Oregon Secretary of State Report Urges Redoubled Efforts to Counter Domestic Extremism

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A report released Wednesday by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office revealed gaps in the state’s attempts to combat domestic extremism and suggested five areas lawmakers should focus on to better counter the growing threat.

The advisory report, titled “Oregon Can Do More to Mitigate the Alarming Risk of Domestic Terrorism and Violent Extremist Attacks,” says the state should focus on new laws and other governance solutions. state, raise public awareness, address threats within government, secure vital infrastructure, and take full advantage of state grants designed to help prevent and respond to catastrophic events.

“Oregon continues to have a high number of incidents of domestic violent extremism disproportionate to the state’s population,” the report said. “It is paramount that the state be as well placed as possible to prevent and counter acts of violent extremism and domestic terrorism.”

According to the report, Oregon has the highest rate of domestic extremism in the country and it cites examples dating back to the 1984 Rajneeshpuram salmonella attack in the Dalles, which sickened 751 people and hospitalized 45 people. . More recently, the report said a nationwide increase in domestic extremism in 2020 was also seen in Oregon. In Portland, months of civil rights protests grew tense after federal law enforcement and “opposition groups” became involved, according to the state report.

“This tension culminated in an act of domestic violent extremism when a member of the far-right group was shot dead; a member of the far-left group was charged with his murder but was shot days later by law enforcement officials,” the report reads, referring to the 2020 murder of Aaron Danielson by Michael Reinoehl. at a protest in Portland. “By the FBI’s definition, this felony act of homicide was an act of domestic violent extremism and served to harm the far-right community and further inflame tensions.”

The Proud Boys and anti-fascist counter-protesters clash in the Parkrose neighborhood of northeast Portland on August 22, 2021 in Portland, Oregon.

Jonathan Levinson/OPB

Oregon is one of 16 states that lacks a law defining and prohibiting domestic terrorism and violent extremism. While these charges are usually brought by the federal government, Wednesday’s report suggests looking to Georgia and Vermont for examples of state laws that would be helpful in cases where federal laws don’t apply. or cannot be met.

Georgia state law defines and criminalizes domestic terrorism, including actions directed against persons or infrastructure. In Vermont, state law also criminalizes “any act” taking a substantial step “to commit domestic terrorism,” the report said.

The report defines domestic terrorism as “an act of unlawful violence that is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive to critical infrastructure or key resources” and committed only by a person or group of people in the United States.

A domestic extremist is defined as “an individual based and operating primarily in the United States without the direction or inspiration of a foreign organization who seeks to further political or social objectives in whole or in part through unlawful acts of force or violence” .

The report also calls on the Oregon Homeland Security Council to establish a strategy with measurable results to counter violent extremism.

“Today’s report underscores the critical nature of the work we still have not completed,” said Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth, who serves on the state Homeland Security Council. “We need to focus more on strengthening our statewide security posture: against cyberattacks and physical attacks on our people and our place.”

Digital literacy education and public awareness campaigns can help people recognize and be less susceptible to misinformation, the report says.

FILE: Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan in November 2020.

FILE: Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan in November 2020.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff/OPB

“As per recommendations from the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, organizations should also strive to foster a reporting culture, train staff on how to report issues, and provide an accessible reporting mechanism,” said the authors of the report. “By strengthening reporting mechanisms, organizations can better position themselves to detect and mitigate the risk of potential insider threats.”

Calls for new laws or new state tools to combat domestic terrorism are often sharply criticized by civil rights groups who say there is no shortage of tools available to deal with acts of violence. Instead, critics say, law enforcement has historically used anti-terrorism laws to go after political rivals or persecute already marginalized groups.

Wednesday’s report highlights the value of working with the Terrorism Intelligence and Threat Assessment Network (TITAN) Fusion Center and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, two groups that coordinate counterterrorism activities between local, state and federal authorities. These groups, however, have long been criticized for violating civil liberties under the guise of national security.

In December, tribal members, conservationists and community organizers filed a lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Justice over an allegedly illegal spying operation conducted by the TITAN fusion center in the United States. state and directed at people who protested a proposed natural gas export facility in southern Oregon.

The Portland City Council chose to withdraw from the Joint Terrorism Task Force in 2019, under pressure from allegations of poor civilian oversight and the fact that the many JTTFs across the country have been implicated in spying on the Muslims or used to shroud the actions of local police in secrecy.

“The rise of domestic terrorism is an immediate threat to the people of Oregon, and we can’t just wait for the next incident to happen,” Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said in a news release. “We can and must take immediate action to prevent those at risk from becoming radicalized and violent.

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