Washington failed to create a national strategy to counter right-wing extremism until the deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol last January triggered an urgent reassessment of the threat, according to USA TODAY interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and a review of government documents. Federal agencies were slow to recognize the threat rising from the homeland and work together to counter it. Resources were poured into international terrorism while domestic extremist groups grew and operated in the open. Some key programs at the Justice Department and elsewhere were launched, stopped and then restarted. Investigators frequently lacked key sources to help them infiltrate movements and thwart attacks. Overlaying all of that, current and former officials say, was the fact that the U.S. government lacked a coordinated and sustained strategy to combat right-wing extremism. Now, one year after the assault on the Capitol, many of those officials question whether Washington is up to the task of containing a problem that has embedded itself deeply into the fabric of America.
The primary terrorist threat inside the United States will stem from lone offenders and small cells of individuals, including Domestic Violent Extremists6 (DVEs) and foreign terrorist-inspired Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs). Some U.S.-based violent extremists have capitalized on increased social and political tensions in 2020, which will drive an elevated threat environment at least through early 2021. Violent extremists will continue to target individuals or institutions that represent symbols of their grievances, as well as grievances based on political affiliation or perceived policy positions.…Among DVEs, racially and ethnically motivatedviolent extremists—specifically white supremacist extremists (WSEs)—will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland. Spikes in other DVE threats probably will depend on political or social issues that often mobilize other ideological actors to violence, such as immigration, environmental, and police-related policy issues.