The Biden administration says it will enhance its analysis of threats from domestic terrorists, including the sharing of intelligence within law enforcement agencies, and will work with tech companies to eliminate terrorist content online as part of a nationwide strategy to combat domestic terrorism.
The National Security Council on Tuesday released the strategy plan, which comes more than six months after a mob of insurgents loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s presidential win.
“Domestic terrorism — driven by hate, bigotry, and other forms of extremism — is a stain on the soul of America,” Biden, who’s traveling in Europe, said in a statement. “It goes against everything our country strives for and it poses a direct challenge to our national security, democracy, and unity.”
A report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that domestic violent extremists posed an increased threat in 2021, with white supremacist groups and anti-government militias posing the highest risk, officials said.
The new strategy includes enhancing the government’s analysis of domestic terrorism and improving the information that is shared between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Administration officials said the Justice Department had also implemented a new system to “methodically track” domestic terrorism cases nationwide within the FBI.
The Justice Department was also evaluating whether the administration should recommend Congress pass a specific domestic terrorism law, which does not currently exist. In the absence of domestic terrorism laws, the Justice Department relies on other statutes to prosecute ideologically motivated violence by people with no international ties.
But that has made it harder to track how often extremists driven by religious, racial or anti-government bias commit violence in the U.S and complicates efforts to develop a universally accepted domestic terror definition. Opponents of domestic terrorism laws say prosecutors already have enough tools.
The government’s new plan also includes an effort to identify government employees who may pose a domestic terrorism threat, with a number of federal agencies working on new policies and programs to root out potential domestic extremists in law enforcement and in the military.
A senior administration official said the Office of Personnel Management was considering updating forms to assist in improving screening and vetting of government employees to make sure people who could pose a threat are identified before being put in sensitive roles. The official spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity to detail the internal tools.
Officials said the Justice Department had also formally made domestic terrorism a top priority and had been reallocating resources at U.S. attorneys’ offices and at FBI field offices across the U.S. to combat the threat from domestic extremists. The Justice Department’s proposed budget for next year includes $100 million in additional resources related to domestic terrorism to be used for analysts, investigators and prosecutors.
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Texas’ main power grid struggled to keep up with the demand for electricity Monday, prompting the operator to ask Texans to conserve power until Friday.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said in a statement Monday that a significant number of unexpected power plant outages, combined with expected record use of electricity due to hot weather, has resulted in tight grid conditions. Approximately 12,000 megawatts of generation were offline Monday, or enough to power 2.4 million homes on a hot summer day.
ERCOT officials said the power plant outages were unexpected — and could not provide details as to what could be causing them.
“I don’t have any potential reasons [for the plant outages] that I can share at this time,” said Warren Lasher, ERCOT senior director of systems planning, during a Monday call with media. “It is not consistent with fleet performance that we have seen over the last few summers.”
The number of plants that were forced offline today is “very concerning” Lasher said.
“We operate the grid with the resources that we have available,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of the generators to make sure their plants are available when demand is high.”
The conservation request comes at a time of heightened anxiety around electricity after the state’s catastrophic February power outages left millions without power for days. Those outages, which were prompted by a severe winter storm, may have killed as many as 700 people, according to an analysis of mortality data by BuzzFeed News.
The root cause of the February freeze is the same as the coming summer of inferno: climate change, and an entire political party that instead of preparing for it, opened the state's infrastructure to the Wild West of deregulation, turning Texas into a third-world country when it comes to keeping the power going. The power companies are making billions. Texans are dying. Nobody seems to give a damn in the state's halls of power, either.
It's only going to get worse in the years ahead, too. More deadly deep freezes as global climate amelioration systems break down under the stress. There'll be worse storms, tornadoes and hurricanes hitting the state, blazing hot summers with scores of 100-degree days instead of just a dozen bad days over the worst part of the season. Crippling droughts as farmers, ranchers, Native tribes and local governments fight more and more over less and less water each year.
We need a national infrastructure plan that assumes the worst-case and prepares us to deal with the fact that large sections of America are going to become unsustainable. But we're nowhere near ready for that conversation yet, and we won't be in my lifetime.
Texas Democrats who killed a Republican elections bill with a dramatic state legislative walkout last month are heading to Washington this week to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris and pressure lawmakers on voting rights — part of a week of action that culminates in an Austin rally hosted by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
The push comes with Democrats’ expansive federal voting rights legislation on life support after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he’ll vote against it. Texas Democrats had previously called on their counterparts in Washington to pass the bill as a means of pushing back against restrictive voting laws being passed in many states. Manchin and other Senate Democrats have also voiced opposition to changing the Senate filibuster rules, which would be an obstacle for other voting rights bills.
The Texas legislators are expected to be on Capitol Hill on Tuesday for meetings with lawmakers from both chambers. It isn’t clear if that group of lawmakers will include Manchin or Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), another senator opposed to changing the filibuster. A person familiar with the Texas Democrats’ plans said neither senator was on the schedule as of Sunday, but they were trying to set up meetings. Manchin and Sinema’s offices did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
The Democratic state lawmakers are set to hold meetings with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the “For the People Act” and other elections-related legislation; and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the lead sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. They’re also slated to meet with staffers for Texas’ two Republican senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.
“I think it is important for senators to hear real world stories that are happening in states like Texas,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, one of the Texas Democrats making the trip to Washington. “The discrimination we’re talking about is not accidental discrimination. We’re talking about purposeful and intentional discrimination.”
The group will also meet on Wednesday with Harris, who was recently named the administration’s point person on voting rights by President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke — who narrowly lost a 2018 Senate run to Cruz before making a short-lived 2020 presidential run — is planning to host a rally focused on voting rights on Sunday in Austin, the state’s capital.
O’Rourke said in an interview that he wants “every senator up there to meet this moment.” And he said that while he was thankful that Biden spoke out against the Republican state legislation that Texas Democrats blocked last month, he wants to see the president “do more” in the push for Democratic voting rights bills.
“You need the most powerful man on the planet,” O’Rourke said. “He uniquely can call our attention and demand our focus on the most important challenge facing us, and then call us to action.”
O’Rourke also addressed a possible run for governor of Texas next year. “We’re going to see this through,” he said. “After we do that, I'm going to think through what it is I can do to serve here. And that might be running for office, and it might be supporting others who run for office.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised a vote on the “For the People Act” during the last week of the month, despite the opposition from Manchin and the additional obstacle of the filibuster. Manchin’s primary public complaint with the sweeping package, which would remake American election, campaign finance and ethics law, is that it doesn’t have bipartisan support.
- Public health officials in Illinois are warning residents evacuated from Rockton not to pick up debris as a chemical plant fire that started on Monday may rage for several days before burning out.
- Senate Republicans are hoping that agreeing to a major physical infrastructure bill will blunt the rest of President Biden's agenda on child care, education, and jobs.
- The US and Canada are reportedly in talks to lift COVID-19 border travel restrictions as vaccination rates in both countries continue to increase.
- House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee say they will investigate the Trump Justice Department probing secret 2017 investigations of Democrats and journalists over leaks.
- As microchip shortages continue worldwide, consumer advocates are warning of counterfeit chips, recycled hardware sold as new, and supply chain theft.