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tv   FBI and Homeland Officials Testify on Domestic Terrorism  CSPAN  December 8, 2021 11:05pm-12:29am EST

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fbi and homeland security
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officials testify on efforts to counter domestic terrorism. before the house intelligence committee. >> without objection, the chair may declare a recess at any time. >> order. without a jefferson, the chairman to declare recess at anytime. america is under threat according to a joint dhs, fbi report, mandated by this committee. 2019 was the most lethal year
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for domestic violent extremist attacks since 1995. the year of the oklahoma city bombing. the majority of those killed in 2019 were killed by extremists advocating for the superiority of the white race, by white supremacists. one year ago, the acting secretary of homeland security that white supremacy and violent extremists have 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 security of the white race, present the most lethal domestic threat and are most likely to conduct mass casualty attacks. just a few weeks ago, assistant director langone testified that the fbi's is tracking more than 2700 domestic terrorism threats. we have seen the devastation of this threat firsthand. in these very holes. generally six, capital was attacked by insurrectionists,
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who attempted to use deadly force to prevent congress from counting electoral votes from a fair and free election. for 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 injured and still suffer the effects. that affected me, to. a deeply personal ways. general six, a man was arrested returning to his truck from the right at the capitol. he was carrying two pistols. in his truck, according to the fbi, was a small arsenal. 11 molotov cocktails, rifle, a shotgun, to nine millimeter pistols, and a 22 caliber caliber pistol. both 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.
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my name was on it. next to my name was written one of two muslims in the house of representatives when in fact there three. as someone who was directly targeted on january six, this issue is 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, for democracy, freedom, i understand it. as we work to prevent future attacks, we must remember that domestic terrorism tears at the fabric of this country in ways that extend beyond the lives lost. kenneth robinson, pastor of rioter creek bass this church, told the washington post in april that his predominantly black church, when several attacked in 2015, remains on edge to this day. trauma is a way of life for us,
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he says. trauma cannot, must not be a way of life for americans. domestic terrorism is not new. it arises from hatred, divisions as old as america. we are all aware that its victims come disproportionately from minority and marginalized communities. but it is evolving and expanding, fueled by misinformation and amplified on social media. we too must evolve to meet this threat and to effectively counter it we have to name it. we have to understand it. we have to understand the drivers of domestic terrorism so that we can stop it. equally important is how we go about preventing it. fighting terrorist violence is over only one side of the ledger. 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 of folks. this is a long-standing
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challenge in counter-terrorism. the need for balance between freedom and security. to maintain that balance, the domestic mission must remain narrow. congress oversight must be rigorous. and i am glad to generally see my colleagues embrace concerns for civil liberties and counter-terrorism. so that many of us can get to some kind of resolve, and to help the subcommittee understand the threat better, we welcome john cohen, senior official performing the duties of undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at homeland security. and timothy langan of the bureau of investigation. we have questions about the gravity of the threaten your agency's role in responding. we also ask you to help clarify for the american people the-limited but a vital role of the -- and its mission. when most americans here
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intelligence, they think of an say analysts listening to phone calls or a intelligence officer recruiting spies. it consists largely of gathering publicly available information or information gathered in law enforcement investigations. analysts then reviewer to better understand the threat and health policy makers mitigate it. we ask you today, how are you distinguishing from protected speech on these online platforms from conduct and the role of escalation to violence? and how are you working with private sector and social media companies in particular to identify and sheer information about these threats while still protecting individual privacy rights on these platforms? i'm grateful for your presence and i stand ready and eager to assist you in your mission as we all do. i will now turn to ranking member crawford. >> thank you, mister chairman. republican members of this committee have raised concerns about the intelligence
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community playing a role in collecting and conducting surveillance of u.s. persons without a foreign nexus. executive order 1233, which every icy l points to as our authority -- and the intention of foreign powers and organizations and persons and their agents. ghislaine -- with those in the united states that are putting violence. but we are not doing that today. this hearing has no opportunity to hear from the witness witnesses. today's hearing is not the first event that the house committee has held on domestic terrorism. i hope there is not the intent to communicate that there is an intent to expand authorities to look inward at u.s. citizens. these carefully authorized
