Homeland Security

Rosenstein Warns of 'Violent Domestic Extremists' as People 'Less Inclined to Join Losing' ISIS

Image via Shutterstock, a black pastor smiling with his family.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told an anti-terrorism conference Thursday that trying “to collect all available information and generate actionable intelligence to disrupt terrorists before they strike” is kind of like playing Space Invaders.

“Rows of alien ships move across the television screen and drop bombs. They get closer to the ground each time they hit the side of the screen. You are at the bottom with a gun, firing upward. You can move left and right as you shoot. You need to dodge the alien missiles,” Rosenstein said of the 1970s video game. “The first few times you play, you race back and forth across the screen, dodging missiles and shooting wildly.”

“After you play for a while, you may start to notice a pattern. If you move smoothly across the screen, you can kill all the aliens without getting hit. It requires you to step back and analyze the situation. You need to use the available intelligence to develop a strategy. That is the challenge we face.”

The nation’s No. 2 cop told the Utah National Security and Anti-Terrorism Conference in Salt Lake City that “our enemies do not fight fair” and terrorists “are cowards who target unsuspecting people going about their lives – watching a soccer game, dancing at a nightclub, traveling to work, walking down a street.”

Still, “the number of Americans trying to travel to join the Islamic State has dropped significantly.”

“Two years ago, it was six to ten per month. Now, it is often one or none. A great deal of the credit for that decrease belongs to our military, which has fought ISIS and other Islamic extremists on the battlefield. People are less inclined to join a losing cause,” Rosenstein said, adding that the FBI has ongoing terror investigations in all 50 states.

“Some people who would have left America now pose a danger here instead,” he warned. “Some foreign fighters have left ISIS territory to find new battlefields and new targets. Others have returned to their home countries. Returning foreign fighters can present significant security risks because of their ideology, combat training, and connections to terrorist networks.”

The deputy attorney general also warned of “violent domestic extremists” who have “plotted attacks on government buildings, businesses, and houses of worship.”

“They have planned and carried out assassinations of police officers, judges, doctors and civil rights leaders. They have acquired biological and chemical weapons, illegal firearms, and explosives. They have carried out killing sprees that terrorize local communities,” he continued. “Violent domestic extremists pose a particular danger to law enforcement officers – not just because you go into dangerous situations, but because some extremist groups target the police. In June 2014, two Las Vegas police officers were killed during an ambush attack while eating lunch. The killers then murdered another innocent victim. During the attacks, they declared the beginning of a so-called revolution.”

The assailants in that case, Jerad and Amanda Miller, were right-wing extremists who left a Gadsden flag and swastika on the officers’ bodies, along with a note vowing “this is the beginning of the revolution.”

Rosenstein also cited the case last year in which militia members Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein were charged in a plot to bomb a Garden City, Kansas, apartment complex housing Somali immigrants and a small mosque. He also mentioned Dylann Roof’s 2015 attack on an African-American church in Charleston, S.C.

“In Charlottesville this month, we saw and heard people openly advocate racism and bigotry. Our Department of Justice responded immediately. We are working closely with local authorities on potential criminal civil rights prosecutions,” he said. “The First Amendment often protects hateful speech that is abhorrent to American values. But there can be no safe harbor for violence.”