U.S. Capitol Attack Is Reshaping The Federal Counterterrorism Budget

The Biden administration has requested millions of dollars in new funds for the FBI and Justice Department in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Five months after supporters of former President Donald Trump launched a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol to stop the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory, the Jan. 6 attack is poised to reshape the federal government’s counterterrorism budget.

Saturday marks 150 days since the Jan. 6 insurrection. About 465 suspects have been arrested in nearly all 50 states. Hundreds more arrests are in the works. As of Friday, there were more than 300 people pictured on the FBI’s Capitol attack website who have not yet been arrested, bringing the publicly known universe of current and future Capitol defendants to nearly 800. The FBI told Congress this week in a budget request that “approximately 2000 individuals are believed to have been involved with the siege” on the Capitol. 

The Biden administration has requested more than $100 million in new annual Justice Department spending to address what Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco described as “emerging domestic terrorism threats.” The total requested Justice Department annual budget for both international and domestic terrorism comes out to over $1.6 billion.

The Biden administration, in a series of budget requests to Congress, laid out a portrait of a Justice Department that is struggling to keep up with the influx of domestic terrorism. 

The Department of Justice wants $40 million more in funds for 100 new positions in federal prosecutors’ offices, including 60 new attorneys, to “modernize” case management systems and “address the increase in [domestic terrorism-related] prosecutions.” 

The FBI wants $45 million in new funds for domestic terrorism operations, including more than 80 new special agents and nearly 100 new FBI positions to help “detect and disrupt domestic terrorism (DT) threats nationwide.”

The U.S. Marshals Service wants a $12.2 million boost to fund its Special Operations Group, which it expects to assist with “actions against anti-government and militia groups” and sovereign citizens, as well as to create a “rapidly deployable and efficient tactical resource to be used as DOJ’s ‘Incident/Emergency Response’ unit” that could respond “quickly to any mission assigned in the National Capitol Region.”

And the Justice Department’s research branch wants $4 million in new funding for research that “builds knowledge and evidence related to strategies for effective prevention of domestic terrorism and intervention addressing individuals who appear to be on the path toward involvement in terrorism or violent extremism.”

The $100 million annual boost doesn’t even include the boosts sought by the the Department of Homeland Security ― the mishmash of bureaucracies tossed together in the wake of 9/11 that has suffered poor morale and an undefined mission ― which also seeks a budget increase to deal with threats after the Capitol attack.

Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, said that Jan. 6 accelerated the course that the Biden administration was likely to pursue once the president took office.

“It opened up a window within departments and agencies to take a hard look at efforts for the last decade and see what needed to be changed,” Hughes said. “It also allowed the White House to push urgency on a process that normally takes years to steer the counterterrorism apparatus in a new direction.”

Domestic counterterrorism initiatives, Hughes said, are “getting an influx of funding the likes of which hasn’t been seen before,” and it will be key to keep an eye on both the effectiveness and focus of those initiatives.

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A noose hangs from a makeshift gallows on the west side of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

In a funding request for U.S. attorneys ― the 94 federal prosecutors’ offices spread throughout the country ― the Justice Department said more money was needed to prosecute an increased number of domestic terrorism cases, including those from the U.S. Capitol riot.

“Funding is needed to provide the [U.S. attorney’s offices] with additional prosecutors and support personnel to respond to the increase in [domestic terrorism-related] federal prosecutions, litigation, and other court proceedings arising from cases associated with mass shootings, terrorism, threats, and potential violence or related violence, such as those DT cases stemming from the breach of the United States Capitol,” DOJ officials wrote.

The Capitol attack, officials wrote, “has resulted in hundreds of cases charging defendants from around the nation with a broad range of offenses from basic violations such as unlawful entry to more complex charges such as conspiracy.” The number of cases, along with the “deluge of electronically stored information” from the event “continues to rise beyond current capabilities,” and federal prosecutors must be ready to respond as “future [domestic terrorism] cases are anticipated.”

The FBI’s request includes $1.8 million in new funding for data collection and $4.4 million for operational expenses. The bureau said it wants “more extensive surveillance coverage” for domestic terrorism suspects with “a high propensity for imminent violence.”

The FBI said that “nearly all field offices have an active investigation stemming from this [domestic terrorism] event.” An increase in funding and personnel “is crucial to the success of the FBI to provide appropriate oversight in these investigations to ensure consistency, compliance, and appropriate use of resources.” 

“Every FBI field office has been impacted by this singular incident and has had to divert resources from other programs to effectively address increased case load,” the FBI said. It also pointed to other examples of domestic terrorists “utilizing civil unrest and riots over the last year” in “Minneapolis, MN; Portland, OR; Kenosha, WI; Louisville, KY and various other U.S. cities in 2020 and 2021.” The bureau also pointed to domestic terrorism shootings throughout the country and said their analysis “has revealed new trends such as [domestic terrorists] traveling overseas, increased [domestic terrorist] prevalence in the military, and an increase in involuntary celibate actors.”

New FBI positions “will enhance the FBI’s ability to effectively manage and combat domestic terrorism threats, including investigations, targeting, threat analysis, and source reporting,” the FBI said.

The FBI’s National Threat Operations Center, which takes in and processes tips from the public, is also seeking a boost. NTOC, the request states, “witnessed nine out of the top ten record breaking days for tips/calls in the Center’s history” in the wake of the Capitol attack as members of the public flooded the FBI with hundreds of thousands of tips. NTOC implemented mandatory overtime and “surged” resources, but the number of tips were still overwhelming.

“The volume of calls and E-Tips exceeds NTOC’s capacity to properly respond to each submission,” FBI officials wrote. “The inability to properly address each submission results in long wait times and contribute to a 28 percent abandoned call rate. Abandoned calls that go unanswered, or delays in processing of E-Tips could result in [threats to life] and information loss.” 

The FBI’s budget request offered a sobering reminder: New attacks are nearly inevitable this year because of the lies about a stolen election that continue to be spread by Trump and his supporters.

“Newer sociopolitical developments ― such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the US Capitol, conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and conspiracy theories promoting violence ― will almost certainly spur some domestic terrorists to try to engage in violence this year,” officials wrote.

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