February 24, 2016, Reuters
The U.S. government, acknowledging its limited success in combating Islamic extremist messaging, is recruiting tech companies, community organizations and educational groups to take the lead in disrupting online radicalization.
The change in strategy, which took a step forward on Wednesday when the Justice Department convened a meeting with social media firms including Facebook Inc, Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s Google , comes despite what critics say is scant evidence on the effectiveness of such efforts.
The meeting was “a recognition that the government is ill-positioned and ill-equipped to counter ISIS online,” Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, said after attending the event, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
The federal government is not best placed to counter extremist online recruitment efforts with messaging of its own, said George Selim, director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) office that coordinates the government’s “countering violent extremism” (CVE) activities.
The goal now, he said, is to help “communities and young people to amplify their own messages.”
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February 4, 2016, Reuters
The U.S. Justice Department is considering legal changes to combat what it sees as a rising threat from domestic anti-government extremists, senior officials told Reuters, even as it steps up efforts to stop Islamic State-inspired attacks at home.
Extremist groups motivated by a range of U.S.-born philosophies present a “clear and present danger,” John Carlin, the Justice Department’s chief of national security, told Reuters in an interview. “Based on recent reports and the cases we are seeing, it seems like we’re in a heightened environment.”
Over the past year, the Justice Department has brought charges against domestic extremist suspects accused of attempting to bomb U.S. military bases, kill police officers and fire bomb a school and other buildings in a predominantly Muslim town in New York state.
But federal prosecutors tackling domestic extremists still lack an important legal tool they have used extensively in dozens of prosecutions against Islamic State-inspired suspects: a law that prohibits supporting designated terrorist groups.
Carlin and other Justice Department officials declined to say if they would ask Congress for a comparable domestic extremist statute, or comment on what other changes they might pursue to toughen the fight against anti-government extremists.
The U.S. State Department designates international terrorist organizations to which it is illegal to provide “material support.” No domestic groups have that designation, helping to create a disparity in charges faced by international extremist suspects compared to domestic ones.
A Reuters analysis of more than 100 federal cases found that domestic terrorism suspects collectively have faced less severe charges than those accused of acting on behalf of Islamic State since prosecutors began targeting that group in early 2014.
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