. i hope this committee will focus on true foreign threat. the subcommittee has critical focus area that needs attention. i look forward to working with you on these critical issues central to the jurisdiction. i yield back. >> thank you. at this time, i want to recognize our distinguished
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chairman, chairman schiff. >> thank you for convening this discussion. pleased to join in welcoming the witnesses here today. as our president confirmed, domestic terrorism is one of the gravest threats to our value, democracy and security. it's apparent this committee and the american people understand the scope and complexity of the domestic terror threat and ensure we equip our community with the resources needed to counter it. because the threat is complex, coordinated and evolving, our response must be also. we must continue to improve our understanding and sharing of information and find ways to diffuse and escalate recruitment for and incitement and confront contributors to domestic terrorism, including ideologies fomented through disinformation and false narratives. we must acknowledge the role white nationalism have on the frequency and severity of the
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threats. it's an indisputable fact that a growing portion of domestic terrorist threats arise from hatred and a desire to harm people because of the color of their skin and religious beliefs. this is harbreakingly not new in america. our history has been marred by racially moe at the vated threats. we are seeing a sharpened edge to the threat and persistent and coordinated effort to terrorize based on these views. it's imperative we proactively identify the threats, break the cycle and bolster resources necessary to keep america safe. >> this is not an effort undertaken by the intelligence community solely. it will require close coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement as well as collaboration with private sector partners, particularly in the online space.
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i am encouraged by your commitment to work with the private sector on identifying patterns of violence amplified online. we must ensure that appropriate agencies are able to contribute to the mission of combating domestic terrorism. it is important this committee continues its sustained oversight of any instance where those efforts could impact americans civil rights and civil liberties. the committee launched an investigation following serious allegations that the department of homeland security's intelligence and analysis office may have played a role in violating first amendment rights during dhs's response to unrest in portland, including by collecting intelligence on journalists. this committee will continue to prioritize oversight to ensure that appropriate reforms are instituted and civil rights and civil liberties remain protected for all americans. i'm grateful for the witnesses' testimony today and look forward to our discussion. with that, i yield back. >> thank you.
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with that, we will start our hearing. >> good morning, chairman schiff, chairman carson, ranking member crawford. i'm honored to be here representing the dedicated men and women of the counterterrorism division. it goes without saying that threats from domestic terrorism is heightened and is increased. today i want to take an opportunity to highlight the fbi's investigative and analytical resources being used to combat this threat. first and foremost, the united states faces complex landscapes driven by a broad set of extremist ideology.
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we have conducted 2,700 investigations. in the fbi discussion of domestic terrorism threats, violent extremist define the threats. social positions and the accuracy of such beliefs are not prohibited. it's important to remember, the fbi cannot open an investigation based on first amendment protected activity. as such, the fbi divides the threat into five broad categories. one, racially or ethnically extremism. anti-government or anti-authority violent extremism. militia violent extremism, anarchist and sovereign citizen violent extremism.
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we assess that racially or ethnically motivated viole, para violent extremists, present the most lethal threat with racially or ethnically violent extremists most likely to conduct attacks. typically targeting law enforcement and government personnel and facilities. in 2010 through 2020, racially or ethnically violent extremists advocating for white race have committed 18 lethal attacks in the united states killing 70 people, including those in charleston, pittsburgh and el paso. targeted large public gatherings and houses of worship. it's important to remember preventing acts of terrorism is the fbi's number one priority. the greatest terrorism threat in our homeland is that posed by lone actors and small cells.
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they typically radicalize online, look to use easily accessible weapons to attack soft targets. you see this within both homegrown violent extremists inspired by foreign counterterrorists and domestic violent extremists. we want to assure the subcommittee and the american people that the fbi focuses on all threats of terrorist and continues to shift resources to remain up with this evolving threat. in conclusion, consistent with our mission, the fbi holds sacred the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their first amendment right. regardless of ideology, the fbi pursues those who seek to hijack legitimate first amendment protected activity by engaging in violent criminal activity such as the destruction of property and violent assaults on law enforcement officers that we witnessed on january 6 and during the protests throughout
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the u.s. -- during the summer of 2020. the fbi will pursue investigates when an individual uses, threatens use of force, violence or coercion in violence of law and in furthering of social or political goals. i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you for asking the department to appear before you today. it is a pleasure. i have found since returning to the department in january that the opportunity to have open and public discussion with members of congress on threat related issues has been incredibly valuable. this is an important conversation. i have spent over 35 years in working in homeland security, law enforcement, national security. i have to say that the period of threat that we are in today is
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one of the most complex, volatile and dynamic i have experienced in my career. while we are here today talking about domestic terrorism, i'm mindful of the fact that at the same time we at the department are working closely with the fbi, including evolving threats by foreign terrorist groups, violent crimes in a midst of multi year increase in cities across the country. efforts by foreign intelligence, agencies, to collect substantive information and engaging covert operations within the united states, which includes the use of influence operations and disinformation campaigns intended to sew discord, undermine credibility and confidence in government and government institutions, destabilize our society, inspire acts of violence and even undermine our relationship with our key allies.
