Jonathan Greenblatt's Testimony Before the House Committee on Homeland Security Examining the Domestic Terrorism Threat in the Wake of the Attack on the U.S. Capitol

Remarks by Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO, ADL

February 04, 2021

February 4, 2021

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Katko, Members of the Committee, good morning.

I am Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of ADL. It is an honor to appear before you today to address the dire threat domestic terrorism poses. For more than a century, ADL has worked to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. As part of that, we’ve built a world-class team investigating extremist threats, an evil that has intensified and expanded in recent years with devastating consequences.

Indeed, over the past five years, white supremacy has experienced a resurgence. Let me make clear: this is not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem. It is a national problem, and I am heartened to see this Committee coming together to tackle it.

Why is this threat on the rise? We believe that fueling this movement have been two catalysts. The first have been leaders who have repeated their rhetoric, coopted their conspiracies, and knowingly or not have given extremists the green light. The second has been social media. No longer do you have decamp to a clandestine meeting in the woods. Now you can find hate with just a few clicks anywhere online.

And, as we know, online hate can explode into real world violence. We saw this at the massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 and at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, and in incidents big and small these past few years. In fact, white supremacists have killed more than any other type of domestic extremist, accounting for 58 percent of all domestic extremist-related murders in the past 10 years. A report on this we just released yesterday also found that extremist activity overall is on the rise in the past year with more than 5000 incidents of white supremacist propaganda distributed in 2020.

And frighteningly, as we saw on January 6th, more and more ordinary people are being radicalized and spurred to action… weaponized against this very Congress and the Republic itself.

For decades, our Center on Extremism has been actively monitoring extremists and hate groups of all stripes and, in recent months, we have tracked this new mutant strain of extremists lashing out at elected officials in the wake of last November’s election. So for us, what happened at the U.S. Capitol was in some ways the most predictable terror attack in American history. At ADL, we were shocked by the violence but unfortunately not surprised.

And just as the insurrection did not materialize out of nowhere, so too has the threat not dissipated in its aftermath.

It is time, at long last, for action. It is time for, not just a whole-of-government approach, but a whole-of-society strategy to combating domestic extremism. 

With that in mind, ADL respectfully presents to you the bipartisan PROTECT framework — a comprehensive, seven-part plan to mitigate the threat posed by domestic extremism and domestic terrorism while staying true to American freedoms and values. The details are in the written testimony, but the highlights include:

  • Passing the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act.
  • Coordinating across government agencies, and being transparent about the extent of the problem.
  • Ensuring that extremists cannot serve in the military, law enforcement, or government.
  • Making social media platforms more accountable for facilitating extremism.
  • Funding efforts that help prevent people from radicalizing.
  • And targeting foreign white supremacist terrorist groups as, make no mistake, this is a trans-national threat.

And here’s what makes this plan different from others: instead of a singular charging law, it’s a multi-pronged approach to a very complex problem. Moreover, many of the authorities are already available.

Members of the committee, we can accomplish our goals while protecting vulnerable communities, while using existing authorities, and together, these actions should have a significant impact on preventing and countering domestic terrorism.

Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.