An image of the Department of Justice sign during a press conference with Australian Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews and Attorney General Merrick Garland on December 15, 2021. The Justice Department announced Tuesday it is created a domestic terrorism task force. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
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Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The Justice Department will create a domestic terrorism task force to specialize in investigations of homegrown violent extremism, a top official said Tuesday.
Matthew Olsen, who leads the Justice Department's National Security Division, told the Senate Judiciary Committee the move is being made because of the sharp rise of domestic crimes tied to political goals.
The announcement comes days after the anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by supporters of former President Donald Trump. So far, more than 700 people have been arrested in connection with that riot.
"We face an elevated threat from domestic violent extremists; individuals in the United States who seek to commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of domestic social or political goals," Olsen told the committee, according to The Washington Post.
"This group of dedicated attorneys will focus on the domestic terrorism threat, helping to ensure that these cases are handled properly and effectively coordinated across the Department of Justice and across the country."
He said the task force would augment the work already being done by the department's counterterrorism attorneys, who work both domestic and international cases.
In an opening statement filed with the committee, Olsen and Jill Sanborn, executive assistant director of the National Security Branch of the FBI, said domestic terrorism cases present unique complexities with free speech rights and other issues.
"Domestic violent extremists are often motivated by a mix of socio-political, ideological and personal grievances, and have focused on readily accessible targets to include houses of worship, retail establishments, and mass public gatherings," Olsen and Sanborn said in the statement.
"The vulnerability of these targets, the insular nature of the process by which these individuals radicalize and mobilize to violence, and the limited communications they typically have with others regarding their plans pose significant challenges to law enforcement in its efforts to detect and disrupt these plots before they are carried out."