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capabilities were never intended for domestic use and we need to have a very clear boundary. the use of national intelligence programming funds and authorities should before targeting foreign threats, not surveilling americans. government action to counter domestic extremism is an area fraught with potential overreach that but impacts civil liberties. we've seen the danger of the government taking action for political purposes. the attorney general memo directing the fbi to hold meetings to look at allegations of threats towards school officials, without having requests from law enforcements, points to overreach motivated by politics and intended to intimidate parents. i understand that the memo references violence and threats of violence but 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
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as possible domestic extremists and the need to use the patriot act surveillance tools to monitor these threats. the fact that the attorney general allowed these threats to drive government action demonstrates the need for in continued villages around the intelligence community. there is a need for strong law enforcement roles and prosecuting domestic terrorism. anyone who threatens or commits act of violence must face consequences. but there must be a clear boundary between the appropriate rule for law enforcement and the surveillance tools of the intelligence community. moving forward, i hope this committee will get back to examining true foreign threats. -- we have focused on collection shortfalls, -- and the development of bio weapons and other wmd's. i look forward to working with
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you on these critical issues and i yield back the balance of my time. chairman>> thank you, ranking . i want to recognize our distinguished chairman, chairman schiff. >> thank you chairman carson for containing this discussion. i'm pleased to join in welcoming the witnesses. as our president recently confirmed, domestic terrorism is one of the greatest threats to our democracy and our security. it is imperative that the american people understand the scope of the domestic terror threat and ensure that we equip our community with the resources needed to counter it. because this threat is complex and evolving, armistice wants must be also. we must continue to improve our understanding and share threat information, find ways to defuse an escalate de-escalate recruitment and confront the causes of and contributors to domestic terrorism, including extreme and violent ideologies often fomented online through disinformation and false
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narratives. we must also acknowledge the persistent role that white supremacy and white nationalism have won the frequency and severity of these threats. it is an indisputable fact that the growing proportion of domestic terrorist threats arise from people driven by hatred and stated desire to harm people because of the color of their skin or their religious beliefs. this hatred based violence is heartbreakingly not new in america. our history has long been marred by racially motivated threats against communities of color and other marginalized groups. what we are seeing is a sharp and adjust to the threat and increasingly coordinated effort to terrorize based on these repugnant views. in short, it's imperative that 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.
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it will require coordination among federal and local law enforcement as well as collaboration with private sector partners, particularly on line. i am encouraged, mr. cohen, 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 combatting domestic terrorism. and it is equally important that this committee continues its sustained oversight of any instance where those efforts could impact american civil rights and civil liberties. last year 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 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 fundamental civil rights remain protected
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for all americans. i'm grateful for the witnesses testimony today and look forward to our discussion. and with that, mister chairman. i yield back. >> thank you, mister chairman. with that, we will yield start our hearing. director langan, the floor is yours. morning, chairman schiff, chairman carson, >> good morning, chairman schiff. german carson. ranking member crawford. members of the subcommittee. i'm honored to be here today that representing the -- appreciate the opportunity to be here to discuss the current domestic terrorism threat picture. it goes without saying that the threat from domestic terrorism is heightened. it has significantly increase in the last 18 months. today, i want to take an opportunity to highlight the fbi's investigative an analytical resources that are being used to combat this threat. first and foremost, the united states faces a complex threat landscape driven by a broad set of violent extremist
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ideologies. a ban investigations into domestic violent extremists are -- have more than doubled over the last year. we're currently conducting approximately 2700 investigations on domestic violent extremists. in the fbi's discussion of domestic terrorism threats, we use words violent extremism to define these threats because the underlying political or social positions and the advocacy of such beliefs are not prohibited by u.s. law. it is always important to remember the fbi cannot open an investigation based solely on first amendment protected activity. as such, the fbi divides the domestic terrorism threat into five broad categories. one, racially or ethnically motivated extremism. to, anti government or anti authority violent extremism. which has three subcategories. militia violent extremism, anarchists violent extremism, and sovereign citizen violated extremism. the three animal rights, environmental extremism, for abortion related violent
