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Countering Domestic Terrorism: Examining the Evolving Threat


William Braniff, director of START, served as an expert witness providing Congressional testimony on "Countering Domestic Terrorism: Examining the Evolving Threat," before the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Sept. 25, 2019. 

In this testimony, Braniff assessed the domestic terrorism threat, as well as the status of data collection and threat tracking performed by the federal government. Braniff first provided data from several relevant START datasets, including the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), the Extremist Crime Database (ECDB), the Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) dataset, the Bias Incidents and Actors Study (BIAS), and the Chemical and Biological Non-State Actor Database (CABNSAD). Braniff then offered recommendations to the Committee based on this data.

The START data that Braniff discussed included that:

  • In the US over the last decade, domestic terrorists are more numerous, active and lethal in gross numbers than international terrorists
  • The composition of far right targets has changed, with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks increasing in frequency
  • Despite the fact that more domestic terrorists are arrested than homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) in gross numbers, 62% of far right and 78% of far left terrorists succeed in violent plots, compared with 22% of HVEs

Finally, Braniff offered clear recommendations in countering domestic extremism:

  • Congress should pass the Domestic Terrorism DATA Act or similar legislation, including the continued funding of unclassified, objective and longitudinal data collection and dissemination through the DHS Center of Excellence apparatus
  • The Homeland Security Grants Program, responsible for things like UASI grants, should incorporate these objective data
  • The US Government should scale up the DHS Office of Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention, and specifically, replicate the program being run out of Colorado which has quietly succeeded in over 40 interventions
  • The U.S. Government should take a public-health approach to violence prevention and invest in programs that build community resilience, programs that foster non-criminal justice interventions for at-risk individuals, and programs that foster rehabilitation and reintegration of domestic extremists

Read the written testimony online.

Read the oral testimony online.

Watch a recording of the hearing online.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Braniff, William. 2019. "Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee ‘Countering Domestic Terrorism: Examining the Evolving Threat.’" Washington, DC: United States Senate (September). https://go.umd.edu/wLT

START Author(s):