Department of Homeland Security Investigating Extremism Within Its Ranks

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the review in a memo to staff, highlighting concerns following the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.
April 27, 2021, 3:47pm
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The patch of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent of the DHS. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis by Getty Images)

The Department of Homeland Security announced an internal review that will investigate how best to root out “domestic violent extremism” within its own ranks.

In a message to department staff, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that the new review comes on the heels of the January 6 insurrection in D.C.—an event that counted law enforcement members as participants—as well as a broader effort by the Biden Administration to thwart the threat of domestic terrorism. The Pentagon recently undertook its own efforts to stamp out extremism within the military, largely spurred by the fact so many veterans were counted among the insurrectionists on Capitol Hill.

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“Recent events, including the January 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol, have highlighted that domestic violent extremism poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to our country today,” said Mayorkas  in a memo. “As we work to safeguard the Nation and our values, we must be vigilant in our efforts to identify and combat domestic violent extremism within both the broader community and our own organization. Violent extremism has no place at DHS and we will work with urgency and focus to address it.”

According to Mayorkas, the internal review is part of a broader effort to identify extremists joining government agencies and will be led by senior DHS officials that have a mandate to provide the department with a blueprint on how best to, “prevent, detect, and respond to domestic violent extremism threats within DHS.”

Since January 6, scores of police and former soldiers have been identified as participants in the mob violence that killed five people (including two cops).

In February, a VICE News investigation identified Rinaldo Nazzaro, 47, founder and leader of the Base, a neo-Nazi terror group under an FBI crackdown, as a former analyst at DHS from 2004 to 2006. Almost a dozen members of his organization in the U.S. alone have been indicted on terrorism related crimes, while others abroad have faced police and intelligence probes.

DHS was widely regarded as one of the more overtly-politicized departments during the Trump administration and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents stepped up to a  record number of operations across the U.S. to remove and deport people. In recent years, one ICE agent was outed as having neo-Nazi sympathies, while a 2019 Facebook group of border patrol officers was exposed for its racist and hateful comments about migrants.

Last year, a whistleblower alleged that Trump loyalists in leadership positions at the department did the administration's political bidding, and after the results of the presidential election in November went against him, Trump fired his own DHS cybersecurity czar after he rejected accusations the results were fraudulent.