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extremism. a five, all other domestic threats which consist of domestic violent extremism with blended, personalize extremist ideologies, not otherwise defined under one of the previous categories i mentioned. we assess that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists advocating for the spirit of the white race an anti authority or anti government violent extremist specifically, militia violent extremist, present the most lethal threats. with racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists likely to conduct mass casualty attacks against civilians. and militia violent extremists typically targeting law enforcement and government personnel and facilities. from 2010 through 2020, racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists advocating for the spirit of the white race at committed 18 lethal attacks in the united states, killing 70 people. including those in charleston, charlottesville, pittsburgh and el paso. they typically targeted large, public gatherings and houses of worship. it is important to remember
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that preventing acts of terrorism as the fbi's number one priority. the greatest terrorism threat facing our homeland is that police by lone actors and small cells. who typically radicalized online, look to use easily accessible weapons to attack, soft or gets. we see this threat within both homegrown violent extremists or hves, who are inspired preliminary primarily by foreign counter terrorists and domestic violent extremists. we want to ensure the subcommittee and the american people that the fbi focuses its efforts on all threats of terrorism and continues to shift resources to remain commensurate with this ever evolving threat. in conclusion, consistent 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
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in violent criminal activity, such as the destruction of property and violent assault on law enforcement officers that we witnessed on generally six and during the protests throughout the u.s. during the summer of 2020. the fbi will actively pursue the opening of investigations when an individual uses threatens use of force, violence or coercion, in violation violation of federal law and in furtherance a social or political goals. look for to answer 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 and threat related issues has been incredibly valuable. this is an important conversation. i've spent over 35 years
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working in home as acuity, law enforcement, national security. and i have to see, that the spirit of threat that we are in today is one of the most complex, volatile and dynamic that i've experienced in my career. while we are here today talking about domestic terrorism, i am mindful of the fact that at the same time, we are at the department are working closely with the fbi, with our state and local partners, with our foreign counterparts, to deal with a broad range of threats including an evolving threat of those by foreign terrorist groups. violent crime that has in the midst of a multi year increase in cities across the country,. first 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 and undermine credibility and confidence in our government and government institutions. destabilize our society, inspire acts of violence, and
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even undermine our relationship with our key allies. we're dealing with a range of cyber threats, as well as an evolving migration situation along 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 individuals and small groups of individuals who are motivated by extremist ideologies. i'd like to build on the assistant directors opening statement and go little bit more into detail on the dynamics of the threats that we are seeing, based on our analysis at the department. this is a threat that is both organizational and individual in structure. yes, we have groups of people who will coalesce around extremist ideological beliefs and even engage in violence and destructive behavior in furtherance of those extremist
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beliefs. but when we look at lethal attacks that have been conducted in this country over the last several years, it is a very individualized threat. so, what do i mean by that? as repeatedly assessed by the dhs and 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 consumption 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 to the religious beliefs. their gender, their sexual orientation. an individual or group of individuals distrust of government or government institutions. or even the belief that we shouldn't have a government and we should live in an errant anarchist type environment. this is a trend, as i mentioned before, that didn't just appear over the last year. this is something we began to
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observe going back to 2013, 2014 time period. and while again, looking at lethal attacks in the united states, the specific motives behind these facts very. analysis tells us that many of the attackers share common behavioural 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 so forth. a freeze you'll often hear will use in the analytic community is it's not the ideology, is the psychology. and that is 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
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fit neatly into traditional terrorism or extremism related definitional categories. this week engage in violence often self connect with a combination of extremist beliefs or blend of extremist beliefs in and personal responses. while the assistant director referenced a number for lethal attacks that are associated with domestic terrorism, i would actually argue the numbers of those have been killed are much higher. when we look at attacks like southern springs and texas, or in las vegas, or in other parts of the country, it's very difficult to discern whether the motive behind the attack is an ideological belief system or personal grievance, or a combination of both. this is a threat that manifests itself both in the physical and digital environments. online content, this information, false narratives, conspiracy theories, spread by foreign nation states, international terrorist groups, extremist 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.
