tv FBI and Homeland Officials Testify on Domestic Terrorism CSPAN December 8, 2021 5:05pm-6:27pm EST
japanese viewpoints. exploring the american story. watch american history tv saturdays on c-span 2. and find a full schedule on your program guide or watch online anytime at c-span.org/history. fbi and homeland security officials testified on efforts to counter domestic terrorism before the house intelligence committee.
>> 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. the muiority of those killed in 2019 were killed by extremist advocating the superiority of the white race by white supremacists. one year ago the acting secretary of homeland security wrote that white supremacist violent extremists had been exceptionally 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 race, present the most lethal domestic threat and are most likely to conduct mass casualty attacks. just a few weeks ago the assistant director testified the fbi is tracking more than 2,500 domestic terrorism threats. we have seen the devastation of this threat first-hand in these very halls. on january 6th the capitol was attacked by insurrectionists who attempted to use deadly force to prevent congress. five people died that day. many more were injured and still suffer the effects of that assault. that affected me, too in deeply
personal ways. on january 6th a man was arrested carrying two pistols. 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 representatives when in fact there are three. as someone who was directly targeted on january 6th this issue was so personal to me as a former police officer, as a black man, as a muslim i'm deeply concerned. but more importantly as an american who fights for equity and democracy, freedom. i understand it. as we work to prevent future attacks we must remember
domestic terrorism tears at it fabric of this country in ways that extend beyond the lives lost. kenneth robinson, pastor of brier creek baptist church in south carolina was told in april 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 said. trauma cannot, must not be a way of life for americans. domestic terrorism is not new. it arises from hatred and divisions as old and america. and we are all aware its victims come disproportionately from minority and marginalized communities, but it is evolving and expanding fueled by disinformation and amplified on social media. we, too, must evolve to meet this threat and to effectively counter this threat we have to name it.
we have to understand it. we need to understand the drivers of domestic terrorism so we can stop it. deeply important to stopping this threat is how we go about preventing it. fighting terrorist violence is only one side of the ledger, one part of the balance that must be struck. 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. folks, this is a long-standing challenge in counter terrorism. the need for balance between freedom and security, to maintain that balance the intel community's domestic terrorism mission must remain narrow. and congress' oversight must be rigorous. i'm glad generally so to see my colleagues across the aisle embrace concerns for protecting civil rights and civil liberties for counter terrorism, so that many of us can get some kind of resolve. to help the subcommittee better understand the domestic terrorism threat we welcome the
senior official performing duties for intelligence and analysis at the department of homeland security and timothy langen at the bureau of investigation. we'll also ask you to help clarify for the american people the limited but vital role of the ic and its mission. when most americans hear of intelligence they think of a cia officer, recruiting spies or an nsa analyst listening to phone calls. collection on domestic terrorism is and must remain different. it consists largely of gathering public information or information gathered in law enforcement investigation. analysts then review it to better understand the threat and help policy makers mitigate it. so we ask you today how are you distinguishing from protected speech on these online platforms from conduct on the role of escalation to violence? and how are you working with the
private sector and social media companies in particular to identify and share information about these threats while still protecting individual privacy rights on these platforms? we're grateful for your presence and stand eager to assist you in your mission as we all do. >> thank you, mr. chairman. republican members of this committee have consistently raised concerns about the intelligence community playing a role in collecting intelligence and conducting surveillance of u.s. persons without a foreign nexus. executive order 12333 as the guiding principle to their authority clearly states the role of the i.c. is to provide information on foreign security threats and the intention of foreign powers, organizations and persons and their agents. looking at foreign collection in any nexus between overseas individuals and groups with those in the united states that are plotting violence, but we're not doing that today. this hearing has no classified
portion, no opportunity to hear from the witnesses on i.c. collection of any foreign nexus to domestic violent extremists. today's hearing is not the first event the house intelligence committee has held this year on domestic terrorism. i hope intention of the majority is not to communicate there's an interest of expanding the role of resources and authorities to look inward at u.s. citizens. these carefully authorized capabilities were never intended for domestic use, and we need to have a very clear boundary. the use of national intelligence program funds and authorities should be for targeting foreign threats, not surveilling americans. government action to counter domestic extremism is an area fraught with potential overreach that impacts civil liberties.
