In the wake of pro-Trump demonstrators entering the US Capitol Building, Joe Biden made it clear that he views the incident as “terrorism” in comments on Thursday.
“Don’t dare call them protesters,” he said from Wilmington, Deleware. “They were a riotous mob. Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple.”
As The Wall Street Journal reported in November, Biden has said he plans to make a priority of passing a law against domestic terrorism. The Capitol incident will likely speed up the process of crafting domestic terror-related legislation that could have grave implications for the civil liberties of Americans.
Biden’s transition team is also reportedly considering new “Red Flag” laws that would give law enforcement more authority to confiscate firearms.
Biden voted for the 2001 Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the federal government’s surveillance capabilities. He has said the Patriot Act was modeled on a terrorism bill he wrote after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, that was never signed into law.
“I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing,” he was quoted as saying by the New Republic in 2001. “And the bill John Ashcroft sent up was my bill,” he said, referring to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.
In a 2002 Senate hearing on FBI counterterrorism efforts, Biden again took credit for creating the Patriot Act. “Civil libertarians were opposed to it,” he said. “Right after 1994, and you can ask the attorney general this, because I got a call when he introduced the Patriot Act. He said, ‘Joe, I’m introducing the act basically as you wrote it in 1994. [sic]'”
Democrats in Congress are also calling to prioritize domestic terrorism. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official, made her priorities clear in an interview with MSNBC.
“The post 9/11 era is over. We are in a new era. We had a generational event with the infiltration of the Capitol,” Slotkin said. “The single greatest national security threat right now is our internal division. It’s the threat of domestic terrorism.”
While nothing has been signed into law, legislation addressing domestic terrorism has been introduced in Congress. In 2019, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act was introduced in the Senate. The bill called for the creation of domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI. A similar bill was introduced in the House in 2020.