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June 09, 2021

King: ‘The Bright Line is Violence” When Confronting Rise of Domestic Terror

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today questioned Christine Abizaid, nominee to serve as Director of National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), on the danger of domestic violent extremism and the NCTC’s role in confronting violence stemming from this demonstrated threat. The exchange occurred during an open hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. During his questioning, Senator King highlighted the “bright line” of violence – not ideological beliefs – when it comes to NCTC’s role, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security in the lead, in preventing attacks by domestic violent extremists. 

SENATOR KING: “Ms. Abiziad, I think we’re making this question about domestic violent extremism more complicated than it needs to be. The keyword is violent. Terrorism – and I just looked it up – is the unlawful use of violence or intimidation, especially against civilians especially in pursuit of political aims. If there was an ISIS cell in Pensacola and information came to you that they were plotting to kidnap and assassinate the Governor of Florida, would that not be squarely in your lane of information sharing between the your agency and the FBI, for example?”

Ms. ABIZIAD: “It absolutely would.”

SENATOR KING: “So if that organization in Pensacola was the ‘Aryan Americans for the White Race’ plotting to kidnap the Governor of Florida and assassinate him, would that not be squarely within your jurisdiction that you would then work with the FBI to thwart that violence against the governor?”

Ms. ABIZIAD: “If we had that information, we absolutely would work with the FBI and the FBI, I imagine would take the lead in thwarting that. Absolutely.”

SENATOR KING: “I think, there’s been a lot of talks about bright lines and the bright line is violence. No one’s talking about snooping on Americans for their political beliefs or what, how they feel about various provisions of the Constitution…I would urge you that, this question keeps coming up and there’s unease about, I understand, we don’t want to be in business of spying on Americans, but we also have to protect ourselves, just as we protect ourselves against criminal enterprises that are conspiring to rob a bank or blow up a bridge or whatever the purpose is. So I appreciate your appearance here today, but to me the key phrase is domestic violent extremist. It’s not domestic extremists.”

Earlier in today’s hearing, Senator King laid out his grave concern regarding the need to prevent nuclear weapons from ever falling into the hands of non-state actors or terror organizations. Additionally, Senator King emphasized the importance of mitigating threats in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region after President Biden’s deadline for troop withdrawal in September. Today’s hearing also considered the nomination of Robin Ashton to be Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces – which oversees the United States’ nuclear posture worldwide – and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator King is recognized as a thoughtful voice on national security and foreign policy issues in the Senate. In addition to his committee work, Senator King serves on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the Senate North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Observer Group, and is co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. He voted in favor of the Senate’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, which includes several funding and policy priorities advocated for by Senator King to support military facilities and communities in Maine and advance the national defense. The legislation – containing 25 bipartisan cybersecurity recommendations from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission – became law earlier this year after Senator King and the overwhelming majority of his colleagues voted to override former President Trump’s veto.

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