Holland Sentinel: Peters leads group to tackle domestic terrorism

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters told media members Wednesday as chair of the Senate committee tasked with matters of national security, he plans on taking the threat of domestic terrorism seriously moving forward.

Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, will chair the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee during the 2021-22 congressional session. Peters said HSGAC will examine how to combat the “growing” threat of domestic terrorism

Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, testified in front of Congess in September 2020 that domestic terrorism is a rising threat to the U.S.

In October 2020, federal investigators thwarted and charged 13 men in a plot to kidnap and kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which many state and federal officials labeled a planned act of terrorism.

Last month, hundreds of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6 in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying electoral votes.

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, the past five years have had four of the deadliest years in U.S. history in terms of extremist-related killings — including mass shootings targeted at Hispanics in El Paso in 2019, targeting the Jewish community in Pittsburgh in 2018 and the LGBTQ community in Orlando in 2016.

Extremism leading to domestic terrorism and acts violence is an issue Peters and other lawmakers want to address.

“We know many of these groups are right now being incited by the insidious ideology of white supremacy, of anti-semitism, of anti-government, and it's one that we must address swiftly, but also comprehensively,” Peters said.

In January, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and other lawmakers co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to crack down on domestic terrorism, with a focus on white supremacy.

Part of that legislation included mandating training for local law enforcement to handle domestic terrorist threats. Peters said Wednesday it’s paramount that local agencies are equipped with tools to track extremist groups.

“We also have to strengthen our coordination with local law enforcement using the resources that the federal government has at its disposal,” Peters said. “But understanding that the first line of defense when it comes to a domestic terrorist attack will inevitably be our local first responders and local law enforcement.”

In addition to threat of domestic terrorism, Peters identified cyber security, border security and coordinating the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring the nation is prepared for any future pandemics as priorities for HSGAC.

By:  Arpan Lobo
Source: Holland Sentinel