The Justice Department has created a new position to put more emphasis on countering domestic terrorism.
The domestic terrorism counsel will assist federal prosecutors nationwide who are working on domestic terrorism cases, according to John Carlin, in charge of DOJ's national security division. He says the counsel will "help shape our strategy and analyze legal gaps or enhancements required to ensure we can combat these threats."
In the past few years, more people in the U.S. have died in attacks committed by domestic extremists than in attacks associated with international terrorist groups, according to a study cited by Carlin, speaking Wednesday to a seminar on terrorism at George Washington University.
"Homegrown violent extremists can be motivated by any viewpoint on the full spectrum of hate — anti-government views, racism, bigotry, anarchy and other despicable beliefs," he said. "When it comes to hate and intolerance, no single ideology governs."
Carlin said local law enforcement officials he talks with consider their top terrorism concern to be people who call themselves sovereign citizens. Followers believe they do not have to answer to any government authority, including police or courts.
Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center said the same social media outreach used by ISIS has proven effective for domestic terrorists.
"We’ve seen lone actor attacks about every 33 days, mostly white supremacist or anti-government extremists," she said.
The number of organized hate groups is shrinking, she said, but many extremists are becoming radicalized entirely on their own.
She cited the example of Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine worshipers at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina in June. "He said his entire world changed when he found a website that claimed there was a problem of out-of-control black on white crime."
"Homegrown violent extremists can be motivated by any viewpoint on the full spectrum of hate — anti-government views, racism, bigotry, anarchy and other despicable beliefs. When it comes to hate and intolerance, no single ideology governs."