George Selim's Testimony before the House Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy Regarding the Financing of Domestic Terrorism

Remarks by George Selim, Senior Vice President for Programs, ADL

January 15, 2020

Washington, D.C., January 15, 2020

Chairman Cleaver, Ranking Member Hill, members of the subcommittee – good morning.  My name is George Selim, I serve as Senior Vice President for Programs at the ADL.

For decades, ADL has fought against anti-Semitism and bigotry in all forms by exposing extremist groups and individuals who spread hate and incite violence. Today, ADL is the foremost non-governmental authority on domestic terrorism, extremism, hate groups, and hate crimes.  ADL sits at the nexus of helping secure our communities from hate and extremism, protecting civil liberties, and advocating for change.  I have served in several roles in the government’s national security apparatus. Today, I oversee efforts to investigate and expose extremism from across the ideological spectrum. 

The threat of domestic extremism in the United States is severe and urgent. In 2018, domestic extremists killed at least 50 people, a sharp increase from the 37 murders documented in 2017.  Recently, tragedies have struck in the form of attacks against Jewish worshippers inside a synagogue in Pittsburgh and against the Latinx community at a Walmart in El Paso.

We all must come together to comprehensively develop new approaches to keep our communities safe.  While the financing of domestic terrorism organizations is much smaller than international terrorism – with fluid organizations using inexpensive methods – cutting off their resources should nevertheless be a significant priority.   

Domestic extremists such as white supremacists may use funding for organizational operations, attacks, or for more indirect threats, such as the propaganda that can motivate others to violence.  Domestic extremists typically fund their operations through:

  1. Self-funding using their own finances;
  2. A variety of criminal activities;
  3. Bartering and in-kind relationships among each other; and
  4. Methods of organizational support such as –
    1. Direct contributions,
    2. Crowdfunding,
    3. Advertisements for their hateful content,
    4. Proceeds from selling their merchandise, and
    5. Innovative and anonymized transfers such as cryptocurrency exchange.

We urge companies to independently act to prevent extremists from using their services to bring harm to our communities.  Research supported by Congress can help companies determine the best way to address the challenge.  Some of the promising practices for the financial industry include:

  1. Crafting effective terms of service;
  2. Improving reporting mechanisms;
  3. Maximizing transparency;
  4. Ensuring proper safety team training;
  5. Collaborating across industry and with civil society; and
  6. Putting appropriate limitations on actions to protect civil liberties and prevent discrimination. 

We look to you to use your authority to support cutting off financial flows to mitigate extremist threats.  We ask you to support research on the threat of domestic terrorist financing and what works to counter it. 

The FBI and the Department of Justice should prioritize their efforts and transparently share their view of the threat of domestic terrorist financing, and domestic terrorism, generally.

There are a range of steps Congress can take to help counter domestic terrorism threats, some of which are ready for your immediate action.

First and foremost, we implore you to use every opportunity to speak out against all forms of hate.

Second, we need the Executive Branch to be held to a higher standard of transparency on domestic terrorism issues, and further examine options under current law such as whether overseas violent white supremacist groups meet the criteria to be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

Third, we urge Congress to:

  • pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act,
  • pass the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, and
  • increase funding for the Non-profit Security Grants Program and the DHS Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention.

And finally, in light of the lack of a prosecutable domestic terrorism charge, Congress should examine whether a rights-protecting domestic terrorism criminal charge is necessary or feasible.

Government cannot address today’s threats alone.  We need a whole-of-society approach to these challenges. Civil society organizations like ours can play roles as experts, conveners, and advocates for hope over hate. And financial services firms, tech companies, and other members of the private sector should be urged to improve how they address harmful content on their platforms. 

Thank you for holding this important hearing.  I look forward to your questions.