points to significant government overreach motivated by politics and intended to intimidate american parents. however, general garland has testified several times in the intervening 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 surveillance tools to monitor these threats. the fact the attorney general allowed these complaints to drive government action demonstrates the critical need for vigilance. anyone who threatens or commits acts of violence must face legal consequences. however, there must be a clear
boundary between the appropriate role for law enforcement and the surveillance tools for the intelligence community. moving forward, i hope this committee will get back to focusing on true, foreign threats. counter terrorism, collection shortfalls after the afghanistan withdrawal, counter intelligence threats from mullple foreign actors across all sectors of u.s. society, and the development of bioweapons and other wbmds just to name a few. i look forward to working with you, and i yield back the balance of my time. >> thank you, ranking member. at this time i want to recognize our distinguished chairman, chairman schiff. >> thank you, chairman carson, for convening this vital discussion. i'm pleased to join in welcoming the witnesses here today. domestic terrorism is one of the greatest threats to our values, our democracy and our security. it is imperative this committee and the american people understand the scope and complexity of the domestic terror threat and ensure we equip our intelligence community
with the resources needed to counter it. because this threat is complex, coordinated and evolving our response must be also. we must continue to improve our understanding and sharing of threat information, find ways to diffuse and de-escalate recruitment for an incitement of violence and confront the causes of and contributors to domestic terrorism including the extreme and violent ideologies often fomented online through disinformation and false narratives. we must also acknowledge the persistent role white supremacy and white nationalism have on the frequency and severity of these threats. it is an the disputable fact that a growing proportion of domestic terrorism threats arise from people driven by hatred and a stated desire to harm people because of the color of their skin and religious beliefs. this hatred based violence is heart breakingly not new in america. our history has been long marred by racially motivated threats of communities of color and other
marginalized groups. we're seeing a sharpened edge to the threat. in short it is imperative we proactively identify these threats, break the online radicalization cycle and bolster the resources necessary to keep america safe. this is not an effort undertaken solely or even primarily by the intelligence community. 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. mr. cohen, i'm encouraged by your public commitment to work with the private sector on identifying patterns of violence amplified online. while we must ensure that appropriate i.c. agencies are able to contribute to the mission of combating domestic terrorism, it is equally important this committee continues its sustained rigorous oversight of any instance where those oefrts could impact american's civil rights and civil liberties.
last year the committee launched an investigation following serious allegations the department of homeland security's intelligence and analysis office may have played a role in violating first amendments rights during dhs' response to arrests in portland. i'm grateful for the witness' testimony today and look forward to our discussion, and with that, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. with that we'll start our hearing. assistant director, the floor is yours. >> good morning, chairman schiff, chairman carson, ranking member crawford and members of the subcommittee. i'm honored to be here today representing the dedicated men and women of the fbi's counter
terrorism division, and i appreciate the opportunity to be with you to discuss the current domestic terrorism threat picture. it goes without saying the threat from domestic terrorism is heightened and significantly increased from the last 18 months. today i want to take the opportunity to highlight the fbi's investigative and analytical resources being used to combat this threat. first and foremost the united states faces a complex threat landscape driven by a broad set of extremist ideologies. fbi investigations have more than doubled over the last year and we're currently conducting more than 2,700 investigations on domestic violence extremists. in the fbi's discussion of domestic terrorism threats we use the words violent extremism because the underlying political and advocacy of such beliefs are not prohibited by u.s. law. it is always important to remember the fbi can't open an investigation based solely on
fbi protected activity. one, racially or ethically motivated extremism. two, anti-government or anti-authority violence extremism which has three subcategories. militia violence extremism, an arkest violence extremist and sovereign citizen violent extremism. and finally five, all other domestic threats which consistent of blended or personal extremist ideologies not otherwise defined under the previous categories i mentioned. we assess racially or ethically motivated extremists advocating for the superiority of the white race or anti-government violent extremists present the most lethal threats with and militia
violent extremists typically targeting law enforcement and government personnel facilities. in 2010 or 2020 racially ethnically motivated extremists for committed 18 lethal attacks in the united states killing 70 people including those in charleston, charlottesville, pittsburgh and el paso. typically 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 faced in our homeland that posed by lone actors in small cells who typically radicalized online, looked to use easily accessible weapons to attack soft targets. we see this threat within both homegrown violent extremists or hves who are inspired primarily by foreign counter terrorists and domestic violent extremists. we want to ensure the subcommittee and the american
