• Extremism

    Security and police forces in and around Washington will be operating at what they describe as “a high-level of readiness” as the impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump gets underway next week, worried the event could serve as a flashpoint for American extremists still angry over the outcome of the presidential election. Officials have been hesitant to share specifics about the intelligence, some of which has been described as disturbing chatter on social media platforms.

  • Extremism

    During the 6 January 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, violent Trump supporters—reinforced by a broad coalition of right-wing extremists—attacked police, who appeared to be caught unprepared for a violent encounter with a crowd which has been loudly and consistently supportive of law enforcement. In 2020, there were 16 incidents in which police and extremists exchanged gunfire, an increase from the 11-year average of nine per year.

  • Extremism

    Canada became the first country Wednesday to formally designate the Proud Boys a terrorist entity, according to the nation’s public safety ministry. The ministry said in a statement the group was “a neo-fascist organization” that “played a pivotal role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol” in Washington.

  • ARGUMENT: Wrong focus

    In response to Donald Trump’s election-related insistence that the radical left endangered the country, federal law enforcement shifted resources last year from what experts agreed was a more ominous threat: the growing far-right extremism around the country. Trump’s efforts to focus his administration on the antifa movement and leftist groups did not stop the DOJ and the FBI from pursuing cases of right-wing extremism, but the effect of his direction was nonetheless substantial. The scale and intensity of the threat developing on the right became clear on 6 January.

  • Biological readiness

    The Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense has called on the federal government to urgently implement the recommendations specified in its new report, The Apollo Program for Biodefense: Winning the Race Against Biological Threats. The report details an ambitious program to develop and deploy the technologies needed to defend against all biological threats, empower public health, and prevent pandemics.

  • Biological readiness

    President Joe Biden’s inauguration comes during the worst stage of the deadliest biological event of our lifetimes. As bad as this pandemic is, imagine if instead it were caused by the deliberate release of a sophisticated biological weapon. About 2 percent of those infected have died of COVID-19, while a disease such as smallpox kills at a 30 percent rate. A bioengineered pathogen could be even more lethal. Our failed response to the pandemic in 2020 has exposed a gaping vulnerability to biological threats, ranging from natural outbreaks to deliberate biological weapons attacks.

  • Incitement

    As senators plan for an impeachment trial in which former President Donald Trump is accused of inciting his supporters to mount a deadly insurrection at the Capitol, there is a growing concerns about threats of violent unrest in multiple countries, and the role played by the proliferation of dangerous speech on line – and by political leaders. U.S. law reflects the assumption that dangerous speech must contain explicit calls to criminal action. But scholars who study speeches and propaganda that precede acts of violence find direct commands to violence are rare.

  • ARGUMENT: De-platforming limits

    In the wake of the 6 January attack on the Capitol, major social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have applied their now-customary methods of content moderation to U.S. users considered to be spreading hate and inciting violence. “More atypically, companies operating the mostly invisible digital infrastructure which platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are built on, also demonstrated their power, taking down Parler,” writes Will Marks, a researcher at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “But death on the internet is short lived,” he notes. “Without Parler or Twitter, disinformation and hatred — coded or overt — will continue to be broadcast.” Marks adds: “At a certain point, the question about what to do with Parler is only part of the broader one about how society should cope with the fact that segments of the population are living in different realities.” This is a problem for which there is no technological solution.

  • Domestic terrorism

    Fears that an untold number of Americans are being radicalized is prompting the administration of President Joe Biden to take a closer look at efforts to counter domestic extremism and at whether enough is being done. As part of the examination, Biden on Friday tasked the director of national intelligence to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security to produce a comprehensive threat assessment. The assessment is to draw on analysis from government agencies and law enforcement, as well as private researchers, as warranted.

