Homeland Security Chief Says Agency Needs to 'Invest More' in Combating White Supremacist Violence Following El Paso Shooting

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said on Tuesday that the federal agency needs to "invest more" in combating white supremacist violence following a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people.

McAleenan appeared on CBS This Morning to discuss the rise of white supremacist attacks and the department's role in monitoring and mitigating the role of extremist violence in the United States.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security created a new office for targeted violence and terrorism prevention. One of the goals of the new force was to prevent racially motivated attacks.

A Los Angeles Times report published on Monday stated that office is much smaller and less equipped than a similar anti-terrorism program in the Obama administration. Under former President Barack Obama, the office had 40-full time staffers and $24 million budget but under President Donald Trump, the office has less than 10 employees and a $3 billion budget.

"Well, we need to invest more — no question," McAleenan said when asked if the report was accurate. He noted that he's asked Congress for additional funds to "bolster" the program. He added that there needs to be increased communication between the office and the DHS headquarters.

"We do need a better effort to coordinate that at the headquarters level. And that's what I've directed," he said. "I'd like to triple the staff we have available to address this and coordinate the intelligence side of it at the headquarters level, as well as investing in those grants and efforts that are going to help communities prepare for these kind of incidents."

McAleenan's remarks came days after a gunman opened fire Saturday at a Walmart in El Paso. The shooter killed at least 22 people and injured more than two dozen. The suspect in custody is believed to have authored a racist, anti-Hispanic manifesto online before the shooting.

gun reform advocates protest mass shootings
Advocates of gun reform legislation hold a candle light vigil for victims of recent mass shootings outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association August 5, 2019 in Fairfax, Virginia. Thirty-one people have died following the two mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Win McNamee/Getty

The manifesto was titled "The Inconvenient Truth" and was published on the controversial messaging board 8chan. The document contains white supremacist ideology and expresses a hatred toward immigrants and the Latino community. After the El Paso shooting, the founder of 8chan said that the website should be shut down. "It's not doing the world any good," he said in a recent interview.

The Department of Justice is treating the mass shooting as a case of domestic terrorism. The department is also "seriously considering" federal hate crime charges in response to the attack, which could result in the death penalty.

Many have connected the language in the manifesto to Trump's own rhetoric against immigrants. For example, the manifesto allegedly warned of a "Hispanic invasion" taking place in the U.S. Trump has repeatedly used the phrase "invasion" when talking about the increase in migrants crossing the southern border from Mexico.

People have been saying for years that we should talk to Mexico. The problem is that Mexico is an “abuser” of the United States, taking but never giving. It has been this way for decades. Either they stop the invasion of our Country by Drug Dealers, Cartels, Human Traffickers....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 2, 2019

Trump responded to the El Paso shooting, as well as another mass shooting in Ohio, during a televised speech on Monday. The president said the country needed to "condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy" but stopped short of supporting gun control legislation.

Critics say the president has not gone far enough in his criticism of white supremacy. Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke lashed out at Trump over his past racist and divisive rhetoric.

"We know what Trump is doing. He stokes racism. He incites violence. We shouldn't be asking if there's anything he can do or if he's responsible for this when we know the answer," O'Rourke posted on Twitter.

Some El Paso residents signed a letter telling Trump, who is scheduled to visit the city on Wednesday, that he is not welcome. The document tells Trump to "stay away" and in part blamed his "rhetoric" for "having led us to this terrible moment."

Shortly before the mass shootings occurred, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress that domestic terrorism was just as equal a threat as international terrorism. According to Wray, the bureau has made about 100 arrests related to domestic terrorism in the first three quarters of 2019 and a majority of those cases were motivated by white supremacy.

McAleenan agreed on Tuesday that white supremacist extremist violence is an increasing threat for the U.S.

"That's the information we have from the FBI over the last two years," he said. "The number of their investigations are racially motivated, and within that category, the majority are white supremacist extremist motivated."