In the wake of the January 6th attack on the Capitol by white nationalists and other extremists, there have been renewed calls for the creation of a new criminal statute of domestic terrorism. CDT joined 134 other civil and human rights organizations in signing a letter to Congress – led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights – opposing any new domestic terrorism charge, the creation of a list of designated domestic terrorist organizations, or other expansion of existing terrorism-related authorities.
The government already has an expansive number of federal statutes it can leverage to go after the perpetrators of the attack. And given this country’s history of policing, we are concerned that these new authorities would adversely harm civil rights, and would be misused to expand the surveillance of communities of color. Instead, Congress should use its oversight and appropriations powers to demand that federal agencies make public how they have and are now using existing resources to address white supremacist violence.
A portion of the letter is shared below – read the full letter and the extensive list of signatories here:
In the aftermath of the January 6 deadly attack on Congress by far right extremists, including white nationalists, 135 civil and human rights organizations led by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Arab American Institute, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Muslim Advocates, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund called on Congress to ensure that the Department of Justice utilize the over 50 federal statutes already in existence to investigate and prosecute individuals who participated in the insurrection. The groups identified other actions Congress can take to address the long-standing and ongoing threat posed by white supremacists and urged them to abstain from passing any additional domestic terrorism laws.
In strongly opposing the creation of a new domestic terrorism charge, the organizations pointed out the harsh reality that counterterrorism practices are far too often blatantly misused to target and criminalize the very marginalized communities that white supremacists target for hate. “We are concerned that a new federal domestic terrorism statute or list would adversely impact civil rights and — as our nation’s long and disturbing history of targeting Black Activists, Muslims, Arabs, and movements for social and racial justice has shown — this new authority could be used to expand racial profiling or be wielded to surveil and investigate communities of color and political opponents in the name of national security,” they noted.
“The government’s inadequate response to rising white nationalism is a disgraceful policy failure. The problem is hardly new, and prosecutors have long had a multitude of criminal statutes at their disposal to confront white supremacist violence,” said Wade J. Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The time is overdue to refocus resources, implement prosecutorial guidance, and prioritize combatting white nationalism as the grave threat that it is. Congress can support these efforts, not by passing additional counterterrorism laws, but instead by enforcing existing laws and using its formidable oversight and appropriations authority to demand a more effective response from federal law enforcement agencies.”