people the fbi focuses its efforts on all terrorism and continues to shift resources to remain comenseerate with this ever evolving threat. in conclusion, consist with our mission, the fbi holds sacred the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their first amendment rights. regardless of ideology the fbi aggressively 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 6th and during the protest throughout the u.s. during the summer of 2020. the fbi will actively pursue the opening of investigations when an individual threatens use of force, violence and coercion in violation of federal law and in furtherance of social and political goals. i look forward to answering your
questions. >> chairman carson, ranking member crawford, members of the committee, thank you for asking the department to appear before you today. it truly 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. and i have to say that the period of threat that we are in today is one of the most complex, volatile and dynamic that i've experienced in my career. and wile we are here today talking about domestic terrorism, i am mindful of the fact at the same time we at the department are working closely with the fbi, with our state and local partners, with our foreign counter parts to deal with a broad range of threats including a threat posed by foreign terrorist groups, violent crime that has in the midst of a
multi-year increase in cities across the country, efforts by foreign intelligence agencies to collect sensitive information and engage in covert operations within the united states which includes the use of influence operations and disinformation campaigns intended to sow discord, undermine credibility and confidence in our government and our government institutions, destabilize our society, inspire acts of violence and even undermine our relationship with our key allies. we're dealing with a range of cyber threats as well as an evolving migration situation on the southern border. so we have a lot on our plate. but as the assistant director indicated when we look at the issue of lethal threats facing the united states today, the primary terrorism related threat facing the u.s. comes from lone offenders and individual and small groups of individuals who are motivated by extremist
ideologies. i'd like to build on the assistant director's opening statement and go a little bit more into detail on the dei'mics of the threat we're seeing. we have groups of people that will coalesce around extremist idealogic beliefs. when we look at lethal attacks that have been conducted over this country over the last several years it's a very individualized threat. so what do i mean by that? as repeatedly assessed by dhs and the fbi, the threat primarily comes from lone offenders who engage in violent activity inspired by extremist beliefs and/or personal grievances typically cultivated through the association of online content. we have experienced attacks in this country over the last several years that have been
motivated by beliefs associated with racial superiority, hatred of immigrants or others due thatheir religious beliefs, their gender, their sexual orientation. an individual or group of individuals distrust of government or individual institutions or even the belief we shouldn't have a government or we should live in an anarchist type government. this didn't just appear over the last year. this is something we began to observe going back to the 2013, 2014 time period. and while, again, looking at lethal attacks in the united states while the specific motives behind these attacks vary many share common characteristics. in particular they are angry. they feel socially disconnected. they're seeking a sense of life meaning. they spend significant time online and ultimately self-connect with a cause or grievance to justify the use of violence as a way to express their anger and achieve a sense of social connection and
self-worth. a phrase you'll often hear we'll use in the analytic community is it's not the ideology, it's the psychology. and that is the 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 threat doesn't fit neatly into definitional atgories. those who engage in violence often self-connect to a combination of extremist beliefs or blend of extremist beliefs and preferences. i would actually argue the number of those who have been killed are much higher. when we look at attacks like sutherland springs in texas, in las vegas or all over the
country it's difficult to discern the motive. this is a threat that manifests itself both in the physical and digital environments, online content, disinformation, false narratives, conspiracy theories spread by foreign nation states, international terrorist groups, fuel much of the domestic terrorism we're experiencing. domestic and foreign actors seek to exploit the fractures in our society, the anger and discord associated with our political discourse to sow discord, inspire violence and destabilize our society. individuals preparing to conduct acts of violence will often discuss their plans online both in private and public forums. understanding all of this is critically important because it provides context to what i'm sure we'll 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 of sort of key issues. one, we need to think differently about intelligence. this threat requires we think differently about how we look at information. covert collection may often not be necessary to capture valuable intelligence. but analysts need to be able to distinguish as was repeatedly stated by mr. crawford -- have to be able to distinguish between constitutionally protected speech and threat related activity. prevention -- one of the tools the u.s. has used over the past 20 years to prevent terrorism in the united states is joint terrorism task forces. they are incredibly effective. they have saved lives. but in the current threat environment we have come to learn there have to be other violent prevention activities that complement the jttfs.