  • ARGUMENT: Insurrection investigation

    In the days since the Jan. 6 insurrection, calls have proliferated for a national commission to report on the riot and its attendant events. “The calls are understandable and worthy—though some hard thinking is needed before launching any investigation,” Daniel Byman and Benjamin Wittes write. There is “a lot of sense to a high-level and broad inquiry by an independent commission to explore and report on the multifaceted aspects of Jan. 6 that have nothing to do with impeachment or criminal conduct,” they write. They offer a list of at least some of the questions that any commission will need to consider.

  • Extremism

    On January 10, 2021, Nation of Islam (NOI) Student Minister Dr. Wesley Muhammad provided the latest example in the group’s long history of virulent anti-Semitism. Muhammad delivered a two-hour sermon, broadcast live from NOI’s national headquarters in Chicago, in which he explicitly and repeatedly blamed Jews and Israel for the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Domestic terrorism

    After President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20, 2021 without any violent incidents, many in the United States and worldwide breathed a sigh of relief. The respite may be brief. The ingredients that led an incensed pro-Trump mob to break into the Capitol and plant pipe bombs at other federal buildings on Jan. 6 remain. Several U.S. security experts say they now consider domestic extremism a greater threat to the country than international terror.

  • China syndrome

    The United States Tuesday formally labeled the Chinese government’s policies targeting ethnic Uighur Muslims and other minorities in the northwest region of Xinjiang as “genocide.” The United States has for years criticized China’s detention and reeducation policies in Xinjiang but has held off formally declaring the policies as a genocide. 

  • Extremism

    Thousands of police and soldiers – people professionally trained in the use of violence and familiar with military protocols – are part of an extremist effort to undermine the U.S. government and subvert the democratic process. When militia members have a professional background with the military or police, it enhances the ability of these groups to execute sophisticated and successful operations. It also helps them convey a patriotic image that obscures the security threat they present.

  • Public places

    In the wake of last week’s assault on the Capitol, experts are considering ways to secure such public spaces now and in the future; how added protective measures will affect public access to America’s most sacred shrines of democracy.

  • Extremism

    In the immediate aftermath of the November 2020 presidential election, pro-Trump and other extremists announced their initial plans to protest President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington D.C. While it is impossible for anyone to predict with certainty how the events of the next week may unfold, recent history has shown that we cannot ignore potential threats from political and other right-wing extremists.

  • Extremism

    The apparent participation of off-duty officers in the rally that morphed into a siege on the U.S. Capitol building Jan. 6 has revived fears about white supremacists within police departments. Reports of officers involved in an attack in which the symbols and language of white supremacy were clearly on display are concerning. But so too, I believe, is a policing culture that may have contributed to the downplaying of the risk of attack before it began and the apparent sympathetic response to attackers displayed by some police officers – they too hint at a wider problem.

  • ARGUMENT: Impeachment & mad kings

    Congress could not ignore President Donald Trump’s relentless, persistent campaign of Big Lies about the 3 November election—a pattern of behavior that culminated in the president’s move last week to assemble a mob in Washington and loose it on the Capitol. Benjamin Wittes writes that impeachment was, therefore, necessary – but “Impeachment is an awkward remedy in a more practical sense” since “It does nothing to disable Trump in the last seven days of his presidency.” “Congress can remove a president using impeachment but, in the meantime, has to leave the mad king in possession of all of his powers.”

  • Surveillance

    After last week’s violent attack on the Capitol, law enforcement is working overtime to identify the perpetrators. This is critical to accountability for the attempted insurrection. Law enforcement has many, many tools at their disposal to do this, especially given the very public nature of most of the organizing. But the Electronic Frontier Foundations (EFF) says it objects to one method reportedly being used to determine who was involved: law enforcement using facial recognition technologies to compare photos of unidentified individuals from the Capitol attack to databases of photos of known individuals. “There are just too many risks and problems in this approach, both technically and legally, to justify its use,” the EFF says.

  • Democracy watch

    U.S. prosecutors say they have identified more than 170 people for potential criminal charges in connection with the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol and that they expect that number to run into the hundreds in the coming weeks as a massive nationwide hunt for the pro-Trump rioters continues.