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Dallas FBI boss: Domestic terrorism has evolved and is a major threat in North Texas



TX – The head of the Dallas FBI office said Friday that the nature of domestic terrorism is evolving — from fringe to mainstream — and that it remains for him a top concern, particularly since his division has made more than a dozen arrests related to the January attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI office, called the Jan. 6 uprising and siege of the U.S. Capitol a terrorist attack. But he also said during a news briefing Friday that lone actors radicalized at home and driven to commit violence by certain ideologies concern him the most.

That’s because they have been responsible for most of the deadliest attacks in recent history, he said.

The FBI chief said his division, which covers a wide swath of northern Texas, has made 17 arrests so far related to the storming of the Capitol. He called that one of the highest arrest tallies in the nation for the Washington, D.C., uprising, if not the highest. Authorities have charged more than 300 people in connection with the siege so far across the U.S.

DeSarno said he expects that his office will make more arrests related to the Jan. 6 attack in the coming weeks. The storming of the Capitol, while not a typical domestic attack, was nonetheless “heartbreaking” and “gut wrenching” to watch given the significance of the target, DeSarno said.

The people arrested so far in North Texas for the incident come from a wide range of backgrounds, including “the mainstream of society,” he said. Among the locals charged with myriad offenses, including trespassing on Capitol grounds, are real estate agents, web designers, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and an actor.

“Many are not fringe types,” DeSarno said.

That, he pointed out, runs counter to the profile of domestic extremists of the past, like the early militia groups and those involved in the Waco and Ruby Ridge standoffs. And that, he added, makes it more of a challenge for law enforcement.

DeSarno also provided new details about Brian Clyde, a local extremist who attacked the federal courthouse in downtown Dallas in June 2019. Clyde opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle at the Earle Cabell Federal Building. He was fatally shot by federal law enforcement outside the courthouse, and no one else was seriously injured.

DeSarno said Clyde had mentioned the Boogaloo Boys, an antigovernment extremist movement whose adherents seek a civil war and whose existence only became widely known last year. But Clyde doesn’t appear to have had any ties to known militant groups, he said.

Many of the antigovernment issues Clyde complained about are similar to “what we’re hearing and seeing now,” DeSarno said.

Today’s domestic terrorists, he said, include extremists on both the political right and left, who are often united under a single goal of trying to take down the government and its institutions.

DeSarno said an “element of anarchy” runs through all of the extremist movements, whose adherents have singled out targets in both the government and the media.

“There’s not a whole lot of difference there,” he said.

Antigovernment extremists have expressed a “salad bowl of grievances,” DeSarno said. The FBI relies heavily on tips to help them stop such people, he said. That’s due in part to the fact that many extremists have moved off social media and are now communicating via encrypted apps that law enforcement has difficulty getting access to, even with warrants, he said.

Also, the FBI can’t just track members of certain groups because there are no illegal domestic terrorist organizations in the U.S., and because citizens have a right to associate, DeSarno said.

“It’s not illegal to have an ideology,” he said.

DeSarno said he’s most concerned about the person he is not aware of and not tracking who intends on committing a mass shooting.

The FBI chief said people should report to law enforcement troublesome rhetoric they see in their “online circles.” He called it the “see something, say something of 2021.”