The World Unpacked

White Supremacist Terrorism Has Gone Global

Episode Summary

Are we watching the rise of a new international terrorist network? And what tools do we need to fight it?

Episode Notes

White supremacist terrorism has gone global. Racially motivated mass murderers have targeted Muslims worshipping in New Zealand, Jewish synagogues in Pittsburgh and San Diego, church goers in South Carolina, and kids at a summer camp in Norway. Many of these attackers were radicalized online, and have claimed inspiration from each other. Are we watching the rise of a new international terrorist network? And what tools do we need to fight it? Jen talks to Lisa Monaco, who served as President Obama’s homeland security adviser, about how the United States should apply the lessons learned in fighting other terrorist networks

Episode Transcription

Jen Psaki: 00:00 I'm Jen Psaki. Welcome to The World Unpacked.
Jen Psaki: 00:08 We break down the most important global issues with experts, journalists, and policymakers. We ask the questions you want answers to, in order to get smart on foreign policy.
News Clip: 00:17 At least 11 people are dead and six more wounded after a man walked into a synagogue near downtown Pittsburgh with an assault rifle and three handguns and opened fire.
News Clip: 00:26 The man who confessed to the horrific massacre that killed 93 people has said he wanted to start a revolution to "take his country back from Muslims and other immigrants."
News Clip: 00:35 110 Calhoun Street, Emanuel AME Church. There's several people down at this time.
News Clip: 00:40 The horrific terror attack that unfolded in New Zealand overnight. Not one, but two mosques in Christchurch were targeted.
Jen Psaki: 00:48 White supremacist terrorism has gone global; racially-motivated mass murderers have targeted Muslims worshiping in New Zealand, Jewish synagogues in Pittsburgh and San Diego, churchgoers in South Carolina, and kids at a summer camp in Norway. Many of these attackers were radicalized online and have claimed inspiration from each other. Are we watching the rise of a new international terrorist network? And what tools do we need to fight it? To answer these questions and more, I'm joined by Lisa Monaco, a former colleague and friend. Lisa served as the Homeland Security Advisor to President Barack Obama and, and many important positions before that and has watched these issues develop over many years. Lisa, first, welcome to the show.
Lisa Monaco: 01:28* Great to be with you.
Jen Psaki: 01:29* I want to just start, um, just with a question. Uh, for many people who have been watching the news have heard the clips, we just heard, um, and, and want to know kind of where this came from. So the U.S. has a long and very bloody history of white supremacist violence, going back to groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Are we still talking about the same sorts of groups or are there different actors on the stage? How does it look today compared with a couple of decades ago?
Lisa Monaco: 01:54* Well, I think you're right to point out the context here and the history and your listeners, you know, will or many of whom will remember 1995 and the Oklahoma City bombing done by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. And that was a situation where, um, Timothy McVeigh of course, um, a somebody, avowed member of one of these kinds of anti-government movements and sympathetic to white supremacist causes, etc., but he was an individual who was frankly radicalized to violence and acted with Terry Nichols but not directed by a particular external group. And trace that now to today where we are: 2019 and the FBI Director, Chris Wray has recently talked about the persistent and pervasive threat that white supremacist extremism and all forms of extremism are today. And what he has pointed to, and I think this is reflected in a lot of the clips you, um, that you played at the outset is a loosely structured threat. Increasingly, what the FBI and others are worried about, much as they have been worried about frankly in the international terrorism space in the very recent past, is individuals radicalized to violence who act on their own, not particularly at the direction, the specific direction of, uh, an international or other organization and are mobilized by radical ideologies. And so they're acting on their own and they, uh, act sometimes without any particular warning.
Jen Psaki: 03:39 Which sounds different from, or at least I've seen some analysts say it's different from how groups like ISIS or others may be structured where they're sort of a top down, so it's more of a grassroots bottom up. And what are the dangers of that?
Lisa Monaco: 03:52 Yeah, so it, you're exactly right. Um, you know, when you think, again, back to history 9/11 focused our attention and the world's attention on al-Qaeda, uh, a group that the, uh, the United States literally went to war with, um, and individuals. And we, over time obviously, uh, watched very carefully and methodically and with the help of law enforcement at the federal, state, and local level and with international, uh, partners in the intelligence community, looked at how that group and other groups were structured, how they were funded, what their leadership look like, how they used communications to direct actors and affiliates across the world. Groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of, of al-Qaeda in Yemen, uh, and, uh, later groups like ISIS. So there we were looking at structures, we were looking at funding mechanisms, organizational mechanisms, and looking at how to attack those and dismantle them here at home. As you mentioned at the outset, we have in the FBI has long been concerned about groups like the Ku Klux Klan, like the sovereign citizens movement, like white supremacist groups. But, um, they've been less, I think formally structured. And again, uh, the, the evolution of both the international terrorism threat and the domestic terrorism threat has been greatly influenced, frankly, unsurprisingly, like everything else in our world, by the rise of the Internet and by social media.
Jen Psaki: 05:30 And we definitely want to spend some time talking about that. I remember, uh, being in meetings with you after some of these, um, tragic events happened. Charleston, where the often the question was what do we know about this person or what do we know about these people? And maybe not in that case, but in some cases they don't have a record or there's no nothing to point to. So how does law enforcement, I mean, how do you even address that or what do you look for?
