Report raises concerns about domestic terrorism funding

Expert says Arizona home to 39 extremist groups
A Congressional watchdog group is highlighting the difficulty that investigators face in trying to track the funding for domestic terrorist groups.
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 7:30 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The U.S. Government Accountability Office says policies may need to change to allow law enforcement to investigate domestic extremist groups and prevent future domestic terrorist activity. One major challenge, according to the GAO, is tracing the financial dealings of domestic extremist groups.

“We have what’s referred to as a foreign terrorist organization list. And it’s some 55 groups that are designated as terrorist organizations,” said Steven Windisch, who studies extremist groups as a professor at Temple University. “If you’re caught as a U.S. citizen giving them money, providing them weapons, traveling over there to support their cause, you can be charged as supporting a foreign terrorist organization. We don’t have that list domestically.” Windisch says 39 extremist groups have ties to Arizona. Our tally of Jan. 6 defendants shows that 15 have Arizona connections.

The FBI and U.S. Treasury Department have issued reports in the past year, which highlight the threat from domestic extremists. But the GAO report released this week indicates that law enforcement has more tools to track international terrorist finances than they do with domestic terrorists or extremists.

The problem, according to the GAO, is that domestic extremists tend to raise money legally and in small amounts. Crowdfunding, donations, livestreaming and merchandise sales are common methods. Those methods make it difficult for law enforcement to track because they can be considered protected by the First Amendment.

In December, the U.S. Treasury Department is expected to release new rules that may help banks and other financial institutions flag suspicious transactions. You can read the latest GAO report here.

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