jttfs may not be enough. community based prevention programs. the department has expanded the provision of grant funding, training, technical assistance to local communities so that law enforcement, mental health professionals, social service providers, educators, community youths can work together to identify those individuals at high risk of conducting an attack and mitigate the risk posed by individuals. this means being able to share at an unclassified level analysis regarding the threat to those entities at the local level so they can be a part of the prevention activities. let me conclude by making a point very strongly because i agree with the comments that have been made today about the need for a law enforcement and intelligence assets not to be leveraged to address
constitutionally protected behavior. we at the department police thought. it is not our job to engage in activities intended to target individuals because of their political beliefs, their social views, their beliefs 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 communities and work to protect the nation. thank you. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, mr. cohen. with that, i'll lead with a question. you testified previously about dhs' efforts including through the office of security and the human capital office to evaluate and open investigation into domestic violent extremist behavior by government employees. can you, sir, provide an update on these efforts and describe the current steps white
supremacists are taking to infiltrate your organization and law enforcement 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 activity as i mentioned for multiple decades. unfortunately, there are those in our community that are susechtable to the same forces that are serving to inspire other members of our society to adopt or self-connect with ideological beliefs. and when it comes to those of us in the national security or law enforcement professions we have to be extra individual lpt to ensure that one's personal belief systems whether they be extremist or not do not influence discriminatory actions by those entrusted to enforce our laws. so secretary mayorkas has asked the office of the 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 belief 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 on the front line of enforcing our laws, they are doing so in a way that is nondiscriminatory is not informed by extremist belief systems. >> thank you, sir. and director, do you share my view that active involvement in a white supremacist organization or failing to act against extremist harassment and intimidation is incompatible with effective policing? >> definitely, sir. 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 this hearing in an unsecure setting. i think this would have been better conducted down in the skiff. i have a number of questions i'd like to direct to both of you. you can reply in under secure cover and possibly we'll have to possibility to conduct a hearing in the skiff or talk about more sensitive information that -- where it's more relevant in an appropriate format and appropriate setting. i would like to yield to allow him to make some comments. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you both for being here.
you know, as someone who on june 14, 2017, survived what is only recently determined to be a domestic violent extremist act, i'd like to, you know, comment on some of that as we frame the discussion here today. on that particular day there were 136 rounds fired. 136 rounds fired. and if not for steve scalise being there the capitol police would have -- we would have 20 to 30 members killed easily because they were penned in like a baseball field. god was on our side that day. there were a lot of things we discovered and wept forward and realized how fortunate we were that day. the gentleman who attacked us came heavily armed and had a
list of republicans in his pocket. i wasn't on that list, but any of these lists obviously are very disturbing. and when i see mr. carson on a list, he is someone who's not only served here in congress but has served his community as a police officer and is a very decent, good gentleman, it's very disturbing. and i'm glad we're addressing these issues because it has happened on many fronts. i mean no offense to you personally, but the fact 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 you look at that and, yes,
americans are angry. they don't have trust in many porgs of their government. those are just a couple of 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 is responsible for their actions, and we do need to address this. if we want to understand the threat and complexity of domestic violence 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 questions 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 as our role on this committee, we need to do a classified setting. and i yield back. >> i think the doctor's 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, mr. chairman. and i just want to say at the outset i appreciate you're doing this hearing in open session. we are having hearings on this in closed classified session, but it's important for the public to understand what the predominant domestic terrorism
threat is and the fact it's on the line. and that's not something we can keep behind closed doors. the public needs to understand the nature of the threat. i also think that a big part of the reason why there's 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 history. so i appreciate the work you do. the intelligence community plays an important role in the federal government's larger approach to domestic terrorism. that role is purposely narrow. the fbi, ina and national terrorism 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 dtc space is writing products to understand the threat and enable policy makers to take steps to reduce it. these narrow authorities within the intelligence community, a look at domestic terrorism are not new authorities. and to me it's a bit disturbing that there's no such an attack on these authorities when the predominant threat of domestic terrorism comes from white nationalism. it shouldn't matter where the predominant threat comes from in terms of the i.c.'s role. the i.c. has an important role to play. it's not the dominant role, but it is an important role in disseminating this information. and that is true whether the predominant threat comes from white nationalism or comes from some other source. let me ask you, there's a push by some in the committee to now limit those authorities. and i want to ask you about the
consequence of that would be. and it's proposed that the i.c. and its elements should have a role in domestic terrorism only when there's a foreign nexus to that threat. so let me ask you about a hypothetical. let's say there was an explosion on the wall that killed dozens of people. and in the hours after the explosion it wasn't clear who planted the bomb or what their 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 responsible for that and how it might inhibit your work if you were prohibited by doing that investigative or analysis work until an analysis could be identified? >> thank you, chairman, for your question. unfortunately, it's a scenario not exactly there but has been played out before. initially, it is very difficult to determine the nature and motive of an attack that happens
throughout the country. so initially, the response from the government usually local law enforcement and 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 stemmed 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 occurs and the information that is gleamed from that investigation is crucial to determine what caused that incident. so as far as if you're referring to the analytical nature of intelligence, the fbi is of course a dual hatted organization. we're a criminal investigative organization and also domestic intelligence service for the united states.