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-- while again looking at the
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united states, while the specific motives behind the attacks vary, now this tells us many of the attackers share common behavioral characteristics. in particular they are angry, they feel sociologically disconnected. they spend significant time online and ultimately self connect with a cause or grievance to justify the use of violence as a write a to express their anger and achieve a sense of social connection and self worth. often hear in the analytic community, it is not the ideology, it is the psychology. and that was a reference to the fact that a major part of the threat environment today is based on the anger that is so prevalent across our society. and the belief that violence is an appropriate way to express that anger by a growing number of people within our society. this is a threat that does not fit neatly into traditional terrorism or extremism definition related categories. those who engage in violence
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often a blend of extremist believes and personal grievances. the assistant director reference ad number for lethal attacks associated with the domestic terrorism. i would actually argue the number of those who have been killed are much higher. texas, las vegas, or other parts of the country, it is very often difficult to discern whether the motive behind the attacks is an ideological belief system or personal grievance or combination of both. this is a threat that manifests in the physical and digital environment. online content, disinformation, false narratives, conspiracy theories, foreign nation states terrorist groups and thought leaders fuel much of the violence we're experiencing. this is a really important point that was referenced by chairman schiff, mr. carson and others recently. domestic and foreign threat actors purposely seek to exploit the fractures in our society, the anger and discord associated
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with our political discourse, sow discord, inspire violence and destabilize our society. individuals preparing to discuss acts of violence will often discuss their plans online in private and public forum. understanding all of this is critically important because it provides context to what i'm sure we will discuss later today with regard to how the department has structured itself to work with the fbi and others to address this issue. but if i may focus on a couple sort of key issues. one, we need to think differently about intelligence. this requires thinking differently about how we look at information. pre incident indicators may be apparent through public action or communication.
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-- threat related activity. prevention. one of the tools that the u.s. has used over the past 20 years to prevent terrorist attacks in the united states a terrorism task force. they are incredibly effective. they have saved lives but in the current threat environment we have come to learn there has to be other violence prevention activities that complements the jtto. jttf may not be enough. community programs can address the threat posed by high risk individual who is do not reach the investigative threshold necessary for a terrorism related investigation. the department has expanded the division of grant fund training. -- law enforcement, health professional. social service and groups can work together to identify individuals who are high risk of conducting a violent attack and mitigate the risk posed by those individuals. this means being able to share
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at an unclassified level analysis regarding the threat to those entities at the local level so they can be a part of --. i agree with the comments about the need for a law enforcement and intelligence path that is not to be leveraged to address constitutionally protected behavior. we do not at the department police thoughts. it is not our job to engage in activities intended to target individuals because of their political believes, their social views, their believes on race and religion. it is our job to prevent acts of violence. and regardless of the ideological belief or personal grievances that motivate that violence, it is our job to protect our community and work to protect the nation. thank you, i'll look forward to your questions.
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>> thank you. with that, i'll lead with the question. mr. cohen you testified previously about efforts including through the office of security and human capital office evaluating open investigations into domestic violence, extremist behavior by government employees, can you provide an update on these efforts and describe ina's current assessment of the steps that white supremacists are taking to infiltrate your organization and law enforcement -- military communities more generally. >> thank you mr. chairman for that question. like you mr. chairman i'm a former police officer. i'm very proud of my profession. i have worked in law enforcement or homeland security-related activities for multiple decades. unfortunately there are those in our community who are susceptible to the same forces that are serving to inspire other members of our society to
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adopt -- ideological beliefs. and when it comes to us in the law enforcement profession we have to be extra vigilant to ensure one belief system do o --. secretary mayorkas has asked the office of chief security officer, our human resources office, all of our components to look at open investigations that may be in place. regarding individuals who may potentially be engaged in illegal or inappropriate behavior. based on their holding or connecting with extremist police chief systems. we are also ensuring that as we look to evaluate new hires, and as we seek to evaluate the behavior of our employees, particularly those who are on the front line in enforcing our laws. they are doing so in a way that is non discriminatory and not informed by extremist belief systems. >> thank you, sir. and director langdon.
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to you share my view that active involvement in a white supremacist organization or failing to act against extremist harassment and intimidation is incompatible with --. >> [inaudible]. yes, of course. to echo the statements of mr. cohen. the appropriate vetting and thorough vetting of individuals that are in positions of trust is paramount. in this country. to ensure that we have people that uphold the values. of the constitution and of the people of the country. >> thank you, sir. ranking member? >> thank you mr. chairman, i would like to reiterate i think this is entirely inappropriate we have an hearing in an unsecure setting. i think this would have been better conducted. i have a number of questions i'd like to direct both of you.
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i'll do that under more secure cover and we ree apply in more secure cover. possibly have an opportunity to conduct a hearing in the skiff and we can talk about more information where it is more relevant and appropriate format and appropriate setting. i would like to yield to the doctor to allow him to make some comments. >> thank you mr. chairman. thank you both for being here. you know, as someone who on june 14th, 2017 devised what is only recently determined to be a domestic violent extremist act, i'd like to, you know, comment on some of that. on that particular day there were 136 rounds fired. 136 rounds fired. and it is not for steve scalise being there, the capitol police --.
