Provides Law Enforcement & Intelligence Community With More Tools to Fight Back Against Domestic Terror
Above: Gottheimer announcing new steps today at Sussex County Community College to combat violent extremist groups threatening our nation and communities.
NEWTON, NJ — Today, Tuesday, February 23, 2021, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, urged the U.S. Department of State to officially designate international violent extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, as terrorist organizations. Doing so will help provide law enforcement and the U.S. intelligence community the tools necessary to protect the nation from domestic terrorists and other violent extremists that threaten our freedom, democracy, and communities. Today’s announcement follows the involvement of domestic terrorist groups, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, in the January 6, 2021 failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the massive growth of violent extremist groups in New Jersey and nationwide in recent years.
The official terrorist group designation: 1) impedes fundraising and deters contributions to these groups; 2) heightens public awareness and knowledge of those linked to terrorism; 3) makes clear to U.S. allies our government’s concerns about these groups; and, 4) warns the private sector of the risks of doing business and associating with them. Most importantly, it 5) disrupts terrorist networks, thereby cutting off access to financial and other resources from sympathizers, and 6) encourages those targeted to end their support for terrorism. In these and other ways, it helps provide additional tools to law enforcement and our nation’s intelligence community to prosecute, financially counter, and help defeat these groups.
“The vigilante mob who stormed our Capitol killed one heroic officer, Brian Sicknick, injured scores of others, tore down the American flag, and desecrated the home of our democracy,” Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said today. “Healing, of course, requires accountability and investigation, and we have seen the FBI and other law enforcement agencies take swift action against groups like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and Stop the Steal, who all participated and helped lead the insurrection.”
Gottheimer continued, “I’m here today to announce new, concrete steps to combat violent extremist groups in New Jersey and across our nation, including providing law enforcement and the U.S. intelligence community with the tools they need to protect our community, our country, and our Capitol from future domestic terror attacks. As our state and the Administration continues to examine the threat of domestic terror groups, I’m urging the federal government to officially designate the Proud Boys and other violent extremist groups as terrorist groups.”
Gottheimer added, “Whatever their names may be — whether it’s from the right, like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, or the groups inspired by the radical Antifa ideology on the extreme left — they’re all justifying violence against their opponents, and neither Democrats nor Republicans should stand for this.”
Of the 200 arrests made since the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, at least ten of the insurrections are from New Jersey — including one not far from here in Sussex County, who was indicted on 12-counts, including assaulting an officer. Of the 22 individuals charged with conspiracy crimes connected to the U.S. Capitol attack, 18 were known to have ties to either the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), anti-Semitic incidents in New Jersey are at the highest levels ever recorded. The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness has labeled white supremacy as a top level terror threat.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Blinken today, Gottheimer wrote, “I believe that a terrorist designation for qualifying entities would help provide additional tools to law enforcement and the intelligence community to prosecute, financially counter, and defeat these groups. There is also precedent for such a determination, as the United States has in the past designated international groups with American chapters and entities.”
Gottheimer was joined at today’s announcement, held at Sussex County Community College (SCCC), by Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch, First Assistant Prosecutor Greg Mueller, Captain Jennifer Williams of the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office, Sussex County Undersheriff Matthew Avenatti, and Sussex County Community College President Jon Connelly.
Watch today’s announcement event HERE.
View Gottheimer’s letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken HERE.
Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
Last month, for the first time since 1814, the world witnessed a deadly attack by several extremist groups on the U.S. Capitol, the beacon of our democracy, with the sole goal of overturning the will of the American people. I know. I was there that day in the House Chambers. The day before, I saw several people walking near the Capitol wearing Camp Auschwitz t-shirts and others with six million was not enough.
The vigilante mob who stormed our Capitol, killed one heroic officer, Brian Sicknick, injured scores of others, tore down the American flag, and desecrated the home of our democracy. They were nothing but lawless thugs and the very definition of extremists who sought to harm our country and attempted to shred our inalienable rights — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the end, they failed miserably. The Electoral College was certified; I spoke on the House floor that evening. The Capitol never closed. But they did succeed in tearing us further apart. I am here today to help bind up our nation’s wounds, because, as Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
That healing, of course, requires accountability and investigation — and we have seen the FBI and other law enforcement agencies take swift action against groups like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and Stop the Steal, who all participated and helped lead the insurrection. In fact, and none of us are proud of this, at least ten of the insurrectionists are from New Jersey — including one not far from here in Sussex County, who was indicted on 12-counts, including assaulting an officer.
