House Republicans who oversee U.S. intelligence are accusing the Biden administration of violating federal law by injecting a counter-foreign terrorist agency into the job of assessing domestic extremism.
The March 18 letter, spearheaded by Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, says President Biden crossed the line that prevents overseas spying agencies from snooping on Americans.
The letter went to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. Her office released a report, titled “Domestic Violent Extremism Poses Heightened Threat in 2021.”
Signed by all 10 committee Republicans, the letter calls the four-page DNI report “misleading” with a “deceptive nature” and says the reason for the report is unclear. The Republicans find the DNI activity inconsistent with federal law.
“It is our view that your office, and the elements of the IC [intelligence community] for which you are responsible under the auspices of the National Security Act and National Intelligence Program, are subject to longstanding prohibitions against domestic activities,” the letter says.
Republicans have grown suspicious of Mr. Biden’s focus on domestic extremists and see Democrats as trying to paint all GOP voters as security threats.
“We are alarmed by the lack of explanation provided by the authors to justify the … production of such a report,” the Nunes-led letter states.
A DNI statement said the report was drafted by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), an agency designed to focus on foreign threats such as al Qaeda, Islamic State and other groups that plan or inspire deadly attacks on Americans.
This specifically violates federal law, the Republicans argue.
The DNI report came after the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when some 800 Trump “Stop the Steal” protesters invaded. The Justice Department has filed charges against more than 300 people, with many identified by the FBI from social media posts of photos and videos.
The DNI report on domestic violent extremists (DVEs) included a statement that said the CIA and the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, organizations identified as focused on foreign adversaries, also had contributed. The report was primarily the product of the DNI, the FBI, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security.
Said the Republican letter: “While we acknowledge the seriousness of the domestic violence extremist threat and the need for a coordinated federal response, the involvement of the Intelligence Community in this circumstance should be limited to an examination of potential foreign ties, such as foreign influence, direction or funding of DVEs. There are numerous federal agencies with the requisite authority and subject matter expertise to produce a report on this topic, with appropriate support from the IC.”
The Washington Times on Thursday obtained a copy of the letter, which was first reported by journalist Glenn Greenwald.
The letter argues that, while Ms. Haines calls the report an intelligence assessment, it was not in fact the product of the vigorous Intelligence Community Assessments (ICAs).
One report finding: “The IC assesses that domestic violent extremists (DVEs) who are motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanized by recent political and societal events in the United States pose an elevated threat to the Homeland in 2021.”
The DNI says the most lethal attacks will come from racially or ethnically inspired extremists as well as from militias. It singled out right-wing militias, such as the Oath Keepers who took part in the Jan. 6 riot, as a growing threat.
It also says that white supremacists have “the most persistent and concerning transnational connections.”
The DNI report lists four major DVE categories:
- Racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.
- Anti-government/anti-authority violent extremists.
- Animal rights/environmental violent extremists.
- Abortion-related violent extremists.
The anti-government extremists fit the definitions of militias, which contend the U.S. government exceeds powers granted by the Constitution, and left-wing Antifa, the Portland, Oregon-centered group that wants an end to capitalism.
The Republican letter asks the DNI a series of questions such as “Under what authority were National Intelligence Program personnel and resources expended for the generation of a report concerning domestic violent extremists?”
Also, “Did you authorize any individual or element of the IC to search or examine US person information contained within an IC system or database for the purpose of supporting the production of this report on domestic violent extremists? If not, are you aware of any such activities?
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