You are hereHuffington Post: Obama Administration Holding Terrorism Summit With Police Chiefs

Huffington Post: Obama Administration Holding Terrorism Summit With Police Chiefs

-By Eileen Sullivan

January 18, 2012- WASHINGTON — State and local law enforcement officials convened at the White House on Wednesday for a daylong discussion about how police can maintain the trust of their communities while identifying and preventing violent extremism and homegrown terrorism – an effort the administration considers critical to national security.

It's a delicate balance, as the violent extremism that has erupted across the U.S. in the past few years has been motivated by an ideology, whether a violent interpretation of Islam or white supremacist beliefs. Ideologies in and of themselves are not illegal. But police now find themselves struggling with identifying the ideologues who plan to commit violence among the many others who hold similar beliefs but have no intention of hurting anyone.

"Where do you draw the line between what they say and what they do," Cambridge, Mass., Police Commissioner Robert Haas said in an interview during a break. Police can't be seen as violating the trust they've built in local communities to ferret out information that potentially could prevent an attack, he said. Haas was one of the 46 senior federal, state and local law enforcement officials who participated in the event that was closed to the public.

The conference marked the first time the Obama administration hosted a meeting with so many of the nation's top law enforcement executives on how to counter violent extremism.

"The important role of local law enforcement is a key part of the administration's approach to countering violent extremism in the homeland," President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said. "Law enforcement officials work with communities every day and understand how to build partnerships to address this tough challenge."

There has been an uptick in attempted attacks by Americans and other legal U.S. residents in the past few years, prompting the Obama administration to place a priority on finding ways to stop this type of violence. The administration rolled out a thin strategy last year that put local communities – not Washington – in charge of countering violent extremism in the U.S.

Analysts from the FBI, Homeland Security Department and National Counterterrorism Center studied 62 cases of homegrown violent extremists and identified basic similarities that might help local law enforcement better understand and detect threats. The warning signs identified for police include someone joining a group advocating violence, receiving support from a network that plans attacks or seeking out charismatic leaders who encourage violence. An overview of the findings was shared with the AP.

In the 62 cases reviewed, the subjects increasingly spoke out against the government, blamed the government for perceived problems and did so in a way that caught the attention of other people in their communities, according to the senior counterterrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private White House event. Subjects became active on the Internet to espouse extremist views. And in some cases, the subjects purchased weapons, ammunition or explosive materials.

Analysts also found that a person's origin, ethnic background and socioeconomic status are not good indicators for potential violent extremist activity, the senior counterterrorism official said.



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