Chairman Takano: “The corrupting influence of domestic violent extremist groups that recruit veterans is a critical issue at a time where our nation remains deeply divided”
Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks at the full Committee hearing entitled, “Domestic Violent Extremist Groups and the Recruitment of Veterans.” The hearing will explore the Committee’s investigation into domestic violent extremist groups that was started last fall and will focus on who these groups are, what they believe, and why they specifically target veterans to recruit into their ranks.
Full Video of the Chairman’s remarks
Chairman Takano’s remarks as prepared:
From Oklahoma City in 1994, to Fort Hood in 2009, to Thousand Oaks, CA in 2018, and even the assault on our own United States Capitol in January, misguided individuals have committed violence against their fellow citizens in pursuit of distorted objectives. This is a real threat to our nation and to our democracy—and directly impacts the work of our Committee, as an alarming number of these individuals have served our country in the Armed Forces.
Today’s Full Committee investigative hearing is entitled: “Domestic Violent Extremist Groups and the Recruitment of Veterans.” FBI Director Christopher Wray has described domestic violent extremism as one of the greatest threats facing our homeland. The corrupting influence of domestic violent extremist groups that recruit veterans is a critical issue at a time where our nation remains deeply divided. We are here today to consider who these domestic extremist groups actually are, what they believe in, and why they specifically target veterans for recruitment.
During today’s hearing, we will learn about groups whose names have been prominent in the news recently, including the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and the Three Percenters. We will hear about their ideologies and their histories, and seek to understand how these groups view veterans, why they prize veterans in their membership and actively recruit them, and most importantly, how and when these groups encourage the use of violence to achieve their ends.
Our ultimate objective here, as with all of our work on this Committee, is to advance proposals to help and support veterans in need. In this case, that means identifying and developing opportunities to help veterans who find themselves ensnared by one of these domestic violent extremist groups.
This effort could include helping them to recognize that they are being recruited, aiding them in exiting these groups, and addressing the pervasive underlying factors that contribute to such recruitment, including critical issues such as mental health, underemployment, and social isolation. We are not here to condemn or vilify any veterans engaged with these groups, but rather to draw attention to what these groups actually represent and to highlight the lurking threat posed by these groups. Only by understanding who these groups are - what they believe, and what violent or illegal activities they encourage from their members - can we begin to assess our ability to intervene and to help these veterans and their families reclaim their lives.
Today’s hearing is intended to be the first in a series of three sessions devoted to investigating this issue. This preliminary hearing will focus on identifying and describing the problem – introducing the relevant groups, understanding the landscape of extremism, examining the data trends, and explaining the connection between these groups and veterans.
The second hearing, to be scheduled in the coming months, will focus on the process of recruitment and radicalization into these groups, and the contributory factors that make veterans more vulnerable to such efforts.
The third and final hearing will address strategies to identify and assist veterans at risk for recruitment by examining the resources available and opportunities for affirmative collaboration between VA, community-based organizations, VSOs, and individuals.
Taken together, this series of hearings will give us a comprehensive understanding of domestic violent extremist groups, the levers of recruitment and radicalization, and a range of proactive solutions to address this problem in the veterans community.
Before I conclude, I want to take a minute to clarify exactly what this hearing is about – and importantly, what it is NOT about.
We are here today to talk about domestic violent extremist groups. For purpose of definition, we are using the propensity for violence as the key determination of what constitutes extremism.
All of the groups that we will be discussing today are ones that have discussed or demonstrated a willingness to use violence as a means to achieve their ends.
We are NOT defining extremism as any particular political ideology or viewpoint, and indeed, violent extremism exists on both ends of the political spectrum. We are specifically using the propensity for violence as our definition because it is not our intention to label any political views, parties, or opinions as inherently extremist – but rather to recognize that ANY viewpoint, when expressed through violence, crosses a dangerous line into extremism. Violent conduct is outside the scope of constitutionally protected speech and beyond the limits of the law.
Violence should be rejected by all of us, irrespective of party or politics – and like the vast majority of issues that come before this Committee it should be a bipartisan concern. I trust with that in mind that we can engage in a thoughtful discussion today.
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