as such we combine those two missions. we combine gathering information and intelligence to be used in criminal prosecutions along with national security mission, and we have very distinct lines between how those are used. but in 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 and what planning was involved in that attack. >> and how would it inhibit your work, mr. cohen, if you couldn't undertake the analysis until there was already a conclusion about a 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 my be relevant to the attack. it would preclude our ability to conduct and engage with cbp and others in the department to do
travel pattern analysis to see if we could determine any type of causal link or operational links between individuals who 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 and see if there were 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 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 i appreciate you've served your nation. and i have no doubt in my mind you're patriots and you're protecting and seek to protect american interests and american
lives. this hearing, though, does cause me some concern. and i want to explain it if i could. i think we've seen in the last few years a break down in faith and basic institutions, which my friend dr. winstrope had talked about including law enforcement and justice institutions. for example, in the last three or four, five years i think the reputation of the department of justice has been tattered in many ways. there were efforts to deceive the courts, worked in tandem some of the leadership within the fbi particularly, but the department of justice worked in tandem with political parties and candidates to put together a false narrative that i think a 7-year-old would have viewed it and said this can't possibly be true, and yet they presented it as if it were true. you had the use of federal law
enforcement to target parents now who are simply wanting 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 of damage, hundreds and hundreds of law enforcement injured with seemingly no ability to stop it. and i think the list goes on. there's 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 i.c. and the intelligence community to 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 or in 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 if you allow any of your organizations to team with the i.c., 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 surveillance power on any u.s. person when there is no foreign nexus. neither should the cia. neither should the dia or any other elements of the i. c. if there is no foreign nexus. if there is no time to any foreign group or organization, that person should not be under the surveillance or under the eye of any of these i.c.'s, and that's why i think and i think you do as well surely share that concern. if there's no foreign nexus, then it's a law enforcement matter, which means therefore it's 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. and so i will hold them and submit them in writing for your response, again, so that we can have a secure environment. we have no interest at all in curtailing any of the appropriate authorities. we understand you have a role to play and that it's difficult and you need to use the tools available to you. all we want is transparency and honesty in how those authorities are employed and to not expand these to those authorities as i've expressed my concern here today. so, again, we do have some comments and additional questions. i'll submit those in writing, and hopefully we can get a response in the appropriate setting. with that, i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back.
mr. welch. >> thank you very much. thank you very much. mr. cohen, first of all, i want to say that my understanding is that you don't seek to be doing surveillance in a manner that mr. stewart and i think all of us object to. is that correct? >> yes, congressman, that is correct. and in fact, there are significant restrictions on the use of intelligence community collection platforms within the domestic environment, so we're not talking about using the awesome power of the nsa against u.s. persons while they're in the united states as we engage in identifying threats of violence. >> okay, mr. langden, same thing. you have different authorities at the -- go ahead. >> yes, i concur as well. >> september 18, there were radical supporters of the january 6th insurrectionists
gathered at the capitol. 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 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 violent domestic extremists, we saw discussions that focused on an event to be 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 those 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 counterprotesters to come to d.c. and engage in violent act. when we began seeing a nexus with violent activity, that is when we began working closely with the fbi. we began additional analysis, we worked with state and locals and we issued public statements referring to the potential threat and to some degree, what we have come to believe is that our focus on these events and the security measures that are put in place in response actually serves as a deterrent act to acts of violence. >> thank you. what about just the process of sharing information in partnership with state and local governments where we get a database of what these threats are? can you address the need to do that? have better and more reliable statistics? >> i'll defer to the assistant director to talk about it from an investigative perspective. as i mentioned in my opening statement, there are examples
where acts of violence, acts of targeted violence had been prevented by threat 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 threat, have an understanding of the behavioral indicators associated with a threat, so they can recognize those behaviors and those indicators should they be present in their community. >> so would it be helpful to basically institutionalize a reporting requirement at the state and local level so that that information is available and not just sometimes made available? >> i believe it would be. >> anything to add? >> no, i think that could be useful, sir. again, as far as sharing and disseminating information currently, a foundation of which we use our jjtfs which we have over 200 throughout the country, and then in addition, producing intelligence products that go out to a 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, so i'll start with you, mr. cohen. what are the agencies doing to ensure, to ensure that individuals' civil rights and civil liberties are protected? >> my analysts and the individuals who engage in information gathering, they have to receive training on so that they're 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 intelligence community oversight officer, but also our privacy and our civil rights and civil liberties officers. i say this and i mean this as somebody who, again, i have been a police officer, i have arrested a lot of people, i'm very focused on conducting operations to protect the country, my two closest partners in the department today is the privacy officer and the civil rights and civil liberties officers. even the perception that we are infringing on people's
