The Department of Homeland Security may begin tracking the travel of suspected domestic extremists including members of white supremacist groups, Politico reported Tuesday.
According to law enforcement sources who spoke to the outlet, talks have begun within the Biden administration to place domestic terror on the level of a national security issue and not just a problem for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
In addition, Politico noted, the discussions are part of wider talks throughout the government about utilizing surveillance and other intelligence tools honed during the Global War on Terror to fight extremism at home.
“And, if past is prologue, the approach could prove politically contentious,” the outlet reported.
A senior law enforcement source told Politico that DHS is considering, among other things, analyzing travel patterns of suspected domestic extremists such as monitoring short-notice flights, as well as searching luggage for any weapons.
In addition, talks have included placing suspected violent domestic extremists including white supremacists on the FBI-maintained “No Fly List.” Also, when these suspects fly internationally, officials will be more inclined to stop and question them and search laptops and phones before they pass through customs, Politico noted.
The outlet said a second law enforcement official noted that talks regarding the monitoring of suspected extremists’ travel have taken place among several federal agencies to include the FBI.
“Domestic violent extremism poses the most lethal, persistent terrorism-related threat to our homeland today,” a DHS spokesperson told Politico. “DHS is committed to improving security and is reviewing options for enhancing screening and vetting protocols and travel pattern analyses, consistent with privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.”
DHS officials are also said to be focused on international travel that could be connected to ideologically driven actions such as motivations behind the Capitol riot in January.
To that point, an unclassified assessment dated March 1 noted the U.S. intelligence community’s new attentiveness regarding the international travel of suspected domestic extremists.
“The IC assesses that domestic violent extremists (DVEs) who are motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanized by recent political and societal events in the United States pose an elevated threat to the Homeland in 2021,” the assessment said.
“The IC assesses that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) and militia violent extremists (MVEs) present the most lethal DVE threats, with RMVEs most likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks against civilians and MVEs typically targeting law enforcement and government personnel and facilities,” the assessment added.
The IC analysis also cited concerns about “animal rights/environmental violent extremists” and “anarchist violent extremists” who “oppose all forms of capitalism, corporate globalization, and governing institutions, which are perceived as harmful to society.”
Politico noted that early in the Obama administration, a DHS intelligence analyst named Daryl Johnson wrote an assessment claiming that far-right threats were rising. But the department withdrew the paper under withering outrage from Republicans.
But now, leading DHS officials “want to reverse that dynamic,” Politico reported, noting that at his confirmation hearing, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said domestic terror is “one of the greatest threats that we face currently on our homeland.”
In terms of monitoring or limiting travel, the FBI began “looking at” adding names of people who stormed the Capitol building to the No Fly List. Also, the week before Inauguration Day, the TSA chief announced the agency was working “to ensure those who may pose a threat to our aviation sector undergo enhanced screening or are prevented from boarding an aircraft.”
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