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and we would have had 20 to 30 members of congress killed, easily because they were penned in. god was on our side that day for lot of reasons. -- discovered as we went forward and realized how lucky we were and fortunate we were. the gentlemen who attacked us came heavily armed and he had a list of republican --. i wasn't on that list. any of these lists obviously are very disturbing. and when i see mr. carson on a list, here is someone who not only serves here in congress but service his community as a police officer. and is a very decent, good gentlemen. it's very disturbing. and i'm glad we are addressing these issues. because this happened on many fronts. and mr. langdon, i mean
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no offense to you personally. but the fact that it took four years and a new director to have that event on june 14, 2017 termed as domestic violent extremism, as it is defined, why did it take four years? because it was a political stunt within the fbi starting at the head who's been fired. and yes, americans are angry. they don't have trust in many portions of their government. those are just a couple oaf examples. we all have a responsibility here. we all have a responsibility. for people to not have a reason to be angry. we bear some responsibility in that, at times. but everybody's responsible for their actions. and we do need to address this.
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and in line with what mr. crawford said. i would agree with him. if we want to understand the threat and the complexity of domestic violent and extremism and to make sure we're adhering to our civil liberties and to make sure that the intelligence community is working within their legal lanes, and if we are to discuss tactics and procedures, i have to submit the question that i have today for the record and to have them answered in a classified setting. i think that is the appropriate place. i'm glad we're having this discussion. but i think if we really want to get things done, it isour role on this committee, we need the do it in a classified setting. and i yield back.
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>> i think the comments show the importance of understanding the threat and understanding the warning of the threat so we can counter the threat and keep us all safe. chairman schiff. >> thank you. i just want to say i appreciate that you are doing this hearing in open session. we are having hearings on this in closed, classified session. but it is important for the public to understand what the predominant domestic terrorist threat is, and the fact that domestic terrorism is dramatically on the rise. and that is not something that we can keep behind closed doors. the public needs to understand the nape of nature of the threat. i think also a big part of the reason why there is diminished confidence in law enforcement is the propagation of deep state conspiracy theories about the fbi, which i think are a disservice to the men and women of the fbi, who i think have done a remarkable job throughout our history and who i've worked with since i was a prosecutor of 30 years ago. so i appreciate the work that you do.
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the intelligence community plays an important role in the federal government's larger approach to domestic terrorism. that role is purposefully narrow. the fbi, ina and national counterterrorism center are tasked with providing comprehensive analysis of the domestic terrorism threats as well as its drivers. in essence, as our report makes clear, intelligence and analysis in the dt space is merely writing products to better understand the threat and enable policy makers to take steps to reduce it. these authority, these narrow authorities within the intelligence community to look at domestic terrorism are not new authorities. and to me it is a bit disturbing that there is now such an attack on these authorities, when the predominant threat of domestic terrorism comes from white nationalists. it should matter where the predominant threat comes from in terms of the ic's role. they have an important role to
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play. it is not the dominant role but it is an important role and advertise --. and that is true whether it comes from white nationalism or some other source. and so let me ask you. there is a push by some on the committee to now limit those authorities. and i want to ask you about what the consequence of that would be. and it is proposed that the ic and none of its elements should have a role in domestic terrorism, only when there is a foreign nexus to that threat. so let me ask you about a hypothetical. let's say there was an explosion on the mall that killed dozens of people. and in the hours after the explosion it wasn't clear who planted the bomb or what their p motivation should be. can you both describe before us what role dhs, ina would play, what role the bureau would play in trying to determine who was
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responsible for that and how it might inhibit your work if you were prohibited from doing that investigative or analysis work until a foreign nexus could be identified. >> thank you chairman for the question. so unfortunately that scenario not necessarily exactly there but has been played out before. initially it is very difficult to determine the nature and motive of an attack that happened throughout the country. so initially, the response from the government usually local, law enforcement, the fbi, dhs, other government agencies would quickly try to work together to first determine the existence of the continuation of that threat that may have been from that initial action. then, trying to determine the individuals involved, motives, and the planning that went into such. so as such, the analysis that
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occurs in the information that is gleamed from that investigation is crucial to determine what caused that -- that incident. so as far as if you are referring to the analytical nature of intelligence, the fbi is of course a two, duel hatted agency. we're a criminal organization, criminal investigative organization. and we're also the domestic intelligence service for the united states. as such, we combine those two missions. we combine gatherings information and intelligence to be used in criminal prosecutions, along with national security missions. and we have very distinct lines between how these are used. but on the initial reaction of the investigation, the initial response, there would be a large combined effort to determine the extent of the purpose of that attack, the extent of those involved in what planning was involved if that attack. >> and how would it inhibit your
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work mr. cohen if you couldn't undertake the analysis until there was already a conclusion about the foreign link to it? >> mr. chairman, thank you for that question. it would impede our ability to gather and analyze information provided by state and local authorities and the private sector that may be relevant to the attack. it would preclude our ability to conduct and engage with cbp and others within the department to travel pattern analysis to see if we could determine any type of causal or operational links between individual who is may have been identified as being associated with the attack and others in the united states. it would impede our ability to look at online activities if there was indicators that were associated with the attack and may give us more insight into what we're doing. it would essentially preclude our ability to engage and support the activities associated with investigating
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that operation until such time that a foreign nexus was determined. >> thank you mr. chairman. i yield back. >> chairman yields back. mr. stewart. >> thank you mr. chairman. and to the witnesses, thank you for being here. i want you to know they appreciate that you have served your nation. and i have no doubt in my mind that you are patriots and you are protecting and seek to protect american interests and american lives. this hearing though does cause me some concern. and i want to explain if i could. i think we have seen in the last few years, a breakdown in faith and basic institutions, which my friend dr. win strip has talked about. including unfortunately law enforcement and justice institutions. and after, for example, last three four, five years, i think the reputation of the fbi and department of justice has been tattered in many ways. there is no question.
