WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) evaluating the terrorism landscape 20 years after 9/11, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas and Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Christopher Wray about the implementation of the first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism, improving data collection on the threat from white supremacist extremists, and law enforcement collaboration to prevent radicalization and attacks. A transcript of the Senator’s exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.
ROSEN: Thank you, Chairman Peters and Ranking Member Portman, for holding this important hearing here today. And I appreciate the difficult service you provide to keep our nation safe. Thank you for being here.
I want to talk a little bit about domestic terrorism. I’m going to switch up a little bit. Twenty years after 9/11, we know threats to the homeland, they’ve only become more diverse, they’ve become more complex.
The rapidly growing threat -- we all know this -- domestic violent extremism.
You’ve testified before, Director Wray -- especially in March -- that the number of domestic terrorist investigations has doubled since 2017 to 2,000 this year.
The Bureau has now elevated the threat of domestic extremism to the same level as that posed by ISIS. And Secretary Mayorkas, you recently stated, I’m going to quote, “Domestic violent extremism is the greatest terrorist-related threat we face [in our] homeland.”
And so, I applaud the Administration for releasing the first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism, which codifies in national strategy that domestic violent extremists—specifically white supremacist extremists—pose the “most persistent and lethal threat” to the United States. The most persistent and lethal threat.
So I have a question, of course, for Director Wray and you, Mr. Secretary. I will go first [to] Secretary Mayorkas.
Could you provide us with an update on the new Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, or as you’re calling it, CP3, which helps prevent individuals from radicalizing into domestic violent extremism and interferes when individuals, unfortunately, do so?
MAYORKAS: Thank you very much, Senator. That office, that Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, is really executing a different strategy than has previously been undertaken.
What we are doing is focused on disseminating information to local communities and empowering and equipping them to address the reasons why people are driven to extreme ideologies, and perhaps even acts of violence.
And we are distributing grant funds as well as information. It’s all about empowering and equipping communities to address the situation from the ground up.
ROSEN: Well, nobody knows their own community better than those that work within it. Thank you.
Director Wray, I want to direct this next question to you. I understand the FBI Counterterrorism Division maintains a section to specifically investigate, of course, domestic terrorism.
Are you collecting data specifically on the threat from white supremacists? And secondly, as part of the National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism, how does the FBI plan to enhance collaborative reporting—that data collection that we need and we can collaborate, [and] targeting efforts with law enforcement partners to prevent radicalization and attacks?
WRAY: So, we do collect information, very much, about—I think the category you’re describing we put in the category of racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism, of which the biggest chunk, by far, is racial or ethnic motivation favoring white supremacy. And so, we collect information about that threat. We have, as you say, prioritized that threat at a national threat priority level.
We have created a domestic terrorism hate crimes fusion cell to bring to bear not just the domestic terrorism expertise but the hate crime expertise, because often there is some overlap in the criminal activity, and more importantly, in the insights that that gives us to look ahead, around the bend, if you will.
One of the places where that kind of collaboration and synergy is already showing great progress is in your home state. The attempted attack on the synagogue, we were able to prevent for the first time, using hate crimes charges.
We hope to do more of that. I think the big part of the engagement to collaborate on data is through the joint terrorism taskforces, which of course, are all over the country, which there are over 200. And that includes federal, state, local participants—probably about 4,500 or so bodies all working on those taskforces together—able to share classified information, investigative information to ensure that we’re then able to generate bulletins and things like that, working collaboratively with Secretary Mayorkas’s shop in doing so.
ROSEN: And I’m going to move into cybersecurity, but before I do that, do you have the workforce you need? And what are the challenges you have? I guess I could probably address this in every area—hiring, training, and retaining [the] workforce.
WRAY: Well, I would say a couple things on that. Certainly, the domestic terrorism caseload has exploded, and meanwhile, the international terrorism caseload hasn’t subsided. And that’s just within terrorism.
So we absolutely need more resources there, and any resources congress sees fit to send our way, I can assure you they would be quickly put to good use.
There is a piece of good news, which is that, at the FBI the last couple of years our recruiting numbers have gone exorbitantly up, contrary to the trend you would see more generally in the country. So, we tripled the number of people applying to be Special Agents at the FBI in ’19, ’20, and ’21 compared to what it was before that—highest it’s been in about a decade.
We are not having too many retirements—our attrition rate is down to under 1% which is, I would say, pretty good. But counterbalancing against that is the unbelievable is the challenge of all these threats we’re dealing with.
There’s a lot of people with great ideas and good ideas about what we should be doing more of. I haven’t found anybody with much in the way of good ideas about what it is we can suddenly be doing less of.
ROSEN: Thank you.