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domestic and foreign threat actors purposely 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 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, if i may focus on a couple of key issues -- one, we need to think differently about intelligence. this threat requires we think differently about information. indicators may be apparent through public action or communication. covert collection may not be necessary but analysts need to
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be able to distinguish between constitutional protected speech. and threats related activity. prevention. one of the tools used to prevent terrorist attacks or joint terrorism task forces. they are incredibly effective. they've save lives. but in the current threat environment we've come to learn that they have to be other violence prevention activities that compliment they jttfs. and jttfs may not be enough. many may not meet the investigative threshold. the department has expanded the provision of grant funding and technical assistance to local communities so the law enforcement, mental health professionals, educators and community groups can identify
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individuals who are at high risk of conducting an attack and mitigate the risk posed by those individuals. this means being able to share at an unclassified level analysis regarding the threat to those entities at the local level so that they can be a part of violence prevention activities. let me conclude by making a point very strongly. because i agree with the comments made today about the need for law enforcement and intelligence assets not to be leverage to address constitutionally protected behavior. we do not police thought at the department. it's not our job to engage in activities intended to target individuals because of political beliefs, social views or beliefs on race and religion. it is our job to prevent acts of violence. regardless of the ideological belief or personal grievances that motivate that violence,
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it's our job to protect our communities and nation. thank you. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, mr. cohen. with that, i will lead with the question -- mr. cohen, you've testified previously about dhs efforts, including through the office of human security, to evaluate an open investigation into extremist behavior by government employees. can you provide an update on these efforts and describe ina's efforts to determine the efforts that white supremacist are making to infiltrate your organization? >> thank you for that question. like, you i am a former police officer and i'm proud of my profession. i've worked in law enforcement or homeland security related activities, as i mentioned, for multiple decades. unfortunately, there are those in our communities susceptible to the same forces that are
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serving to inspire other members of the community to connect with ideological extreme beliefs. when it comes to those of us in the law enforcement profession, we have to be extra vigilant to ensure that weather ones believes are extremists are not, do not influence activities. -- our human resources office and 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 lines, they are doing so in a
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way that is not discriminatory or informed by extremist belief systems. >> thank, you sir. director langan, do you share my view that active involvement on a white supremacist organization or failing to act against extremist harassment is incompatible with effective policing? >> definitely, sir. i think that -- mr. cohen -- 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. paramount to ensure that we have people who uphold the values of the constitution and of the people of the country. >> thank you, sir. ranking member? >> thank you, mister chairman. i would like to reiterate that i think this is entirely inappropriate that we have this hearing in an unsecure setting.
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i think this would have been better conducted down the scif. i have a number of questions i'd like to direct about the view. i will do that under more secure cover. and you can apply under more secure cover. possibly we will have an opportunity to have a hearing in the scif. and we can talk about this in a more appropriate setting. i would like to yield to dr. wenstrup do allow him to make some comments. >> thank you, mister chairman. thank you both for being here. someone who on june 14th, 2017, survived what is only recently determined to be a domestic violent extremist act, i would like to comment on some of that, as we frame the discussion today. on a particular day, there were 136 rounds fired.
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136 rounds fired. andand if not for steve scalise being there, the capital police wouldn't have been and we would have had 20 to 30 members of congress killed, easily. because they were pinned in enough a spell field. god was on our side that day for a lot of reasons. and a lot of scenes that we discovered as we went forward and realized how lucky we were unfortunate we were. the gentleman who attacked us, being heavily armed, 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, someone who not only served here in congress but has served his community as a police officer, and is a very decent, good, gentlemen, it's very disturbing. and i'm glad we are addressing
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these issues. because it has happened on many fronts. and mr. langan, i mean no offense to you personally, but the fact that it took four years and a new director to have that event on june 14th defined as domestic extremism -- why did it take for years? because it was a political stunt within the fbi, starting at the head, who has been fired. and you look at that and fisa abuse, and yes, americans are angry. they don't have trust in many positions 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.