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we know now there were efforts to deceive the fisa courts. they worked in tandem, some of the leadership within the fbi particularly but department justice work in tandem with political parties and political candidates to put forward a false narrative that i think a seven year old would have viewed it and said this can't possibly be true and yet they present it as if it were true. you have the use of federal law enforcement to target parents now who are simply want to have their kids have a good education. they love their kids and for them not to be indoctrinated in schools. we had months and months of writing. 22 billion dollars of damage. 27 or 28 people killed. hundreds and hundreds of law enforcement injured with seemingly no ability to stop it. and i think the list goes on. there is more that i could mention. but now we have this effort. and this is where our concern lies. we have this effort to use elements of the ic. intelligence community, to
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potentially surveil or monitor or analyze or evaluate u.s. persons when there is no foreign nexus. in other words, when that u.s. person has no, virtually no association with -- or any support of any foreign government or group. and if you want to continue to have people be skeptical of law enforcement, then walk down that road. or create the impression that we're walking down that road. and that is my fear. that is my concern. that if you allow any of your organizations -- and the awesome powers that they have. the nsa, for example, incredible ability to surveil. we all know that. they should never turn that awesome surveillancen power on any u.s. person when there is no foreign nexus. neither should the cia. neither should the dia or any of the elements of the ic. if there is no foreign nexus.
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if there is no tie to any foreign group or organization, that person should not be under the surveillance or under the eye of any of these ics. and that's why i think, and i think you do as well, surely share that concern. if there is no foreign nexus, then it is a law enforcement matter. which means therefore it is not under the purview of this committee. because we're not a law enforcement committee. i do have some questions. but because of the nature of the questions, you won't be able to answer them. so i will hold them and submit them in writing for your response. again, we could do in a secure environment. one final thought if i could. want you to know we have no interests at all in curtailing any of the appropriate authorities. we understand that you have a role to play. and that it is difficult and you need to use the tools available to you. all we want is transparency and
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honesty in how those authorities are employed. and to not expand those authorities as i've expressed my concern here today. so again, we do have some comments and additional questions, i'll smith those in writing and hopefully we can get a response in the appropriate setting. with that mr. chairman i yield back. >> gentlemen yields back. >> thank you very much. mr. cohen first i want to say this. my understanding is that you don't seek to be doing surveillance in manners that mr. stewart and i think all of us object to. is that correct? >> yes, congressman. that is correct. in fact there are significant restrictions on the use of intelligence community question platforms within the domestic environment. so we're not talking about using the awesome power of the nsa
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against u.s. persons while they are in the united states as we engage in identifying threats of violence. >> okay. mr. langdon, same thing. you have different authorities -- go ahead. >> yes, i concur with that as well. >> all right. let me just ask mr. cohen in september 18 there were radical rights -- gather ad the capitol and you testified there was similar traffic on public facing websites to what was seen before january 6th. but there was no similar level of violence. why do you assess there was less violence at that event? >> that is a really interesting question, congressman. and i think it provides a good illustration of what we are doing and what we're not doing. as we were evaluating activity on online -- in online communities and platforms commonly used by violence, domestic extremists, we saw
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discussions that focused on the -- an event held in washington d.c. on september 18th. initially we did not see any references to violence so we did not collect information, we did not disseminate information. until we began to see woven into the conversations specific calls for violent and illegal acts. the kidnapping of a member of congress. the attack of liberal churches. attacks against jewish facilities. we began seeing calls by counter protesters to come to d.c. and engage in violent acts. when we began seeing a nexus with violent activity, that is when we began working closely with the fbi. we began additional annals, we worked with state and locals. and we issued placements referring to the threats and to some degree what we've come to believe is our focus on these security events actually serves as a deterrent effect to
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violence. >> thank you. and what about just the process of sharing information with partnership with state and local governments where we get a database of what these threats are? can you address the need do that, have better and more reliable statistics. >> i'll defer to the astanton director to talk about from investigative perspective but as i mentioned in my opening statement, there are examples where acts of violence, acts of targeting violence have been prevented by threats management strategies employed at the local level. so it is critical that local authorities, whether it be law enforcement or others have an understanding of the threats. have understanding of the behavioral indicators associated with the threats so they can recognize those behaviors and those indicators should they be present in the community. >> would it be helpful to basically institutionalize reporting requirement at the state and local level so that information is available and not just sometimes made available?
