To help safeguard our democracy, the Department of Homeland Security should take action to ensure that domestic extremists don’t fill its ranks. Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and Western States Center along with the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights First, Common Cause and 18 other groups sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas outlining the risks of domestic extremism within and outside of the agency, urging him to take action and update the public on what efforts have been taken.
Domestic violent extremism has become “the most urgent terrorism threat the United States faces today,” according to the White House’s National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. As seen on January 6, 2021, anti-government violence is a critical component of such extremism. White supremacy and racism are often the driving ideologies behind violent domestic extremism in America. When America’s values of equality and freedom are attacked by extremists, people of color, religious minorities and the LGBTQ+ community bear the brunt of domestic extremism’s deadly toll.
One important component of addressing violent domestic extremism is ensuring that violent extremists are not within DHS’s ranks. In 2022, an investigation found more than 300 Oath Keepers members who identified as current or former DHS employees. DHS’s mission to safeguard the homeland is undermined when employees are members of violent extremist groups and cannot accurately determine what is and is not a credible security threat. The aggressive response towards racial justice protests in June of 2020, compared to the failure to prevent the Capital attack demonstrates how clouded threat assessments can have devastating consequences.
Members of an extremist group, whose leadership has been convicted of seditious conspiracy and storming the Capital, have no place in our government, especially the Department of Homeland Security. DHS itself has expressed similar concerns, with an internal review finding “significant gaps that have impeded its ability to comprehensively prevent, detect, and respond to potential threats related to domestic violent extremism within DHS.” Today’s letter poses a number of questions to Secretary Mayorkas asking how DHS is working to address these gaps and what progress they have made to ensure that domestic extremists don’t fill its ranks.
CREW, Western States Center and 22 groups that co-signed the letter join the more than 65 members of Congress that have called for changes within DHS to address the dangers of extremism.