constitutionally protected rights will undermine the credibility of our efforts to protect our communities from violence. >> thank you very much, i yield back as i'm out of time. thank you. >> gentleman yields back. mr. lahood. >> 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 talked about the importance of local law enforcement in working together and how impactful that is on your investigations in the work you do on both levels, when it comes to domestic violence. in a prior life, i spent time as a federal prosecutor and actually headed up a jttf. that experience of working with local law enforcement, whether it's a sheriff's department, local police department, state troopers, is obviously, the
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 could comment on that. >> thank you, congressman. this won't be a surprise to anybody who knows me. i believe that 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 focused on safeguarding the community, who go to work each day, put their lives at risk, so that they can help the country be a better place. policing or law enforcement in our country has to be nondiscriminatory. 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, nondiscriminatory 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 have put an end to that. to that point, i can't tell you how many police officers i talked to, whether it's in chicago or in much of my district that the morale is lower than i have ever seen it before, because of this movement to defund police, and so i just mentioned that because as you do your work, and working in the local level, this is something that we have to address and work to remedy. changing subjects, mr. langan, you talked a little bit about online information and disinformation. and how that has been used to exploit many of these cases you talked about, and social media. in terms of, i mean, we have
been grappling on capitol hill about what to do about social media. a 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 describe them, what should we be doing to help remedy that problem? >> well, thank you, sir. so there's three distinct lines that 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, of violence being discussed online. that is one potential avenue for it to come to us. like in the past, reporting things when things -- when people have concerns about things. the 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 incidents of violence, individuals that are concerned reporting them to us at the fbi or -- >> let me interrupt there. so having said that, i mean, 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 oftentimes when companies have come to us with information that will help us or concerns, and we engage with training with them in what to look for, our concerns. there's been several cases that we have worked together to disrupt violent acts before they happened. 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 the third
tier that we look towards is increasing our own source base of information, of individuals that will provide us information about ongoings of 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 people, especially criminals that are using techniques and platforms and applications that have end-to-end encryption that are outside the ability for rightful warrant pursued information that we continue to look for ways to help with that. >> thank you. i'm out of time. i yield back. >> gentleman yields back. mr. castro. >> thank you, chairman carson, for calling this important hearing. the rise of white nationalist extremism is something we have seen directly in texas, as you 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. it was the deadliest attack on latino americans in modern history. in the last few weeks, san antonio and austin have suffered a series of anti-semitic attackings -- attacks, with businesses being defaced with swastikas, and with the local jewish community being intimidated. we have seen white nationalists openly wearing nazi clothing rallying outside the holocaust museum and deny the holocaust. i want to ask you, mr. langan, what will the fbi do to investigate these incidents in south texas and others like them? >> thank you, sir. so for one, the fbi is engaged with local law enforcement extensively in identifying crimes, whether it's a hate crime or whether it is part of a group that follows the promotion of a white supremacist advocates for supremacy of the white race.
we have elevated the racially motivated violent extremists to one of our highest level of threats in the counterterrorism division. as i said earlier, counter terrorism remains the highest priority of the fbi, and within that, racially motivate ed 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, focus on trying to disrupt and stop that activity and identify those individuals that may be responsible for them. we take it very seriously. >> thank you. well, taking on white nationalist extremism is something that i'm glad this administration is committed to doing. but we have to ask ourselves what happens when those holding these views are part of nation's law enforcement arms. a report last month by the oversight and we form committee found that cbp agents who posted offensive and racist messages on facebook chats against agency policy were found to have engaged in misconduct while the discipline review board recommended certain punishment, ultimately, the
officers faced far reduced penalties. quoting the report, quote, a border patrol agent who posted a sexually explicit image about a member of congress had his discipline reduced from a removal to a 60-day suspension and was awarded backpay. a border parole supervisor who posted a video of a migrant falling off a cliff to their death as well as an explicit and offensive comment about a member of congress had their discipline reduced from a removal to a 30-day suspension. and there are many other examples cited in the report. so 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's a fair question, congressman. that is why at the direction of the secretary, we have instituted a serious effort to look at the rules that govern
dis -- the hiring of personnel, 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 this person's actions are being influenced by racist or other extremist beliefs undermines the credibility of the organization. so it's something be take very seriously at department. and we're working to address. >> as a follow-up, if dhs is looking for an expanded role in tackling extremism in the united states, how can you insure us -- assure us that the dhs officers with those responsibilities will do that work in an unbiased way? >> i think it goes to what i described earlier. but it also is a part of the leadership of the department. leadership has to send 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. >> i made a comment to director wray at the close to the beginning of the term that i hope that 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's hard to prosecute law enforcement officers, especially to prosecute them successfully, and any of their actions are motivated by racism or hate or extremism, that becomes especially deadly to the american public. so thank you for your efforts. >> thank you. ms. stefanik. >> 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 to an order from the attorney general for the fbi to convene meetings across the u.s. in response to constitutionally protected speech and assembly at school board events, particularly in virginia. in september, the national school boards association released a 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 the teaching of critical race theory and requested, quote, the federal government investigate, intercept, and prevent the threats and acts of violence against public school officials through existing statutes, executive authorities, interagency and intergovernmental task forces and other extraordinary measures. the letter went on to state that, quote, the classification of these heinous actions could be the 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
