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White supremacist groups pose rising U.S. threat, Garland says

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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers a statement at the Department of Justice in Washington, U.S. April 26, 2021. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Reuters) - Domestic violent extremist groups, particularly white supremacists, pose a growing threat to the United States, Attorney General Merrick Garland told a Senate panel on Wednesday.

"The threat of lethality is higher than it ever was ... I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the U.S. Capitol" by rioters on Jan. 6, said Garland, who as a prosecutor led the investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

Garland noted the FBI recently said that the top domestic violent extremist threat facing the United States is from "racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race."

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the committee that racially or ethnically motivated extremists are "most likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks against civilians," while people tied to right-wing militia groups are the most likely to target police and government employees and buildings.

The threat of attacks inside the United States by foreign militants such as Islamic State also persists, Mayorkas said. "It is not as if they have disappeared... We don't take our eye off one to focus on the other," he said.

Garland and Mayorkas said they were concerned about how disinformation and misinformation spread on social media, and Mayorkas said such "false narratives" can instigate violence.

Garland said the Director of National Intelligence's office was monitoring "sharing of information" between U.S. and European extremists.

Mayorkas said that Homeland Security, whose leadership in the Trump Administration was accused by a whistleblower of playing down right-wing extremist threats, is devoting more intelligence resources to domestic extremism and allocating "at least $77 million" to help local governments prepare for "acts of domestic violent extremism."

Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Scott Malone and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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