Amid reports that it "disbanded" the unit that was focused on domestic terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is admitted Tuesday that it has "restructured" the team that once fed information about domestic terrorism and white supremacist groups to local police departments.
DHS is now acknowledging changes in its intelligence gathering, as some former department officials tell CBS News that the unit at issue wasn't disbanded but "gutted" at the worst time – just as threats from domestic terrorists and white supremacist groups increased.
Late last month, in response to a CBS News report on the issue, DHS would not address questions about whether the unit had been "gutted." However, the department did insist that it "is committed to combating all forms of violent extremism, especially movements that espouse racial supremacy or bigotry."
On Tuesday, the department was forced to address the issue again after The Daily Beast reported that DHS had disbanded its domestic terror intelligence unit. DHS now says the unit was restructured last year, but its top intelligence official disputes accusations that DHS has decreased its domestic terrorism-related intelligence gathering.
"The Office of Intelligence and Analysis has significantly increased (up 40-percent) tactical intelligence reporting on domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists wanting to commit violent acts against persons or property," Under Secretary David Glawe told CBS News. "Violent extremism to the homeland with triggers such as radical ideology white supremacy is an absolute top priority."
Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Islamist militants and those they inspire are the primary terrorist threat to the United States. But she added: "We should not—and cannot—ignore the real and serious danger posed by domestic terrorists."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a statement Tuesday saying that DHS' action "defies logic." Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL's CEO and national director, also accused the Trump Administration of "chipping away at our nation's ability to address a deadly serious national security threat: right-wing extremism."
According to the ADL, in 2018 alone, domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the U.S., the fourth deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970.