Why Biden’s Strategy for Preventing Domestic Terrorism Could Do More Harm Than Good

The participants on January 6 were mostly a motley collection of aging losers and mentally ill fruitbats. No one involved has been charged with sedition, treason, terrorism offenses, murder, or attempted murder. Mostly, there are guilty of institutional offenses like interfering with Congressional proceedings, or petty crimes like vandalism and trespassing. The worst things any of them have been charged with are routine medium-level felonies like felonious assault. Far more serious is the potential use of J6 as a pretext for general repression of political dissenters and the expansion of “war on terrorism” laws.

By Harsha Panduranga The Brennan Center

The Biden administration is doubling down on an ineffective strategy that invites more police involvement in mental health and social services and bias against communities of color.

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times

President Biden’s just-released National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism features this approach in its plan to combat far-right violence. The Department of Homeland Security recently created a new Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, which will provide funds and support to local law enforcement, community groups and institutions such as universities to carry out such prevention efforts. Among its purposes is to identify people who may become violent and connect them with mental health and social services, often in cooperation with police.

The Homeland Security Department describes this as a “public health” approach, which may sound appealing. But decades of research show that we cannot reliably identify potentially violent people. And trying to do so will invite more police involvement in mental health and social services and bias against the same communities that bear the brunt of far-right violence, as a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice documents.

Many of the behaviors and traits the center identifies as markers of potential violence — being socially alienated, depressed, having a “grievance,” for example — are both vague and common. Treating what are often adverse social conditions as potential police matters hurts efforts to support people struggling with these conditions.


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