Portman: Violent Threats to Americans Transcend Any One Ideology

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, highlighted multiple recent attacks and criticized the Biden Administration for failing to provide the Committee with data on the magnitude of the domestic terrorist and violent extremist threat as required by Title LVI: Federal Efforts Against Domestic Terrorism in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act at a hearing to examine the persistent and concerning threats posed by domestic terrorists and violent extremists.

Senator Portman has been a leader in the Senate in combating domestic terrorism and violent extremism and committed to continue to reach across the aisle to create legislative solutions that help prevent this lethal violence. In 2020, President Trump signed Portman’s bipartisan Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act into law. This legislation authorized Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) for five years, from FYs 2020 to 2024. Under the legislation, funding may be used for target-hardening activities, training for personnel, and any other appropriate activity, as defined by the FEMA Administrator. The FY 2022 bipartisan funding agreement included $250 million for the NSGP, increasing the amount allocated in FY 2021 by $70 million from a previous allocation of $180 million. Last month, Portman sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting that the NSGP be adequately funded to meet the needs of at-risk organizations this fiscal year.

In addition, Portman urged the House to swiftly pass his Senate-passed, bipartisan Pray Safe Act to establish a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship could access information on safety and security best practices, available federal grant programs, and training opportunities.

A transcript of his opening remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.

“Thank you, Chairman Peters, I appreciate your holding this hearing on domestic extremism and in particular on white supremacist violence. All of us must condemn these hateful acts, and I think you have properly said that we have a role in simply speaking up more and more forcefully. While this hearing is being held to address the threat of white supremacy in the wake of last month’s horrific attacks, which killed ten shoppers in a grocery store in Buffalo, we also know that violent threats to Americans transcend any one ideology, and we’ll hear that today. 

“Tuesday night of this week, an armed man was arrested for the attempted murder of a Supreme Court Justice. This attempt is the latest example that threats to our country cannot be placed in a single ideological box. Some threats have apparently nothing to do with race or ideology, as we saw last month when a deranged 18-year-old killed fourth graders and their teachers in Uvalde, Texas. We also learned last month that an Islamic State operative was plotting in Columbus, Ohio, my home state, to smuggle other terrorists over the southern border to murder former President George W. Bush. In 2018, 11 Jewish Americans were murdered while practicing their faith at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And Ohio, too, has certainly felt the effects of extreme violence. We suffered the loss of nine Ohioans when an assailant with far-left extremist ideologies attacked a crowd of people on a busy street in Dayton, Ohio, three years ago. 

“Unfortunately, this Committee does not have the data we need on this issue because the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Counterterrorism Center, although required to do so by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, have not provided domestic terrorism data annually to Congress and to this Committee. The first report was overdue by about a year, and the Committee has received no indication when we would receive the second annual report, which is already late. Today’s testimony will express concern over the lack of data that we have on domestic terrorism. Good data is statutorily required to be delivered to Congress and to the American people, and it’s unacceptable that it’s being withheld. We should also note that the most recent domestic extremism and terrorism data provided to Congress from the FBI revealed that the most lethal domestic terrorist threat in 2020 was posed by anti-government extremists, including anarchists. 

“Just this week, DHS released a terrorist threat bulletin, which assessed the number one threat of mass violence in the United States comes from those motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and grievances. White supremacy is among them, but the Committee needs to be looking at all lethal terrorist threats, and we need the information. We need the data. In addition to that data, the Committee has not yet received the requested information or other details pertaining to the implementation of the Biden administration’s domestic terrorism strategy that was released a year ago. 

“I look forward to receiving more information from DHS and the FBI regarding reports that it took weeks to arrest a watchlist terrorist who had crossed into the United States at the southern border, as well as evaluate claims made by an Islamic State operative arrested in Ohio who told FBI informants that he smuggled members of Hezbollah into the country over the southern border. These terrorists seek to exploit our borders and asylum systems to gain entry in the United States, and this Committee must examine the federal law enforcement’s ability to stop these incidents from happening. Last month, as the Committee knows, the Secretary of Homeland Security confirmed that 42 individuals on the terrorist watch list were encountered at our southern border in the last year. We have not yet been provided the requested information by the Department of whether these individuals pose the current threat. We all know that the border is not secure. Known terrorists are entering the country, drugs are flowing across the border, and all these things pose a real threat to our country. 

“We know from law enforcement that domestic extremism violence makes up a large proportion of the acts of terror committed in the United States. These acts of violence are abhorrent and should be condemned to the fullest extent. These acts of hate go against our American values and serve as a reminder that domestic violent extremism continues to threaten and harm our communities. My heart goes out to the victims families, and I hope that the conversation had today will shed light on the solutions for actually preventing further violence. I’ll continue to reach across the aisle so we can create legislative solutions that help prevent this lethal violence. I was pleased that our bipartisan bill, the Pray Safe Act, which establishes a centralized clearinghouse of safety and security best practices for houses of worship to harden against acts of terrorism passed the Senate by unanimous consent. That was a good sign. I urge my colleagues in the House to hold a vote on this important legislation as soon as possible. 

“I also remain committed to my support for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which we have worked to authorize and secure additional funding from appropriators. Senator Peters and I have worked hard on this over the years, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to fund the Nonprofit Security Grant Program at a level that is commensurate with this heightened threat assessment. Again, we need the data to be able to back that up. 

“Finally, I want to thank the witnesses for testifying before us today, and especially pleased to welcome Ambassador Nathan Sales, a fellow Ohioan who I had the pleasure of introducing at his 2017 Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing to be the State Department’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Ambassador Sales did great work to protect the United States against the threat of global terrorism during his time at State and I look forward to hearing more of his valuable insights on the terrorist threat landscape during his testimony. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”