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Rep. Pascrell Renews Call for Increased Awareness of Domestic Terror Threats

Cites tragic Las Vegas shooting in letters to Homeland Security officials

WASHINGTON, DC – Following this weekend’s tragic shooting in Las Vegas, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), an original member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, today wrote to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson urging DHS to renew their efforts to monitor and counter the threat of domestic extremism. In a separate letter, Rep. Pascrell urged House Committee on Homeland Security leadership to conduct oversight hearings into the ongoing threat of domestic terrorism.


“It is critical that the Department devote resources to monitoring domestic threats to prevent future tragedies,” Rep. Pascrell wrote.  “The Homeland Security Committee has a role to play in ensuring that the threat of domestic extremism is understood, and that the federal government provides state and local law enforcement agencies the information and resources they need to identify and respond to these threats.”

In 2009, DHS identified the threat of domestic extremism in its report “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” which DHS ultimately withdrew amid intense criticism.

The tragic shooting in Las Vegas is just the latest in a series of attacks carried out by domestic extremists, which include a shooting which took three lives at two Jewish centers near Kansas City in April and an attack which resulted in seven deaths at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin in 2012.

The full text of both letters is as follows:

 

June 11, 2014

 

The Honorable Jeh Johnson

Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C.  20528

 

Dear Secretary Johnson,

 

Thank you for your work to secure our nation from foreign and domestic threats. In the light of the recent attack in Las Vegas, Nevada, I write today to urge you to renew the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to monitor and counter the threat of domestic extremism.

 

On Sunday, June 8th, two assailants ambushed two Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers. Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were fatally shot from close range while eating lunch. This tragic incident ultimately took three innocent lives. Allegedly, the shooters draped the bodies of the slain officers with a swastika as well as a Gadsden flag, which has been adopted as a symbol of the political right. Subsequently, we have learned that the shooters had white supremacist paraphernalia in their apartment, white supremacist literature, and had recently participated in the anti-government protests at the Bundy Ranch. This is just the latest in a series of attacks carried out by domestic extremists, which include a shooting which took three lives at two Jewish centers near Kansas City in April and an attack which resulted in seven deaths at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin in 2012. According to a report by the New America Foundation, political extremists have taken 40 lives in the United States since 9-11. These events should serve as a wake-up call about the rising threat of domestic terrorism.

 

Our hearts go out to the families and colleagues of Officers Beck and Soldo, as well as Joseph Robert Wilcox, who was killed while attempting to confront the shooters. This latest tragedy makes it clear that there is more we can do to prevent future attacks by radical domestic terrorists. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security published a report entitled "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." This report outlined the threat posed by ideologically motivated domestic extremists. Although the report was revoked due to political pressure, many of its dire warnings have since come to pass.

 

I strongly urge the Department of Homeland Security to reinvigorate its efforts to monitor and combat the threat of domestic extremism. The Department should also work to provide the appropriate information, training and resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to counter this threat. I would like to request that you provide my office with an update as to the Department’s current efforts surrounding this area and its plans for the future.

 

It is high time we take a sober look at the threats we face from within our own society. Thank you for your consideration of this important request. I look forward to your prompt response.

 

     Sincerely,

 

     Bill Pascrell, Jr.

     Member of Congress

 

June 11, 2014

 

The Honorable Michael McCaul

Chairman

House Committee on Homeland Security

131 Cannon House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

The Honorable Bennie Thompson

Ranking Member

House Committee on Homeland Security

2466 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chairman McCaul and Ranking Member Thompson,

 

Thank you for your work to protect our nation through the House Committee on Homeland Security. In light of the June 8th attack which took three innocent lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, I write today to urge you to conduct oversight hearings into the ongoing threat of domestic terrorism.

 

As you know, on June 8th, two assailants attacked Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, killing them in cold blood and fatally shooting another bystander. Eyewitness reports indicate that the perpetrators shouted “this is the start of a revolution” before beginning their shooting spree, suggesting that these crimes were motivated by an anti-government ideology. The shooters then allegedly draped the bodies of the slain officers with a swastika and a Gadsden flag. This is just the latest example of the violent attacks being carried by domestic extremists, which include three shooting spree deaths at two Jewish centers near Kansas City in April and an attack which killed seven at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin in 2012. In fact, violent political extremists have taken 40 lives in the United States since 9-11 according to the New America Foundation. These events illustrate the rising threat of domestic terrorism.

 

Sadly, warning signs existed before these attacks. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security identified the threat of domestic extremism in its 2009 report, “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” However, this report was later withdrawn and the Department scaled back its efforts to combat the threat. It is critical that the Department devote resources to monitoring domestic threats to prevent future tragedies. The Homeland Security Committee has a role to play in ensuring that the threat of domestic extremism is understood, and that the federal government provides state and local law enforcement agencies the information and resources they need to identify and respond to these threats.

 

Again, as a former Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I believe it is essential that the committee conduct oversight hearings to determine our nation’s level of preparedness for domestic extremism and acts of terror. Thank you for your consideration of this vital request. I look forward to working with you to counter this threat.

 

   Sincerely,

 

   Bill Pascrell, Jr.

   Member of Congress

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