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>> i believe it would be. >> anything to add? >> no i think that could be useful, sir. as far as sharing and disseminating information currently foundation of which we use it are -- which we have over 200 throughout the country. and then in addition to producing intelligence products, much wider distributed audience as well. >> you know, i share the concern expressed by my republican colleagues about individual rights and civil liberties. and let me -- we don't have that much time. i'll start with you mr. cohen. what are the agencies doing to ensure, to ensure that individuals civil rights and liberties are protected? >> my analysts and the individual who is engage in information gathering, they have to receive training on, so that they are able to distinguish between constitutionally protected activity and that that may be threat-related. we have extensive oversight that involves our lawyers from the intelligence law division, our
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intelligence community oversight officer and privacy and civil liberties and civil rights officers. i say this and somebody who again has been a police officer. i've arrested a lot of people. i'm very focused on conducting operations to protect the country. my two closest partners in the department today a privacy officer and civil rights and civil liberties officer. even the perception that we are infringing on people's constitutionally protected rights would undermine the credibility of our efforts to protect communities from violence. >> thank you very much. i yield back. thank you. >> gentlemen yields back. mr. lewis. >> thank you mr. chairman, i want to thank the witnesses for your service to the country. and i share the comments of mr. crawford. i wish we were in a classified setting for much of this hearing today. and i'll have some questions that i'll submit in a secure format. having said that, mr. cohen, you talked, both of you have talked
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about the importance of local law enforcement in working together. and how impactful that is on your investigations in the work that you do on both levels when it accommodation to domestic violence. in a prior life i spent time as a federal prosecutor and headed up a jttf and that experience with the local law enforcement, sheriffs, department, local police department, state troopers, obviously is a foundation of much of what you guys do. having said that, as i look at this movement to defund police, get rid of departments, i can't think of anything that would be more disruptive and more problematic to the work that you do at the local level to disrupt than that. i'm wondering if you can comment on that. >> thank you, congressman. this won't be a surprise to anybody who knows me. i believe law enforcement is an important part of our society. there are men and women who work in law enforcement each and every day who are focussed on safeguarding the community.
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who go to work each day, put their lives at risk. so that they can help the country be with better place. policing in our country has to be non discriminatory. enforcement actions should not be carried out driven by implicit or overt bias. we should do everything we can to make sure law enforcement engages in their day to day activities in a legal, non discriminatory manner. >> having said that i'm happy last night we saw rejection in minneapolis of replacing and defunding the police in minneapolis. i think that speaks volumes and hopefully we put an end to that. but to that point, i can't tell you how many police officers that i've talked to, whether it is in chicago or much of my district, that the morale is lower than i've ever seen it before. because of this movement to defund police. and so i just mention that because as you do your work, in working at the local level, this is something that we have to
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address and work to remedy. changing subject, mr. langdon, you talked a little about online information and disinformation and how that's been used to exploit many of these cases you have talked about. and social media. in terms of, we've been grappling on capitol hill about what to do about social media. lot of suggestions out there. everything from, you know, section 230 liability protection for online platforms and what we do there, how do we hold these tech companies accountable? how do we break them up? what we need to do. as you look at the work and how the role of social media plays in many of these lone rangers as you described them. what should we be doing to help remedy that problem. >> there are three distinct
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lines the fbi follows. one, first off, that we very much encourage citizens, individuals to come forward when they have information. when they see information of extreme rhetoric, violence being discussed online. that that is one potential avenue for it to come to us. like in the past, reporting things when things are -- when we'll have concerns about things. second level is direct engagement with companies in the private sector. whether it is a tech company or any other private sector. but the bureau heavily engages with members of the tech industry, along with other private sectors to talk about how they can be responsible in reporting instances of violence, individuals that are concerned, reporting them to us. >> let me just interrupt there. so having said that, have you seen positive changes that have been implemented along those lines that have been productive to the work that you do. >> we have seen often times when
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companies have come to us with information that will help us or concerns. and we engage with training with them, to what to look for, our concerns, there's been several cases that we've worked together to disrupt violent acts before they happen. but there is a massive amount of information out there and a massive amount of rhetoric and speech that could lead to potentially violent acts. the third level and third tier that we look towards is increase our own store space of information of individuals that will provide us information about ongoing individuals that would like to commit acts of violence. in addition to that we continue to try to attempt to close the gap on warrant proof encryption so criminals and those using techniques and platforms and applications that have encryption that are outside the
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ability for rightful warrant pursued information that we would continue to look for ways to help with that. >> thank you. i'm out of time. i yield back. >> gentlemen yields back. mr. castro. >> thank you chairman carson for calling this important hearing. the rise of national strism is something we've seen in texas, as y'all know. two years ago over 20 people were killed by a man who said he wanted to, quote, kill mexicans. he ended up killing a bunch of americans. last two weeks, san antonio and austin have suffered a series of anti-semitic attacks with businesses defaced with swastikas and the local jewish community being intimidated. and we've seen nazis outside the
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holocaust museum and denying the holocaust. i want to ask what will the fbi do to investigate incidents and others like this? >> for one the fbi engaged with local law enforcement extensively in identifying crimes, whether it is a hate crime or whether it is a part of a group that follows the promotion of a white supremacist advocates for --. we have elevated racially motivated non extremists to one of our highest threats. counterterrorism remains the highest priority of the ip fbi. and within that racially motivated violent extremism is at the top, equal to that of the threat of foreign terrorists such as isis. so we focus a great deal of resources focused on trying to disrupt and stop that activity and identify those individuals that may be responsible for them. we take this very seriously. >> thank you.
