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Homeland Security to review violent extremism within ranks

April 26, 2021

The Department of Homeland of Security will conduct an internal review of violent extremism among employees, as the US seeks to do more to combat white supremacy within its bureaucracy.

Homeland Security Department headquarters in northwest Washington
Domestic extremism represents the biggest terrorism threat to the US, says the DHS Image: picture-alliance/Photo/S. Walsh

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will conduct an internal review of violent extremism within its ranks, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Monday.

US President Joe Biden's administration is seeking to weed out white supremacy and extremist ideologies from within the federal bureaucracy. 

What did Mayorkas say about the review?

"Domestic extremism poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to our country today," Mayorkas said in a statement. "As we work to safeguard our nation, we must be vigilant in our efforts to identify and combat domestic violent extremism within both the broader community and our own organization. Hateful acts and violent extremism will not be tolerated within the department."

A group of senior officials in the department will review its guidelines to "prevent, detect, and respond" to extremist threats. The officials will also produce a report on extremism within the department that will be presented to Mayorkas.

The Biden administration had previously taken steps to combat extremism within US immigration enforcement agencies. During its first budget request to Congress earlier this month, the government sought funding to probe extremist beliefs at the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agencies. 

What's behind Biden's push against domestic extremism?

During his inaugural address in January, Biden said the US must confront political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism. The push against extremist ideologies comes after the siege at the US Capitol Building on January 6, with some of the rioters having been members of far-right groups.

FBI Chief Christopher Wray has labeled the January 6 Capitol riot as "domestic terrorism" and said in March that violent extremism is on the rise in the US.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a military stand down to address extremism within its ranks, after the Pentagon said active duty service members participated in the Capitol siege.

Armed militias have become a major threat to domestic security, with the acting Capitol police chief warning in February that extremist groups want to "blow up" the Capitol during Biden's upcoming congressional address.

Right-wing militias also planned to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer last year. The FBI arrested men in October involved in the domestic terror plot. 

wd/rt (Reuters, AP)