By the accountability for January 6th, we must do everything in our power to protect our country going forward from any extremists, whether they are Proud Boys or ISIS-inspired, lone wolf terrorists.
That’s why I’m here today — to announce new, concrete steps to combat violent extremist groups in New Jersey and across our nation, including providing law enforcement and the U.S. intelligence community with the tools they need to protect our community, our country, and our Capitol from future domestic terror attacks.
As our state and the Administration continues to examine the threat of domestic terror groups, I’m urging the federal government to officially designate the Proud Boys and other violent extremist groups as terrorist groups.
Today, domestic-based extremists, including white supremacist groups, export their repulsive ideologies abroad, and, in turn, these international terror groups force their ideology on our country and threaten our homeland. This is a new, burgeoning threat that must be dealt with immediately. We know that American citizens have traveled abroad to train with international white supremacist and other extremist groups, and we must take every action to stop them.
These groups here are homegrown, but can also have international ties — and, based on the increasing risk and threats here in New Jersey and nationwide, it’s time to label these extremists as full-fledged domestic terrorist groups.
The official terrorist group designation — which under existing law can be placed on qualifying entities — not only shines a much-needed light on the threat, but also opens up new authorities to help combat their extremism. The terrorist designation impedes fundraising and deters contributions to these groups, heightens public awareness and knowledge of those linked to terrorism; makes clear to U.S. allies our alarming concerns about these groups, and warns the private sector of the risks of doing business and associating with them. Most importantly, it disrupts terrorist networks, thereby cutting off access to financial and other resources from sympathizers, and encourages those targeted to end their support for terrorism. In these and other ways, it helps provide additional tools to our law enforcement and to our nation’s intelligence community to prosecute, financially counter, and help defeat these groups.
There is already precedent for such a determination, since the United States has — in the past — designated international groups with American chapters and entities, just like the Proud Boys has.
The Proud Boys group has already been classified as a hate group by civil rights organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Proud Boys is a group with a global presence, including several international chapters in Britain, Norway, and Australia. Canada has already designated them as a foreign terrorist group. In addition, federal prosecutors have already warned that Proud Boys members could plan further attacks on the federal government.
Now, it’s time to make sure these groups that threaten the security of our communities and nation are specially designated as the terrorist groups that they are.
I know that everyone has seen lots of footage of the January Sixth attacks on the Capitol, but what you may not know is how much of a threat these extremist groups fully posed that day, and how much of a risk these groups are — both here in New Jersey and nationwide.
On January Sixth, hundreds stormed the Capitol and more than two hundred have been arrested thus far.
Those who stormed the Capitol that day included some of the worst of the worst. But the hard, hard core was made up of particularly sinister groups which have been actively recruiting in our state for years, including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and others.
These included anti-government extremists like the Oath Keepers — a group the FBI describes as “a large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.” Though the Oath Keepers will accept anyone of their members, they prey on current and former military, law enforcement, and first responders. The New Jersey Department of Homeland Security has already designated the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and other groups as threats to our state.
According to the ADL, the Proud Boys — who were also heavily involved in the attack on January Sixth — “bear many of the hallmarks of a gang, and its members have taken part in multiple acts of brutal violence and intimidation.” Last October, Congressman Tom Malinowski and I led our New Jersey House colleagues in urging the FBI to counter the presence of the Proud Boys and other hate groups in our state. As we wrote at the time, “We believe we need a much more robust Federal response to the growing threat of violence posed by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, domestic terrorists, and other militias.”
In fact, of the twenty-two people charged with conspiracy crimes connected to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, eighteen were known to have ties to either the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys. One of the members of the Oath Keepers who has been charged sent text messages in which he described killing and mutilating people who held opposing views, and referred to his political adversaries as “savages,” “maggots,” and “cockroaches.”
