Attorney General Eric Holder released a video message today to announce a new pilot program intended to “bring together community representatives, public safety officials, religious leaders, and United States Attorneys to improve local engagement, to counter violent extremism and – ultimately – to build a broad network of community partnerships to keep our nation safe.”
The program “in cities across the nation” will be a cooperative effort between the Department of Justice, the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center.
Holder said last week’s 9/11 anniversary was “a solemn reminder of our most important obligation: to ensure America’s national security and protect the American people from a range of evolving threats.”
“Today, few threats are more urgent than the threat posed by violent extremism. And with the emergence of groups like ISIL, and the knowledge that some Americans are attempting to travel to countries like Syria and Iraq to take part in ongoing conflicts, the Justice Department is responding appropriately,” he said.
“Through law enforcement agencies like the FBI, American authorities are working with our international partners and Interpol to disseminate information on foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, including individuals who have traveled from the United States. We have established processes for detecting American extremists who attempt to join terror groups abroad. And we have engaged in extensive outreach to communities here in the U.S. – so we can work with them to identify threats before they emerge, to disrupt homegrown terrorists, and to apprehend would-be violent extremists. But we can – and we must – do even more.”
Members of Congress have relayed the estimated number of Americans fighting for ISIS as between 100 and 200, acknowledging that there’s still much we don’t know.
Holder said the new program is intended to “work closely with community representatives to develop comprehensive local strategies, to raise awareness about important issues, to share information on best practices, and to expand and improve training in every area of the country.”
He added that since 2012 U.S. Attorneys have attended “more than 1,700 engagement-related events or meetings to enhance trust and facilitate communication in their neighborhoods and districts.”
“This innovative new pilot initiative will build on that important work. And the White House will be hosting a Countering Violent Extremism summit in October to highlight these and other domestic and international efforts. Ultimately, the pilot programs will enable us to develop more effective – and more inclusive – ways to help build the more just, secure, and free society that all Americans deserve,” Holder continued.
“As we move forward together, our work must continue to be guided by the core democratic values – and the ideals of freedom, openness, and inclusion – that have always set this nation apart on the world stage. We must be both innovative and aggressive in countering violent extremism and combating those who would sow intolerance, division, and hate – not just within our borders, but with our international partners on a global scale. And we must never lose sight of what violent extremists fear the most: the strength of our communities; our unwavering respect for equality, civil rights, and civil liberties; and our enduring commitment to justice, democracy, and the rule of law.”
The State Department got into the PR war to discourage Americans from joining with a “Welcome to the ‘Islamic State’ Land” video.