WASHINGTON -- The killing of nine members of a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white supremacist was "clearly an act of terrorism" that should serve as a "wake-up call" to the American public about the domestic terror threat, former Attorney General Eric Holder told The Huffington Post on Tuesday.
Holder said that based on what we know about 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who allegedly confessed to shooting and killing the members during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, the incident should be considered terrorism.
"We have a young man who apparently becomes radicalized as the result of an incident and becomes more radicalized as a result of what he sees on the Internet, through the use of his computer, then goes and does something, that by his own words apparently is a political/violent act," Holder said. "With a different set of circumstances, and if you had dialed in religion there, Islam, that would be called an act of terror. It seems to me that, again on the basis of the information that has been released, that's what we have here. An act of terror."
Roof has already been charged with nine counts of murder by authorities in South Carolina, and federal authorities are also investigating. Federal prosecutors could bring hate crimes charges, as South Carolina is one of the few states that doesn't have such laws on the books, and are also treating the shooting as a potential "act of domestic terrorism."
Holder, who stepped down earlier this year after the confirmation of Attorney General Loretta Lynch and this week joined the law firm of Covington & Burling, said that domestic terrorism was one of his "primary concerns" as the nation's top law enforcement official.
Holder said he was always worried about a "self-radicalized lone wolf with access to guns" doing something horrific, and said law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were "very sensitive to the domestic threat that we have to confront," and took actions that "people are not generally aware of."
He said the American public, however, wasn't as willing to consider the threat of homegrown extremists, who have killed more people than jihadists within the U.S. since Sept. 11.
"I think as a nation, we as a people have not focused on the domestic threat. We have thought that the threat is from without, and that the threat to the extent that it exists within the nation is only based on ideologies that come from outside of the United States," Holder said.
"I think that the Charleston incident is a wake-up call," Holder continued. "It is a wake-up call for the American people to understand that the hate that has bedeviled this nation almost since its inception continues to be an active and negative force."