Feb. 4—The D.C. Homeland Security director and terror analysts warned lawmakers Thursday that the threat posed by domestic extremists, manifested last month by the deadly Capitol attack, is likely to persist for more than a decade.
“We must be prepared for a long fight,” Christopher Rodriguez, chief of the district’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, told the House Homeland Security Committee.
Rodriguez said the Capitol attack exposed a long-simmering threat in the “starkest terms,” adding that radical violent extremism has “rapidly become part of the cultural mainstream.”
The D.C. official, who participated in the security preparations for what had been billed as demonstration against Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory, acknowledged that the FBI had shared information prior to the event that included the potential for violence.
In a series of meetings prior to Jan. 6, Rodriguez said that information was shared with law enforcement partners, including the U.S. Capitol Police.
Last week, the acting Capitol Police chief apologized to lawmakers for the agency’s failures to repel the rioters, saying that the department was not prepared for the “terrorist attack.” The riot left five dead, including Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick who was eulogized Wednesday at a Capitol ceremony.
“What happened at the U.S. Capitol was the most predictable terror attack in U.S. history,” Anti-Defamation League Executive Director Jonathan Greenblatt told the House panel Thursday, describing a “terrifying resurgence of right-wing extremism.”
Greenblatt called the Capitol assault a “watershed moment” particularly for the white supremacist movement that is likely to leverage the riots for future recruiting of like-minded extremists.
Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary for counter-terrorism and threat prevention at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, characterized the threat as especially daunting, suggesting that it would linger for “10 to 20 years.”
Neumann and others called on the government to respond in the same way it had following the 9/11 attacks.
She urged the formation of a national commission to chart a strategy to confront the looming threat just as the George W. Bush administration had done to deal with international terror threat posed by al-Qaeda and other groups.
Brian Jenkins, a terror analyst and senior adviser at the Rand Corp., also cautioned that the Capitol assault would pose “long-term” challenges for lawmakers and law enforcement officials.
Because of the increased scrutiny following the attacks, Jenkins said extremists could “transition” from mass protests to “clandestine” acts.
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