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well taking on white nationalist extremism is something i'm glad this administration is committed to doing but we have ask what happens when these holding those views are part of the law enforcement. a report found agent who is posted offensive and racist messages on facebook chats against agency policy were found to have a engaged in misconduct. while the discipline review board recommended certain punishments ultimately the officers faced far reduced penalties. a border patrol agent who posted a sexually explicit doctored image and derogatory comments about member of congress has -- reduced and awarded back pay. worder patrol supervisor who improperly posted a video of a migrate falling off a cliff to their death, as well as explicit and offensive comment about a member of congress had their discipline reduced from removal to 30 day suspension.
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and there are many other examples cited in the report. i want to ask you mr. cohen, how is dhs able to effectively take on white nationalist extremist groups when dhs employees who echo such views are barely punished? >> that is a fair question, congressman. that is why the direction of the --. disciplinary actions taken against personnel, the rules that govern retention of personnel. so that these types of situations can be addressed in a consistent manner across the department. and your point is well taken. if one is entrusted to enforce the laws of this country, even the perception that this person's actions are being influenced by racist or other extremist believes, undermines the credibility of the organization. so something we take very seriously at the department and
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we're working to address. >> sure, and as a follow up. dhs is looking for expanded role in tackling extremism in the united states, how can you assure us the dhs officers with those responsibilities will do their work in an unbiased way? >> i think it goes to you know what i described earlier, that it also is a part of the leadership of the department. leadership has to spend a strong message to our workforce that racist or inappropriately influenced activities will not be tolerated. and it needs to be taken seriously. and allegations need to be investigated. and when warranted action needs to be taken. >> a comment to director ray close to the beginning of the term that i hope extremism, white nationalism within law enforcement will be seriously scrutinized. because in american society we give law enforcement officers a lot of benefit of the doubt. and it is hard to prosecute law
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enforcement officers especially successfully. and if any of they are actions are motivated by racism or hate or extremismism, that becomes especially deadly to the american public. so thank you for your efforts., especially deadly to the american public. so thank you for your efforts. >> thank you mr. chairman. the american people are deeply concerned about the politicization of domestic terrorism. this issue has been at the forefront over the past month in response toon order from the attorney general for the fbi to convene meetings across the u.s. in response to speech at school board events. particularly in virginia. in september, the national school board association release ad public letter to president biden requesting federal assistance to address alleged violence targeting children, school board members and educators. the letter references increased threats of violence due to frustration over mask mandates and teaching of critical race theory and requests the federal
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government investigate, intercept and prevent the current threats and acts of violence against public school officials through existing statutes, executive authority interagency and intergovernmental task force asks other extraordinary measures. the letter went on to say the classification of these heinous actions could be equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and it requested the administration review all applicable laws and policies including the patriot act to relevant enforcement actions due to the threat. we know the school board coordinated this letter with the white house prior to this release. five days after the release of the school board association letter, the attorney general released a memo directing the fbi to meet with leaders to discuss strategies for addressing threats against school administrator, board members, teachers and staff. in testimony before the house judiciary committee, attorney general garland confirmed that this letter was the relevant factor in the creation of the memo that was sent out by the
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department of justice. this is the politicization at the department of justice without facts to support the alleged growing threat and need for federal investigation. specifically targeting parents and parental groups. we now know that the letter, that the school board association release ad statement to its member rescinding the letter saying they quote, regret and apologize. and yet the attorney general has not reattracted this memo. i have a few yes or no questions. has the fbi held any of these meetings directed by attorney general garland. yes or no? >> i don't know that. they were led by the u.s. attorney's offices. i would think it is best directed -- >> in conjunction with the fbi. >> i do not have that -- >> they have held meetings. what's the number. >> i don't know ma'am. we can look into it. i believe the date by today led by the u.s. attorney's office. >> in conjunction with the fbi. >> we will get you that number.
