- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 4, 2016

The U.S. Department of Justice is considering legal changes to combat what it says is a rising threat from domestic anti-government extremists in addition to the growing threat from Islamic extremists in the country.

John Carlin, the Justice Department’s chief of national security, told Reuters that these so-called “patriot” extremist groups present a “clear and present danger.”

“Based on recent reports and the cases we are seeing, it seems like we’re in a heightened environment,” he added.

In recent months, the Justice Department has brought charges against domestic extremists accused of attempting to bomb U.S. military bases, kill police officers and fire bomb a school and other buildings in a predominantly Muslim town in New York state.

Federal authorities last week engaged in a shootout with militants who had been occupying a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. The standoff led to the death of one of the militants who had been squatting in the refuge for a month to protest federal land grabs.

This week a self-proclaimed member of the “U.S. Patriot Army” was arrested in Florida after police found shrapnel-filled pipe bombs and other weapons in his home.

But federal prosecutors say there is a significant legal tool they have used extensively to prosecute Islamic State-inspired terrorist suspects, but they have thus far been unable to use against domestic extremists: a law that prohibits people from supporting designated terrorist groups.

Over the past two years, 27 people have been charged with plotting or inciting Islamic State-inspired attacks within the United States. Over the same period, 27 adherents of U.S.-based anti-government ideologies have also been charged with similar crimes, but their average prison sentences are much shorter.

Now Mr. Carlin said his counter-terrorism team is taking a “thoughtful look at the nature and scope of the domestic terrorism threat,” Reuters reported. He added that his team would help to analyze “potential legal improvements and enhancements to better combat those threats.”

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