options due to the threat. we know according to e-mails obtained by the group parents defending education that 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 administrators, 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 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 released a statement to its member rescinding the letter saying they, quote, regret and apologize, yet the attorney general has not retracted 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. attorneys offices. i would think it's best directed -- >> in conjunction with the fbi. >> i do not have that number. >> so they have held meetings. what's the number? >> i do not know, ma'am. we can look into it, though. i believe the date was by today, it was led by the u.s. attorneys office. >> in conjunction with the fbi. >> yes, ma'am. we'll get you that number. but i do not have that information because it was -- the day was supposed to be today, and it's being coordinated by the 94 different jurisdictions. but invited was 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. >> no. as long as the individuals are not committing federal
violations, force or violence or in promotion of an ideology, they would not be. >> are parents who oppose mask mandates considered domestic terrorists. >> no. >> let me ask you this. what are your thoughts because 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 refer that to the department of justice. >> do you think it should be rescinded? >> i'm not going to speak on behalf of the attorney general, ma'am. >> do you have any 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. because the threats were not just focused on school administrators, but also included threats against law enforcement and public health officials who were giving vaccines and involved in other public health related activities associated with covid, so it's just something we continue to e. >> but you are away the attorney general said under oath when he testified that the relevant factor in the garland memo was the school board's association letter. you're aware of that? >> i did not watch the attorney general's -- >> that's what he said. you're answering very differently here today. he said that was the reason for the memo that was put out by the department of justice and obviously voters spoke loudly and clearly in virginia last night. with that i yield back. >> the gentlelady yields back.
is membership in a white supremacist organization disqualifying for people applying to the fbi or work at the fbi, mr. langan? >> yes. >> isn't membership in that type of organization inconsistent with in effect law enforcement? >> yes. >> how is the fbi coordinating with local and state law enforcement about incoming threats and information about white supremacists and other dbes? i know having worked at the fusion center, there was an analyst assigned there as well as you guys built a scif there, but there was always tension with local law enforcement as you know and the fbi because there was a sentiment that local law enforcement does the work and the fbi comes in at the last minute and the press shows up. i think in many cases that's unfair, but have those coordinating efforts improved over time? >> you know, sir, i have been in law enforcement for 28 years and served the government for 31 years. i have not found that that often. there's definitely rivalries and frictions that occur on an
individual basis, but i found the coordination between local state officials and the fbi to be very wholesome. of course, there's at times prosecutorial differences on if the case should be worked at a state level or a 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 4,500 agents and officers working hand in hand together so when information reaches their departments, that potentially contains a federal violation, ideology, the concern of the jjtf, that information is forwarded from that task force officer into the jttf, they can review that information and determine if there's enough predication to move forward with a potential investigation. >> thank you, sir. mr. cohen, it's no secret that the ic failed to adequately warn of the insurrection that occurred on january 6th. sir, can you explain what
specific procedures have changed and what reforms have been instituted post-january 6th. >> thank you, i think there are lot of lessons we in law enforcement and in the intelligence analytics world learned from january 6th, both the events of the that day and the weeks leading up. to the point i made in my opening statement, the understanding that indications regarding an emerging threat may be available through public information that is analyzed by analysis. what we have done since january 6th at the department is we have redoubled our efforts to coordinate the sharing of threat related information that we acquire or that comes to us through our relationships with state and local private sector, with the fbi. and others in the federal 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 difference is that exists today versus on january 6th would be to 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 victory and as the end point of their efforts. they saw it as a starting point. and there were calls online for additional acts of violence to be committed both in the district of columbia and in 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 physical security measures in and around the capitol. and other locations. a highly visible presence of national guard, 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? a cognizance of those security measures and a reluctance to come to washington because those who were 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 the security presence. there's a lesson in that. so our analysis has focused much 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. i actually would have some questions about recent open source reporting about an
october 29th isis threat to detect unidentified mall in northern virginia. i'll save those for a secure setting but i would like to ask you, director langan, which fbi headquarters element has the lead on implementing the mandates the attorney general's october 4th memo regarding school board threats? >> that would be a combination of the criminal investigative division along with the counterterrorism division. >> how many state and local law enforcement jurisdictions reached out to the fbi requesting additional assistance for this? >> i don't know, they most likely would have reached out to their local field offices. >> are any participants meeting with these associated with the attorney general's memo? >> i don't have that information now. it was being formatted and led by the u.s. attorney's offices but we'll find out and get back to you who attended and what programs from the field offices. it would be up to the field offices to determine who they might send to a meeting. if it was led by the u.s.
