Security chief: DC ‘must reimagine safety and security,’ amid evolving domestic terror threat

The head of D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency said the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill made something clear: “The District must reimagine safety and security, in the face of the evolving threat of domestic terrorism.”

In an oversight hearing before D.C.’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, Chris Rodriguez, director of HSEMA, said the threat of homegrown extremism continues to mount.

“The current manifestation of these movements is so insidious, because in the past they existed on the fringes of society,” Rodriguez told the panel, chaired by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen. “They are rapidly becoming part of our cultural mainstream, and they are fueled and fed by misinformation and lies.”

Left unchecked, the threat, “will only continue to exacerbate our underlying social divisions, threatening to tear the delicate fabric of our democratic culture,” Rodriguez said. “Right-wing extremism and left-wing extremism are not mainstream viewpoints, and we have to call them that.”

Rodriguez said security officials must consider the fact that the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol was well-organized, perhaps orchestrated by military or law enforcement members.

“People in our communities know that such activities or military training are taking place, either in plain sight, in dark corners of the Internet, or casual conversation,” Rodriguez said.

The head of the District’s homeland security efforts said investigators must remain alert, “to ensure that these specific skill sets, which are developed to defend a nation, state, or community, are not then turned on the very people they are sworn to protect.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up