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but everybody's responsible for their actions. and we do need to address this. and in line with what mr. crawford said, and 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 are 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 are having this discussion. but i think if we really want to get things done, as is our
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role on this committee, we need to do it in a classified setting. and i yield back. thank you. an>>ding i think dr. wenstrup's comments show the importance of understanding the threat and the understanding of a warning to the threat. chairman schiff. >> i want to say at the outset that i appreciate you are doing this in open session. we are having hearing hearings on this. but it's important for the public to understand that dramatic rise in domestic terrorism. that's not something we can keep behind closed doors. the public needs to understand the nature of the threat. i also think a big part of the reason why there is so much -- confidence in law enforcement is the propagation of deep state conspiracy theories about the fbi, a disservice to the
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men and women of the fbi, who i think have done a remarkable job through our history. and my work since i was a prosecutor 30 years ago -- i appreciate the work that you do. the intelligence community plays an important role in the approach to terrorism. that role is purposely narrow. the fbi and national counter-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 analysis in the deep the space is merely writing products to enable policymakers to reduce threats. these authorities in the intelligence community are not new authorities. to me, it's a bit disturbing that there is now such an attack on these authorities when the predominant threat of domestic terrorism comes from
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white nationalism. it shouldn't matter where the predominant threat comes from in terms of the intelligence community's role. the ic has an important role, though not the dominant role. it's true whether the threat comes from white nationalism or some other stores. 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 with the consequence of that would be. and it is proposed that the icc and 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 what their motivation should be. can you both describe for us
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what role dhs would play, what role the bureau would play, intermitting who was responsible for that and how it might inhibit your work if you are prohibited from doing that investigative or analysis work into law for nexus could be identified? >> thank you for the question. unfortunately, that's an area that has been played out before. initially, it's very difficult to determine the nature and motive of an attack that happened throughout the country. 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 stem from that initial action. then, trying to determine the individuals involved, motives
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and the planning that went into such. so, as such, the analysis that occurs in the information that is glean from that investigation it's crucial to determine what caused that incident. so as far as if you are referring to the analytical nature of intelligence, the fbi is of course a dual hatted agency. we are a criminal investigative organization. we are also the domestic intelligence service for the united states. as such, we combine --
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the extent of those involved in what planning was involved in an attack. >> and how would it inhibit your work, mr. cohen if you couldn't undertake the analysis if there was already a conclusion about a foreign link to? it >> mister chairman, thank you for that question. it would impede our ability to gather information obtained by local authorities. it would preclude our ability to engage with those in the department to do tribal pattern analysis to see if we can determine any type of causal 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 activity to see if there were indicators associated with the attack that could give us more insight into what we are doing. it would essentially preclude
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our ability to engage and support the activities associated with investigating that operation until such time as a four nexus was determined. >> thank you. i yield back. >> the chairman yields back. mr. stewart? >> thank you for being here. i appreciate that you have served your nation and i have no doubt in my mind that you are patriots and that you seek to protect american interests and 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 in basic institutions, which my friend, dr. wenstrup, talked about, including law enforcement and justice institutions. and after, for example, the
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last three or four or five years, i think the reputation of the fbi and department of justice has been tattered in many ways. there's no question. we know now that they were efforts to deceive the fisa courts. they worked -- particularly the fbi but also the department of justice worked in tandem with political parties. and i think a seven year old would have viewed it and could have said, this can possibly be true. and they presented it as if it were true. we have federal law enforcement targeting parents now, parents who simply want to have their kids have a good education. we had months of writing. 22 billion dollars of damage. 28 people killed. hundreds of law enforcement injured with seemingly no ability to stop it. effort.i think the list goes o. there is more i could mention. but now we have this effort.
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and this is where our concern lies. we have this effort to use elements of the ic, the intelligence community, to potentially surveil or evaluate u.s. persons when there is no foreign nexus. in other words, when that u.s. person has 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 walked down that road. or create the impression that we are walking down that road. and that is my fear. that is my concern. that if you allow any of your organizations, to team with the ic, 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 a u.s. person when there is no
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foreign nexus. neither should the cia. neither should the dia or any element of the ic. if there is no tie to a foreign organization, that person should not be under the surveillance of any of these ics. and that's why i think you share this concern as well. if there is no foreign nexus, then it is a law enforcement matter, which means, therefore, it's not under the purview of this committee. because we are 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, if we could do in a secure environment. one final thought, if i could. i want you to know that we have no interest at all in curtailing any of the appropriate authorities. we understand that you have a
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role to play. and that it is difficult and you need to use the tools available to you. all we want is transparency and honesty and 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 some additional questions. i will submit those in writing and hopefully we can get a response in an appropriate setting. with that, mister chairman, 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 the manner that mr. stewart and i think all of a subject to. is that correct? >> yes, congressman, that's
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correct. in fact there are significant restrictions on the use of intelligence community collection platforms within the domestic environment. so we are not talking about the use of the awesome power of the nsa against u.s. persons. >> mr. langan, same thing? >> well, you have different authorities that -- >> go ahead -- >> yes, i concur with that is. well in september of 2018, there were radical right supporters -- and there was the incident at the capitol. and there was public facing websites seen before january 6th. but there was no less -- when the uss there was less violence at that event? >> this is an interesting question, congressman. evaluatingi think provides a gd illustration of what we are doing and what we are not
