Podcast: “Domestic Terrorism: Where Are We Now, and Where Do We Go from Here?”

The title of today’s video from Duke’s 28th Annual National Security Law Conference captures the topic exceptionally well: Domestic Terrorism: Where Are We Now, and Where to We Go From Here? 

You’ll see a discussion by some real experts:  Mr. Michael F. Easley Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, and Mr.Thomas E. Brzozowski, Counsel for Domestic Terrorism in the Counterterrorism Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.  Duke Law’s own Prof. Shane Stansbury, Robinson Everett Distinguished Fellow,  moderated the dialogue.

Here are just a few snapshots of what you’ll see/hear.  Mr. Easley described for the audience the primary threat he sees in the Eastern District of North Carolina:

“[T]he big networks/big organizations are not what we’re seeing as the most live and potentially vital threat that we face.”

“It is the small cell, it is the person who’s self-radicalizing, and broadly speaking, there is this term of salad bar radicalization or salad bar extremism where folks will pick up different slices of ideology, whether that is incel-related or anti-government or anarchist, so there are a lot of different elements that folks will draw from.”

He also added this observation about what is unique about domestic terrorism:

“With respect to international terrorism, we have this huge intelligence apparatus with statutory authority, with the ability to use the FISA Court to get visibility into communications on foreign nationals.”

“That doesn’t exist in the domestic terrorism space, and it never will, because we have civil liberties and constitutional rights and freedom of speech and freedom of association in this country and we cannot jeopardize that. There’s a tension there. We want to be proactive, but we can’t jeopardize our civil liberties in the process.”

“And as a result, intelligence in the international terrorism space quite often flows from the top-down. In the domestic terrorism, in the domestic extremism place, intelligence flows from the bottom-up. And that means my job, Tom’s job, is to build those relationships and build that connective tissue with local law enforcement in [most rural] corner of Eastern North Carolina so that their antenna is up to these issues”

Mr. Bzrozowski emphasized that people are not investigated because of their ideology, but rather when they are “looking to give effect to that ideology through violence.”  Specifically he says: 

“[A]ll of [the investigations] are going to be indicative of violence. And that’s a point that we can’t underscore enough, and thank you for raising that because at the end of the day, as it was noted, the animating ideology underscoring a lot of this activity is largely, from a legal perspective, immaterial. That, of course, changes a little bit depending on the statute that you might be charging.”

“But for the most part, the animating ideology is not something of consequence from a legal perspective. What is is if somebody is looking to give effect to that ideology through violence. That is the trigger which would initiate an FBI investigation in the first instance.”

“And so we spend quite a bit of time talking about the fact that here in the United States, you’re allowed to think whatever you want, and a lot of people have some thoughts that are maybe not the mainstream, let’s put it kindly”

“But it’s the folks that are looking to give effect to that through violence that are going to be of particular interest to the FBI and the DOJ.”

Again, these are just a couple of snippets, so be sure to watch/listen to the full presentation here.

Remember what we like to say on Lawfire®: gather the facts, examine the law, evaluate the arguments – and then decide for yourself!

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