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Domestic extremists killed 13 in 2021, US intelligence assessment finds

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Domestic extremists are “are often radicalized online and look to conduct attacks with easily accessible weapons,” an unclassified version of report done by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found.

The version of the congressionally mandated report, sent to both the Senate and House intelligence committees in October, was made public late last week by the ODNI.

A bulletin from June 2022 and attached to the report says the domestic violent extremist landscape in the United States is “evolving” and centers around “ideological and sociopolitical” grievances which pose a “sustained threat of violence” to the American public.

Domestic violent extremists killed 13 people in 2021, carrying out “at least” four lethal attacks, according to the bulletin by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center — the same number as in 2020.

“Domestic violent extremists represent one of the most persistent threats to the United States today,” the report says, echoing much of what the administration has been saying since President Joe Biden took office.

John Cohen, the former acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS said the numbers are part of a “disturbingly high level of violence.”

It’s “not just lethal attacks but targeted mass casualty attacks and acts of targeted violence by individuals who are inspired by violent extremist ideological beliefs,” Cohen, now an ABC News contributor, said.

Since 2019 however, the government has used five categories to classify domestic extremism, among them anti-government violence and anti-abortion violence.

“The FBI recognizes a DT incident as an ideologically-driven criminal act, including threats made to or acts of violence against specific victims, in furtherance of a domestic political and/or social goal,” the report says.

As stated previously by FBI Director Christopher Wray, the FBI was conducting 2,700 domestic terrorism investigations, 38% of those focused on anti-government extremists, followed by 31% of them focusing on civil unrest.

The report notes these could be inflated due to the high number of Jan. 6 investigations.

The bulletin attached to the report says anti-government violent extremists could conduct “sporadic attacks on critical infrastructure and federal, state and local facilities, as well as violent physical assaults against their perceived ideological opponents.”

The FBI has been the subject of scrutiny from congressional Republicans who have alleged the the past, that the FBI targets people on the right and unfairly opens investigations against them.

“There are no differences in how the FBI reviews and prioritizes DT and IT threats, and each threat issue is reviewed independently; however, the threat band dictates priorities within these programs.,” the report says.

The FBI says they’ve received more than 8,700 domestic extremist criminal referrals in 2021.

Reporting DVE incident is not mandatory, but the FBI makes “every effort” to document lethal and non-lethal DVE incidents, the report says.

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