I’m not aware of a piece of legislation that has ever actually prevented an attack of any kind, but that’s not stopping Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), who earlier this Congressional session reintroduced his Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350). And contrary to a Bloomberg Government story out today suggesting that “lawmakers aren’t likely to pursue expanded powers to fight the domestic threat any time soon”, Schneider’s bill has gained tremendous momentum in the House in the nearly three months since the Capitol Insurrection on January 6.
Just last week, the bill picked up 22 new cosponsors, bringing the total supporting it to 166, including Republicans Fred Upton (MI-6), Don Bacon (NE-2), and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1). Of particular note is the number of House Democratic committee chairs on the bill: DeLauro (Appropriations), Pallone (E & C), Meeks (Foreign Affairs), Nadler (Judiciary), Maloney (Oversight & Government Reform), Thompson (Homeland Security), DeFazio (T & I), and Rules (McGovern).
To be fair, Schneider’s legislation is not–at least in its current form–quite the Constitutionally invasive monster the PATRIOT Act has been over the last two decades. Even so, it has the potential to spawn expanded domestic surveillance activities by law enforcement and intelligence elements of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
The core of Schneider’s proposal involves expanding bureaucracies inside of DoJ and DHS through the creation of new “Domestic Terrorism Offices” within each. Yet both organizations already focus on potential domestic terrorism threats within their existing organizational structures. Indeed, as the extract below from the FBI’s Investigation Classification list shows (obtained last year by Cato via the Freedom of Information Act), the FBI already has discrete categories of investigations for white supremacists, militias, and “sovereign citizen” extremists:
If anything, were Schneider’s bill to become law it would likely make detecting and thwarting domestic terrorist plots harder; the more layers of bureaucracy, the slower government works. The other issue it would likely exacerbate is the question of which department–Justice or Homeland Security–should be the lead on dealing with homegrown threats. Read Full Article >