Thank you, Tom.
Thank you for hosting us here at Lancaster House.
Your government has been a great partner in our collective effort to countering the threat from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism, or REMVE, as we in the U.S. call it, or extreme right-wing terrorism, as it is known here in the UK.
We look forward to continuing to work together to counter this global threat.
I would also like to commend the great work the IIJ is doing to counter REMVE. In partnership with the U.S. and UK, the IIJ developed the first-ever guide for criminal justice practitioners to counter REMVE, which was launched last summer.
The guide is intended for everyone here – law enforcement, criminal justice practitioners, and policymakers.
It focuses on the critical role that you all play in countering the growing transnational REMVE threat.
The guide includes good practices on how to best use counterterrorism tools within the context of the criminal justice sector to effectively tackle the REMVE threat.
It also highlights the essential role that civil society and other relevant stakeholders play in this effort, including social media companies, and the importance of coordinating with the private sector.
Hopefully everyone has had a chance to read the guide. I encourage you to do so, if you haven’t yet.
The discussions at this roundtable will be the first of many workshops that the IIJ is holding to train law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and policymakers to tackle the REMVE threat within a rule of law framework and in coordination with non-governmental partners.
I will focus this morning on the transnational dimensions of the REMVE threat and what the U.S. Department of State is doing to counter this threat, including by supporting tools for criminal justice practitioners.
Growing Transnational REMVE Threat
REMVE actors, including violent white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, appear to be gaining international prominence.
REMVE attacks are on the rise globally. Deadly REMVE attacks have occurred over the last several years in such places as Christchurch, Poway, Pittsburgh, Quebec City, Halle, Hanau, and Buffalo, and in too many other places.
Just two weeks ago, a shooting at a LGBTQI+ bar in Bratislava, Slovakia left two dead and one injured. The shooter posted an online so-called manifesto espousing antisemitic and homophobic views. This manifesto has since spread on multiple social media platforms.
The manifesto references how the perpetrator was inspired by previous REMVE attacks, including the attack in Buffalo this past May, and the 2019 attacks in Christchurch, Poway, and El Paso.
The manifesto also expresses the perpetrator’s goals, motivations, and includes the steps he took to plan the attack that is transnational in nature.
The attack in Bratislava is yet another example of how REMVE actors are inspired by a REMVE movement.
REMVE actors are increasingly connecting online and across borders, and attacks are often carried out by lone actors, without direct ties to larger groups and without a central command structure.
These connections further illustrate how REMVE actors are adopting and amplifying each other’s manifestos and violent ideologies, syncing together on and offline, and sharing ideas, ideologies, and tactics.
Additionally, REMVE actors have become more adept at exploiting social media platforms, online gaming platforms, and smaller websites with targeted audiences and sometimes little to no content moderation. Thy use encrypted chat applications to recruit new followers, plan and rally ideological support, and disseminate materials that contribute to radicalization and mobilization to violence.
The internet offers unique challenges and opportunities to reach young vulnerable populations. Some of the discussions here will draw attention to the unique risks that may affect neurodiverse individuals’ experiences or exposure to extremism.
It is critical that our law enforcement and justice systems are trained to respond appropriately and sensitively in the unique context of neurodiverse people and extremism.
The prevalence of neurodiversity among violent extremists remains under-researched. Drawing firm conclusions is difficult given the breadth of neurodiversity, its under-diagnosis, and a lack of awareness across systems and services, including law enforcement and criminal justice systems.
However, we do know that neurodiverse young people are more likely to experience some increased risk factors particularly in relation to social isolation and the ease of access to mis- and disinformation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the prevalence and impact of misinformation and disinformation, particularly online, and presented an opportunity for a REMVE actors to gain new adherents. With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, REMVE actors with transnational aspirations are now more likely to face fewer obstacles to travel for the purposes of networking, training, and even fighting alongside likeminded individuals and groups from other countries.
Countering the REMVE Threat
The U.S. Government remains committed to countering the REMVE threat.
At the Department of State, our role begins at our borders and extends internationally. Fortunately, we are also joined at this event by colleagues from the Department of Justice and the FBI, who can speak more to how we see the domestic REMVE threat in the United States, and what we’re doing to address it.
At the State Department, we are using a broad range of tools to counter transnational REMVE threats, including diplomatic engagement to bolster information sharing and cooperation among our partners; utilizing terrorist sanctions authorities; preventing terrorist travel; using public diplomacy to strengthen the capacity of local governments and raise public awareness; engaging with the tech sector; and using foreign assistance to build partner capacity to counter this transnational threat.
Role of Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice Practitioners
In particular, I would like to highlight how we are using foreign assistance resources to build the capacity of law enforcement and criminal justice practitioners to address the REMVE threat.
Earlier this year, together with the German Government, we launched the Counterterrorism Law Enforcement Forum.
Many of the governments and institutions here today were represented at the forum, which brought together law enforcement, prosecutors, and other criminal justice practitioners from more than 30 countries around the world, as well as many multilateral organizations.
Participants at the forum shared information about recent governmental law enforcement actions to disrupt REMVE activity, underscoring how and why criminal justice tools and approaches are critical to countering REMVE.
Participant in the forum also cited the IIJ’s practitioner’s guide as a valuable resource for countries to consult as they develop new strategies, laws, and approaches to counter REMVE.
At the forum launch event, police investigators and prosecutors shared lessons learned from major REMVE attacks in recent years. Officials from a range of countries noted similar trends in the attacks that have occurred. For example, in most cases, they were carried out by young males who were not part of an organization or group, and were inspired by likeminded individuals on the Internet.
In some of these cases, officials shared that there were red flags which — had they been taken seriously and reported — could have raised concerns, including among family members, associates, or the general public and potentially prevented or disrupted the attacks.
In this environment, where we are seeing patterns and similarities in REMVE attacks and activity around the world, it is vital that we increase information sharing and coordination on these issues, amongst governments, multilateral organizations, civil society, faith communities and the private sector.
Over the past 20 years, the international community has built a strong counterrorism architecture including by strengthening information sharing relationships and mechanisms to counter groups like ISIS and al-Qa’ida.
While concern about REMVE actors has increased in the past several years, we still do not have the same type of routine international information sharing for law enforcement in place against these particular threats.
We must utilize existing tools we have to enhance cooperation and share information with each other to counter the REMVE threat.
No country or multilateral entity can take on this threat alone.
We have seen by the REMVE attacks that have occurred in recent months that REMVE actors are inspired by each other and that REMVE threats cross borders and continents.
The United States is fully committed to further strengthening our efforts and working with all of you and others in the international community to effectively address the global REMVE threat.
Over the next two days, we will hear from non-governmental experts, policymakers, and law enforcement officials about how to identify signs of REMVE radicalization online and how REMVE actors use the Internet to recruit, raise funds, and advance their agendas.
The roundtable will serve as an opportunity for practitioners to share lessons learned and increase collaboration and coordination with other like-minded practitioners from around the world who are working to counter the REMVE threat.
I look forward to our discussions and to further working with everyone here and other partners to address the global REMVE threat.