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Wave of shooting threats renews debate over how to combat domestic terrorism

How authorities are tackling domestic threats
We need to tackle domestic terrorism like we do foreign threats, expert says 03:41

There's been a wave of arrests of people who police said threatened to carry out mass shootings after this month's massacres in Dayton and El Paso, renewing the debate over how to best combat domestic terrorism threats. CBS News senior national security analyst Fran Townsend said on "CBS This Morning" Wednesday that the U.S. needs to start employing the strategies used to fight terrorism abroad here at home.

"It is an epidemic. There is no question there's a rise in anti-Semitism, racism," Townsend said. "What we need to understand is many of the lessons learned about fighting international terrorism apply here domestically."

But applying those same tactics isn't that simple. International agencies have a different set of resources to work with than domestic law enforcement, primarily in terms of surveillance and subpoena capability, according to Townsend.

"No question ... that we had all these authorities when we were fighting international terrorism, that we thought, 'Well, do we really want to apply those here in the United States?' I think there are privacy and civil liberties concerns. There are First Amendment concerns. I think we've got to get over that, and I think we have to understand that there's a balance, but we've got to give law enforcement both the resources and the authorities they need."

Authorities believe people are becoming less hesitant to report concerning behavior, so more active shooter situations are being prevented. Townsend, who served as homeland security and counterterrorism adviser for President George W. Bush, said it's crucial that if people see something they say something.

"So if it's a young person, it's your teacher, it's your classmates. If you're an older person, it's your spouse, it's your community, it's your employer. And you have to encourage people. I think people now understand that they can play a role in preventing these," she said.

Townsend also said it's crucial that people stop making excuses for white terrorists.  

"When the terrorist is a white person, we tend to make excuses, right? 'They're crazy,' right? As opposed to saying, if it was a Muslim, 'They're a terrorist.' We have to label this for what it is, and we've got to be honest and not make excuses," she said. "When you look at the international fight, we used to look at what are the enablers? You take away their guns, you take away their communications, you take away their ability to recruit. While domestic terrorism isn't as hierarchical and organized in that way, there's responsibility both to take away their guns, right, and make that less accessible, to have social media sites, where they post these hateful manifestos, take those down and notify law enforcement."

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