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Increase funds to battle domestic terrorism, Justice Dept urges US Congress

US attorney general says $85m of additional funding is needed to bolster efforts to combat domestic terrorism
Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland served as a federal appellate judge and federal prosecutor before being nominated to lead the Justice Department (AFP/File photo)

The US attorney general has asked Congress to increase funding to combat domestic terrorism, warning that it poses an "accelerating" threat. 

Merrick Garland, in his first appearance before Congress since his appointment by President Joe Biden, told the US House of Representatives budgeting subcommittee on Tuesday that authorities needed more funds to investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism.

Garland did not call out specific violent groups by name, but a spotlight was shone on several organisations after former President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the US Capitol on 6 January. Members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers groups, among other far-right groups, were some of the more than 400 people arrested for the deadly attack.  

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"We have a growing fear of domestic violent extremism and domestic terrorism," Garland said during his testimony about the Justice Department's budget request for the next fiscal year.

"Both of those keep me up at night."

Garland also told the House panel that the lethality of weapons available to both foreign and domestic terrorists had increased and the Justice Department was "putting its resources into defending the country with respect to both".

"We have an emerging and accelerating threat," Garland said.

Ongoing efforts 

Following the attack on the Capitol, the FBI boosted efforts to locate and arrest violent members of domestic terror groups, while Congress introduced legislation aimed at preventing the spread of such groups and their ideology. 

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One piece of legislation that has been introduced, "The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021", would create offices at the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI dedicated to monitoring and assessing the threat of domestic terrorism. It would also create training programmes for federal and local law enforcement agencies to combat domestic terrorism.

Tuesday's hearing marked Garland's first appearance before Congress since being confirmed as the nation's top law enforcement officer in March. He had served as a federal appellate judge and federal prosecutor before President Joe Biden nominated him to lead the Justice Department.

He highlighted in his opening remarks that the Justice Department was requesting $85m in additional funding from Congress to bolster its efforts to combat domestic terrorism.

Garland said the department was also seeking a "historic investment" of $1bn in its Office of Violence Against Women, and that the budget proposal included a $232m increase in funding to help combat gun violence.