Another Capitol assailant, a member of a militia extremist group called the Texas Freedom Force, even threatened to kill his family if they turned him in. Just this past week, federal authorities alleged a broader conspiracy by Oath Keepers to attack the Capitol on January Sixth, charging six more Oath Keepers for conspiring to obstruct Congress’ certification of the election that day.
January Sixth was just one single day, but many factors have brought us to this point. Hate, extremism, and violent acts of hate and discrimination have disturbingly risen in recent years.
In my own personal experience, there were supporters of mine who had swastikas painted in front of their house. I’ve had swastikas on my own campaign lawn signs. Here in Northern New Jersey, we’ve seen swastikas drawn repeatedly in our schools, and on one of our great Jersey diners here in Sussex County: Airport Diner, which I hope can reopen again once we recover from the pandemic.
We’ve seen the growth of hate here in New Jersey — against people of all backgrounds: African American, Jewish, Irish Catholic, Muslim, Asian American — such as the anti-Asian American vandalism against a restaurant here in Fifth District.
And we know all too well that social media can be filled with hate, disinformation, conspiracies, and propaganda, and that this danger can spread like wildfire.
Whatever their names may be — whether it’s from the right, like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, or the groups inspired by the radical Antifa ideology on the extreme left — they’re all justifying violence against their opponents, and neither Democrats nor Republicans should stand for this.
In New Jersey, we’ve seen a massive growth in white supremacy and hate acts, not just online, but in signs and protests, as well as gangs and violence. Anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and racially charged incidents in New Jersey are now at the highest levels ever recorded, according to the ADL.
Our New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness has also made clear the threat that homegrown violent extremists, or lone-wolf terrorists, are to New Jersey. They’ve taken the unprecedented step to raise the white supremacist threat level to “high,” — and, as the Director of New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Jared Maples, recently said, Jersey was “the very first government entity in the United States to label white supremacy as a top level terror threat.”
But, I know this is not who this nation is. This is not who we are. And we cannot — and we will not — let our nation or our politics be held hostage by domestic terror groups seeking to undermine our country.
That’s why I’ve been at the forefront of combating these issues: from working closely with state and local officials like the FBI in New Jersey and our own Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness to stay vigilant; to leading the charge to make sure to make sure hate groups, foreign terrorist organizations, and extremists cannot spread propaganda on our social media platforms — which has resulted in Twitter banning Hamas and Hezbollah affiliated content; to the House passing my bipartisan legislation last summer to make sure we know when these groups pop up online; and working with my colleagues to stand up to groups from ISIS to Q-Anon.
My announcement today is only a part of what our country needs to combat these issues. Last Congress, I announced my bipartisan Freezing Assets of Suspected Terrorists and Enemy Recruits — or FASTER Act — for law enforcement to freeze the assets of domestic terrorists facing federal charges for insurrection and seditious conspiracy — like those who stormed the Capitol.
I’m pleased that my bipartisan legislation will be part of a package of bills that the Financial Services Committee will have a hearing on this Thursday to address, as part of our Committee’s continued investigation into how domestic terrorism is financed.
I’ve also introduced the Online Terrorism Prevention Act to require regular disclosure of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations on social media, and to impose financial and criminal penalties for social media companies that fail to eliminate terrorist content from their platforms.
And just last month, Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and I led a bipartisan initiative urging the new Administration to restore the DHS Office of Community Partnerships (OCP), so that our country has a designated lead on efforts to counter violent extremism nationwide.
To be clear, there is plenty that both sides can disagree on — and will continue to disagree on — but we also need to unite against all forms of hate and stand up to these violent extremist organizations.
We must continue to stand vigilant against all threats, both foreign and domestic. With all of these initiatives, I’m confident that we will give law enforcement and the U.S. intelligence community the tools necessary to protect us from violent extremists that threaten our freedom, our democracy, and our communities.
At a time when our nation is more polarized than ever, we must all work together — at every level; both nationally and here in our own backyards — to combat hate and extremism, especially in our political system. We must stay strong against the partisanship, turmoil, and vitriol that has plagued our nation.
We live in the greatest country in the world, and, together, I know that we will ensure that our best days will always be ahead of us and that our families are safe.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.