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-- supposed to be today and coordinated by the 94 different jurisdictions. but invited the fbi to attend. >> correct. does the fbi consider parents domestic terrorists. >> no. >> do parents who oppose crt, are they considered domestic terrorists. >> no, to my knowledge. >> no to your knowledge. >> as long as individuals are not committing federal violations violence or -- they would not be. >> are parent who is oppose mask mandates considered domestic terrorists. >> no. >> let me ask you this. what are your thoughts? because after the attorney general garland memo was based upon the school board's association letter which has now been rescinded, why has the department not rescinded the garland memo. >> you would have to defer that question to the department of justice. >> do you think it should be resinned. >> i'm not going speak on behalf of the attorney general? >> do you have any other
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thoughts to add? >> i would only add that in addition to the letter that was submitted there were actual calls for violence directed at teachers, school board administrators and others in the educational environment on extremist platforms. we did reach out to state and local law enforcement. there have been some sporadic incidents of violence at school board meetings and in educational facilities, however the information we received is that state and local law enforcement were not seeing widespread action. so we're continuing to work with state and locals to maintain awareness of the environment if there are threats of violence directed at anybody. threats not just focused on school administrators in information we were analyzing but also included threats against law enforcement and public health officials who were giving vaccines and involved in other public health-related activities. so it is just something we continue to evaluate. >> but you are aware that the
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attorney general says under oath when he testified that the relevant factor in the garland memo was the school board's association letter. you are aware of that. >> i did not watch the attorney general's -- >> well that is what he said and you are answering very differently here today. he said that was the reason for the memo put out by the department of justice and obviously voters spoke loudly and clearly in virginia last night. with that i yield back. >> gentlelady yields back. is member in a white -- organization disquaffed for people to work at the fbi mr. langdon. >> yes. >> is member in that type of organization inconsistent with the effect of law enforcement. >> yes. >> how is the fbi coordinating with local and state law enforcement about incoming threats and information about white supremacists and other dves, i know having worked at the fusion center there was an analyst assigned there as well as, you know, you guys built a skiff there.
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but there was always intelligence with local law enforcement and the fbi because there was a sentiment that local law enforcement does the work and the fbi comes in at the last minute at the threshold i think this many cases that's unfair. but has those coordinating efforts improved over time? >> you know sir, i've been in law enforcement now for 28 years and served for the government for 31 years. i actually have not found that. there's definitely rivalries. there are definitely frictions that occur on individual basis. but i've found the coordination between local, state officials and the fbi to be very wholesome. of course there is at times prosecutorial differences on the case should be worked at a state level or federal level. but again, i'll refer back to the foundation of what our sharing is and those 200 joint terrorism task forces with almost 4500 agents and officers working hand in hand together so when information reaches their department that potentially
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contains a federal violation ideology, the concern, then that information is forwarded from that task force officer into the jttf. they can review the information and determine if there is enough information to move forward with potential investigation. >> thank you, sir. mr. cohen it is no secret the ic failed to adequately warn of the insurrection that occurred on january 6th. can you explain what specific procedures have changed and what reforms postjanuary 6th? >> thank you mr. chairman. i think there are a lot of lessons we in law enforcement and the intelligence, analytic world learned from january 6th, both the events of the day and week leading up. to the point in my opening statement, the understanding that indications regarding an emerging threat may be available through public information. what we have done since january
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6th at the department is we have redoubled our efforts to coordinate sharing of threat information we acquire or that comes to us through relationships with state and local private sector, with the fbi. and others in the schedule community. we have become much more forward leaning as it relates to the analyzing of online activity. and evaluating activity from the perspective of the potential risk of violence. we have, i would say that we are probably much more cognizant and mindful about incorporating that threat-related information into operational planning. and i think a very good sort of example of the differences that exist today versus on january 6th would be one just simply look at what happened on inauguration day. after january 6th the analysis of online activity did not reflect that those who were here on january 6th viewed it as a
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victory and as the end point of their efforts. they actually saw it as a starting point and there were calls online for additional acts of violence to be committed in both the district of columbia and state capitals around the country. on inauguration day or in and around inauguration day. the response by law enforcement was very different. the response here in washington included security measures in and around the capitol and other locations, highly visible presence of national guard. highly visible presence of law enforcement. a very overt and public security presence in and around district of columbia and state capitols around the country. what did we see reflected on social media and extremist platforms, cognizance of those security measures and reluctance to come to washington because those planning acts of violence viewed it as a trap being set for their arrest or viewed it as not the right time to come and engage because of security presence. so our analysis has focused much
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more on understanding when there may be a potential act of violence and then taking steps, sometimes very visible steps and public steps to create physical security measures that serve as a deterrent. >> chairman schiff. >> ranking member crawford. >> thank you mr. chairman. actually would have some questions about recent open source reporting about an october 29th isis threat and unidentified mall in northern virginia. i'll save those for secure setting. but i would like to ask you director langden which fbi headquarters element has the lead on implementing the mandates attorney general's october 4th memo regarding school board threats? >> that would combination of criminal investigative division along with counterterrorism division. >> how many state and local law enforcement divisions reached out to the fbi requesting additional assistance with this issue? >> i don't know. the most likely would have reached out to their local field