attorney's office. >> i appreciate the follow up on that. >> for any of these activities, is the fbi utilizing any national intelligence program resources or authorities? >> no. we possibly could 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 base ds on my colleague's comments, you're aware the national school board association apologized and recalled their september 29th letter to the president which was the catalyst for the attorney's memo. since then has the fbi received any updated guidance from the department of justice on cancelling the mandate or fbi led meetings, trainings and dedicated open lines of threat reporting? >> not that i'm aware of. >> thank you.
>> gentleman yields back, chairman schiff. >> i just want to follow up on a couple of 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 violent being directed at teachers, school administrators, and school board members. >> and those threats of violence are against those school personnel over, for example, decisions they're making about the health of the children in those schools? >> yes, it's 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 by 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's a fundamental part of our responsibility to make sure we take seriously threats of violence, and until we can determine that those threats are not valid or credible to maintain and be vigilant to prevent acts of violence. >> these threats of violence, 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 that the provisions and have called on people to threaten or to engage in violence against those school administrators, school board members, law enforcement, and health care professionals. >> we're also seeing threats of violence against elections officials, are we not? >> yes, we have seen threats against election officials. we saw that in the 2020 election, and we continue to see it. >> i raise this because i think there's been a proliferation of threats of violence, politically motivated violence, and to an astonishing and dangerous degree, a rationalization of violence or threat of violence to bring about political change, 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 newer sociopolitical developments such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the u.s. capitol, conditions 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. those who are pushing the big lie, undermining our democracy are emboldening new violence, in my view. those who are down playing the significance of the attack on january 6th or trying to make political heroes of those who assaulted police officers on that day or breached the capitol, in 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's an invitation to violence, and it's no better, indeed, i think it's far worse than that invitation to 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's shameful when we are informed by our intelligence agencies that that attack is emboldening others to commit other acts of violence, and when the 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 stefanik. >> thank you very much, i just want to get on the record, mr. langan, you talked about the u.s. attorneys leading this, are you aware that the october 4th memo states quote to this end i'm directing the federal bureau of investigation working with each u.s. attorney to convene meetings? >> yes, ma'am. >> so the fbi is directing this? >> the fbi is not directing it. it was the u.s. attorneys office, my understanding that was going to direct the meetings and format the meetings and decide how the meetings would transpire, and we would react. >> a memo from the attorney general was not accurate was not followed. >> i don't know if it's an interpretation difference. >> i'm just reading what it says specifically. >> that was my understanding from the department of justice that it would be led by the u.s. attorneys offices. >> and you are aware that in a senate judiciary committee hearing 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. >> are you participated in the formulation or presentation of that memo? >> no. i have exchanged e-mails the weekend before when the initial discussion was brought up about this memo that came out, pushing out a memo, but it was very brief. >> what was the discussion, what was the topic? >> a letter came in from the school board association and that the department was looking to put out some messaging? >> what was the message something. >> i did not have the messaging. >> you said you were on the e-mails. >> just basically that, stating that, and we could find, you know, whatever i need to get you to the full extent of the e-mails, but just that there would be something coming out, it was engaged at a different level, lower level than me, and that was all the statement of just this was going to come out. >> so you will provide all the e-mails relating to the issuing of the garland memo as well as any planning for messaging and
as well as any compilation of what the response to the senators who requested information, you'll provide those e-mails and that communication. >> 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. >> great. yield back. >> gentle lady yields back. i want to thank you both for your participation today. thank you for your service to our country. it's very rewarding work. it's often times thankless, and i want to thank chairman schiff for his great presence and ranking member crawford, my colleagues and the entire community for their commitment to accountability, oversight, and for keeping americans safe. thank you all, this hearing is adjourned.
the casket of republican senator bob dole will arrive at the u.s. capitol wednesday morning at 9:45 eastern time immediately following president biden and lawmakers will gather for a tribute ceremony. watch live coverage on c-span, online at cspan.org or watch full coverage on our video app, c-span now. jim byron began working at the nixon foundation as a 14-year-old marketing intern. now at age 28, he's the foundation's president, and ceo. sunday on q&a, he talks about the life and career of president
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