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doing. as we were evaluating activity in online communities commonly used by violent domestic extremists, we saw discussions that focused on and 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 conversation 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's 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
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come to believe is that our focus on these events and the security measures put in place actually serves as a deterrent effect to violence. >> thank you. and what about just the process of sharing information with and in partnerships with state and local governments? when we get a database of what these threats are? can you address the need to do that? have better and more reliable statistics? >> i will defer to the assistant director to talk about it from an investigative perspective. but as i mentioned, there are examples where acts of violence, acts of targeted violence have been prevented by threat management strategies employed at the local level. so it is critical that local authorities, whether be law enforcement or others, have an understanding of the threat, have an understanding of the behavioural indicators associated so that they can recognize that what indicator should they be present. >> so would it be helpful to
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basically institutionalize a reporting acquirement 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. as far as sharing and disseminating information, currently, the foundation of which we use are our jttfs, and we have 200 of those through the country. in addition, intelligence products have gone to a much wider audience as well. >> 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. one of the agencies doing to ensure that individual civil rights and civil liberties are protected? >> my analysts and the individuals who engage in information gathering, they have to receive training so that they are able to distinguish between constitutional protected
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activity and that that may be threats related. we have extensive oversight that involves our lawyers from the intelligence long division, our intelligence community oversight officer. but also our privacy and civil liberties officers. i say this and i mean this as somebody who -- again, i've 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 are the privacy officers and the civil liberties officer. even the perception that we are infringing on constitutionally protected rights, or would undermine the credibility of our efforts to protect our communities from violence. >> thank you very much. i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back. mr. -- lahood. >> i thank you for your service to the country. and i share the comments of mr.
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crawford. i wish we were in a classified setting. i have some questions i will submit in a secure format. having said, that mr. cohen, 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 that you do on both levels when it comes to domestic violence. in a prior life, i spent time as a prosecutor and actually headed up a jttf and that experience, whether it's state troopers or another agency, it's obviously the foundation of much of what you guys do. having said, that as i look at this movement to define police, get rid of departments, i can't think of anything that would be more destructive and more problematic to the work that you do at the local level, to disrupt, than that. i wonder 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
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is an important part of our society. they are women and men who work in law enforcement every day focused on safeguarding the community, with their lives at risk, so that they can help the country be a better place. policing in our country has to be nondiscriminatory. enforcement actions should not be carried out or driven by implicit or overt bias. we should do everything we can to make sure that law enforcement engages in their day-to-day activities in a legal, nondiscriminatory manner. >> having said that, unhappy that last night we saw average action in minneapolis of replacing and defunding the police in minneapolis. i think that speaks volumes. and hopefully we've put it into that. but to that point, i can tell you how many police officers i've talked to, whether it's in chicago or in much of my district, where the morale is lower than i've ever seen it before. because of this movement to
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defund the police. i just mention that because as you do your work, working at the local level, this is something that we have to address and work to remedy. changing subjects, mr. langan, you talked a bit about how online information and disinformation and how that has been used to exploit many of these cases you have talked about. and social media. in terms of -- i mean, we've been grappling on capitol hill here about what to do about social media. a lot of suggestions out there. everything from section 230, liability protection for online platforms, how we hold these tech companies accountable, how we break them up, what we need to do. as you look at the work and the role of social media in many of these lone rangers, as you describe them, what should we
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be doing to help remedy that problem? >> thank you, sir. there are three distinct lines that the fbi follows. one, first off, that we are very much encourage citizens and 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. 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. but the bureau heavily engages with members of the tech industry and other private sectors to talk about how they can be responsible in reporting instances of violence, individuals that are concerned, reporting them to us at the fbi -- >> let me interrupt. having said that, i mean, have
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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, it will help us, with our concerns. and we engage in training with them, on what to look for, with our concerns. there have been several cases that we've worked on together, to disrupt violent incidents 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 the third tier that we look for is to increase our own source basis of information. so individuals provide information about 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 who are using techniques and platforms and
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applications that have end to end encryption that are outside the ability for rightful warrants to pursue information that we continue to look for ways to help with that. 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.
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>> thank you. 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
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to 30 day suspension. 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
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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 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?
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>> do you have any other 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
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continue to evaluate. >> but you are aware that the 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
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skiff there. 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
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department that potentially 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.
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what we have done since january 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.
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>> i'm certain now, based on my 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
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there's been a proliferation of 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
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intelligence agencies that that 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
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our country. it's very rewarding work. 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.this .
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