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office. >> any participants in jttfs participating these meetings, training or any other activity associated with the attorney general's memo? >> i don't have any information now. it was being formatted and led by the local u.s. attorney's offices. but we will find out and get back with you. >> who attended and from what programs. >> okay. from the field offices. the fz the field office to determine who they might send to a meeting if it was led by the u.s. attorney's office. >> appreciate the follow-up. for any of these activities the fbi utilizing any national intelligence resources or authorities? >> no. we could possibly be using analytical resources, which all analysts in the fbi whether they work organized crime or whether they work cyber crime or terrorism related matters, all of them come from the national intelligence program bucket. and so analytically, if we're reviewing a problem, some of those resources could be reviewed if we're trying to ascertain whether or not a potential threat exists. >> i'm certain now, based on my
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colleagues comments, you are aware of the national school board association apologized and recalled their september 29th letter to the president, which was catalyst for the attorney general's memo. since then, has the fbi received any updated guidance from the department of justice on canceling the mandate for fbi led meetings, training and dedicated open lines of threat reporting? >> not that aim aware of. >> gentlemen yields back. chairman schiff. >> thank you. just want to follow up up on a couple issues. first of all, are you seeing a rise in death threats against school board members? >> i can't necessarily quantify it mr. chairman. but we are definitely seeing online activity which specifically calls for acts of violence being directed at teachers, school administrators and school board members. >> and those threats of violence are against those school
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personnel over, for example, decisions they are making about the health of the children in those schools? >> yes. it is included in a narrative that we have seen continue, which focuses on public health and other restrictions associated with covid and having to do with vaccines as well. >> now, i know a lot of us on this podium have been the subject of death threats. when we are, those are investigated by capitol police, sometimes federal law enforcement. we certainly want them investigated. you would agree i assume that death threats against school board members should be investigated similarly? >> yes, mr. chairman. it is a fundamental part of our responsibility is to make sure we take seriously threats of violence and until we can determine if those threats are not valid or credible, to maintain and be vigilant to prevent acts of violence. >> these threats of violence,
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these death threats are designed to try to force a change in policy, are they not? >> the narrative that we have examined, that i have looked at, have specifically called for acts of violence as a result of policies that are being instituted in schools. i'm not sure i'm comfortable saying what the intent of the poster is. but the content has complained about the provisions and have called on people to threaten or to engage in violence against those school administrators, school board member, law enforcement and healthcare professionals. >> we're also seeing threats of violence against elections officials, are we not? >> yes we have seen threats against election officials. saw that in the 2020 election and we continue to. >> i raise this because i think there's been a proliferation of
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threats of violence, politically-motivated violence. and to an astonish asking dangerous degree a rationalization of violence or threats of violence to bring about political change and acceptance of political violence. and i would just point to the executive summary by the odni of the domestic violent extremist threat which reads in part, no more soc. political development of -- emboldening impact of the violent breech of the u.s. capitol, related to the covid-19 pandemic and conspiracy theories promoting violence will almost certainly spur some domestic violence extremists to try to engage in violence this year.
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those pushing the big lie, undermining our democracy are emboldening impact of -- emboldening new violence in my view. those who are downplaying, the significance of the attack of january 6th or trying to make political heroes of those who assaulted police officers on that day or breached the capitol, my view are encouraging further violence. when we propagate a falsehood about the election, when we diminish public confidence in our elections, the people don't think they can rely on our elections to decide who should govern. it is an invitation to violence. and it is no better. indeed i think it is far worse when that invitation of violence comes from members of congress than anyone else. because the members of congress know that the big lie is a big lie. and i think it is shameful. when we are informed by our intelligence agencies that that
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attack is emboldening others to commit other acts of violence and when those false narratives of fraud in the election are also an encouragement to further violence, that members continue to engage in that and i wanted to put that on the record. with that mr. chairman i yield back. >> thank you chairman. thank you both for your attendance and participation. while what you do is very -- all right. congresswoman. >> thank you mr. chairman. i just want to get on the record mr. langdon, you talked about the u.s. attorneys leading this. are you aware that the october 4th memo states, quote, to this end i am directing the federal bureau of investigation working with each u.s. attorney to convene meetings. so the fbi is directing this. >> i -- the fbi is not directing it. it is the u.s. attorney's office that, my understanding was going to direct the meetings and format the meetings and decide
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how the meetings would transpire and we would -- >> the memo from the attorney general is not accurate? because not followed? >> i don't know if it is an interpretation difference but -- >> just reading what it says. >> yes ma'am. that was my understanding that it would be led by the u.s. attorney's office. >> and you are aware last week the attorney general stated under oath they would provide information that led to the issuing of the memo by november 1st. are you aware of any reason why they have missed that deadline? >> i can't speak on behalf of the department. >> have you participated in the formulation or presentation of that memo? >> no. i have exchanged some e-mails. the weekend before when the initial discussion was brought up about this memo that came out. that it was very brief. >> what was the discussion? >> discussion that a letter came in from the school board association and that the department was looking to put out some messaging.
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>> what was the messaging? >> i do not have the messaging. >> you said you were on the e-mail. >> just that. stating that, and we -- whatever i need to get you the full extent of the e-mails,out. it was engaged at a different level, a lower level than me. it was the statement of, this was going to come out. >> you will provide all the emails relating to the issuing of the garland memo as well as any planning for messaging as well as any compilation of what the response to the senators who requested information, you'll provide those emails? >> whatever i can provide you legally. >> so you will provide those? >> whatever i can provide you, ma'am. i'll have to check with our legal counsel's office. >> i yield back. >> the gentlelady yields back. thank you both for your participation today. thank you for your service to our country. it's very rewarding work.
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it's also oftentimes thankless. i want to thank chairman schiff for his great presence and ranking member crawford and my colleagues and the entire committee for their commitment to accountability, oversight, and keeping americans safe. thank you all. this hearing is adjourned.
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