WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is stepping up efforts to combat domestic extremism, increasing funding to prevent attacks, weighing strategies historically used against foreign terrorist groups and more openly warning the public about the threat.
The attempts to more assertively grapple with the potential for violence from white supremacists and militias are a shift from President Donald J. Trump’s pressure on federal agencies to divert resources to target the antifa movement and leftist groups despite the conclusion by law enforcement authorities that far-right and militia violence was a more serious threat.
President Biden’s approach also continues a slow acknowledgment that especially after the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, the federal government needs to put more attention and money into tracking and heading off threats from inside the United States, after two decades in which it made foreign terrorism the security priority.
In an intelligence report delivered to Congress last month, the administration labeled white supremacists and militia groups as top national security threats. The White House is also discussing with members of Congress the possibility of new domestic terrorism legislation and executive orders to update the criteria of terrorism watch lists to potentially include more homegrown extremists.
make domestic extremism a priority.
F.B.I. agents have worked domestic extremism cases for years. But the renewed focus from the highest levels of government is a major shift, especially as the administration grapples with whether current tactics and resources are enough to prevent future attacks.
The decision to confront the issue more directly stands in contrast to the approaches of the Trump and Obama administrations. In 2009, the Obama administration rescinded an intelligence assessment after it mentioned that veterans could be vulnerable to recruitment by domestic extremist groups, prompting political backlash.
filed a whistle-blower complaint accusing the department’s leadership of ordering the modification of intelligence assessments to make the threat of white supremacy “appear less severe” and include information on left-wing groups to align with Mr. Trump’s messaging. The Homeland Security leadership under the Trump administration denied the accusations.
The Obama administration also treaded carefully on the issue out of political concerns. Before announcing his presidential candidacy in 2019, Mr. Biden asked Janet Napolitano, who served as the homeland security secretary at the start of the Obama administration, about the decision in 2009 to rescind a report warning that U.S. military veterans were vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups.