Recent attacks spark domestic terrorism debate: ‘It must be addressed’

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Recent attacks in Atlanta and Colorado less than one week apart have left 18 dead and the nation reeling.

People are emerging after being largely locked down the last year and as we’ve seen in this last week— more violence has come with it.

The spike has been so significant, last month the department of homeland security elevated domestic terrorism to a national priority.

“In light of this serious and growing threat, I have expanded my departments hate crimes unit to now include domestic terrorism,” added Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

And while efforts are new— the issue of domestic terrorism isn’t — in fact it’s a problem that’s been evolving in America for hundreds of years.

“You can call it different things,” said Javed Ali, a professor in the Ford School of Policy at the University of Michigan “Far-right terrorism, new-right terrorism, but this seems to be a different wave of terrorism.”

Ali has served in the FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency and worked in the Department of Homeland Security soon after Sept. 11. He says the US is in what he calls our 5th wave of domestic terrorism.

“This wave probably started in the late-2000s based on a combination of several factors, including the election of President Obama, the economic downturn,” Ali said. “The increased use of social media.”

He says social media is the main reason this wave is different.

“The line between what’s constitutionally protected versus what seems to be tipping over into something that may be criminal or has the potential to turn toward violent action,” Ali said. “That’s the fine line that law enforcement and the FBI have to walk every day.”

So in instances like where social media was used to draw thousands to our nation’s capital to riot– there’s not much they can do.

“Federal prosecutors can’t charge people with domestic terrorism even though there’s a definition on the books under federal law,” Ali said. “All the people charged in the aftermath of January 6th…terrorism doesn’t show up in the charges.”

It’s something Nessel is working to change.

“It must be addressed in a bi-partisan manner,” Nessel said. “With local, state and federal agencies partnering together.”

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