In the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, Canada moved to declare four far-right or white supremacist groups as terrorist entities, marking the first time it had listed such groups. Those included Atomwaffen Division, the neo-fascist street fighting group the Proud Boys, the white supremacist accelerationist outfit The Base, and the far-right nationalist Russian Imperial Movement. Roughly two dozen people associated with the Proud Boys have been charged in the FBI’s investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
President Joe Biden and has said white supremacist violent extremists pose the most urgent threat to the US today and called them a “stain on the soul of America.” Earlier this month, the White House released a plan to combat domestic terrorism, which calls for beefing up analysts, prosecutors, and agents, but stops short of suggesting any new laws should be created to help.
The absence of specific laws outlining domestic terrorism is one reason the US hasn’t gone as far as Canada in designating US and foreign extremist groups as terrorist entities. Another is that the bar for such a designation is extremely high. The US has designated just one far-right extremist group, the Russian Imperialist Movement, as a terrorist group.
On a call with BuzzFeed News and other reporters earlier this month, a senior Biden administration official, speaking on background, said discussions regarding any new domestic terrorism laws were ongoing and no decisions had been made before the release of the White House’s new plan.
“We concluded that we didn’t have the evidentiary basis, yet, to decide whether we wanted to proceed in that direction or whether we have sufficient authority as it currently exists at the federal level,” the official said.