Lisa Monaco: 05:54 This is the challenge. This is the challenge. Frankly, in what's called the homegrown violent extremism context. And that's, um, the FBI would define that as individuals, individuals radicalized here in the United States, uh, radicalized to violence, often online, but not directed by any international terrorist group, for instance. Similarly, what we've seen in the recent past is individuals motivated by a domestic radical ideology, whether it's racism, whether it's, uh, an anti-religious bent, an anti-government bent, increasingly also are finding, um, sympathetic communities and voices online that they gravitate to and, uh, that have a part to play in their radicalization to violence.
Jen Psaki: 06:47 And what do you think, what is drawing people in to, uh, be radicalized online, uh, in this way toward white nationalism?
Lisa Monaco: 06:57 Yeah. You know, and I, I should say, um, I think there's, there's a few things that are at play in terms of what motivates somebody to radicalize to violence that are common to what we've seen in the past with those who are sympathetic to a group like ISIS' cause, as well as, uh, on the domestic terrorist front. But to your question about what the challenges are, you know, I talked before about the how we as a law enforcement and national security community try to address the threat posed by al-Qaeda. And there it was looking at networks, organizations, um, a literally looking at an org chart. Who was the leader of al-Qaeda? Who, obviously Osama bin Laden. Who was the operations manager? How did the money flow? And that's how, and how did the communication—
Jen Psaki: 07:45 And are they in touch with them? Or directed by them.
Lisa Monaco: 07:48 Exactly, so the immediate questions that I and my colleagues, our former colleagues, would immediately ask themselves after an attack would happen or as we saw a threat stream developing is: who are they in contact with? What communications are we seeing? What do we know about the money flows? How can we map this network? Think of a kind of a spider-chart on a piece of paper. That's what we would have And look at. The challenge is both in the homegrown violent extremism space as well as in the domestic terrorism space is we don't see those communications. We don't have those formal structures necessarily. We don't have those communications to rely on to help investigators and intelligence analysts and law enforcement map out how something is developing and to get in between that communications or, or to be tipped off so that they can disrupt the attack before it happens. To give a great example, something you and I dealt with when we were both in government, the 2*013 Boston Marathon bombing, the immediate questions in the aftermath, literally the hours after that happened, what do we know? Um, who might these individuals be in con—first of all, who are they? Who are the individuals? And once you can get some identifying information as we did later at the end of that week, who might they be in contact with? What do we know about them? What record do they have? And what we found with the Tsarnaev brothers, as now as well-known, is that they basically were talking to each other. Two brothers radicalized by what they were consuming online, talking to each other. And so the question for law enforcement is: how do you get in the middle of that closed network? That's in essence what it was, was a network of, how do you do that? How can you get ahead of that and understand, frankly, when something has gone wrong in somebody's head and motivates them to violence? And that's an incredibly hard challenge.
Jen Psaki: 09:51 Well, I wanted to just ask you before we dive into the Internet component of this, which is a huge one, uh, just about the distinction of how, um, terrorism is named within government and there's been, I remember many debates and discussions and external criticism, uh, when, when we were in the Administration, uh, together and probably for in your year, many years before that, but there have even been, um, recent dust ups over this. Um, and the question of why, um, attacks that are racially=motivated are not automatically called acts of terrorism or terrorism. Uh, so how does the government think about how to define these and why is there a distinction?
Lisa Monaco: 10:29 Yeah, so it's, it's interesting, in fact, that debate I think is moving, right? Increasingly you're seeing, um, the reference being made to these events as being both/and, as opposed to one or the other in terms of how we're labeling them. Now, that is separate and apart for how the criminal justice system treats them. And so we should separate those out and unpack, if you will, both of them. So from, from the perspective, and that's true of things like the, um, Charlottesville murder of Heather Heyer, right? And that's also true of the Charleston, um, murder of the nine, uh, worshipers at the AME church. Both of those, um, events and attacks were ultimately labeled in the kind of popular realm and by the government, uh, as both hate crimes and domestic terrorism incidents. Now, how they're treated by the criminal justice system and under our legal framework is a little bit different. So let's, let's kind of step back a minute. Terrorism is broadly defined as an act of violence committed against a civilian population—and that's important—um, for a political end or for the purpose of intimidating that population, okay? So that's terrorism. Same definition when that act is applied or happens here in the United States. That's domestic terrorism, okay? Our criminal justice system, our criminal code defines "domestic terrorism" in exactly the way I just, um, I just said. However, there is no criminal penalty. There is no charge called "domestic terrorism." So the Boston Marathon bombers, as I, as we just talked about, those guys or that, that bomber actually the, the one bomber who went to a, who was, um, who was charged and ultimately convicted, um, he wasn't charged with domestic terrorism. He wasn't convicted of domestic terrorism. He was convicted of, uh, weapons charges, weapons of mass destruction, and obviously murder. So the criminal justice system here in our federal system uses other charges that reflect the conduct in order to prosecute those crimes. Um, but it does define domestic terrorism. Hate crime of course is violence, um, against, uh, an individual or violence, um, motivated by racial or religious or animus based on sexual orientation, bias, uh, violence motivated by prejudice, right? And so you can immediately see, once you define those terms, why the Charlottesville, um, attack and murder, why that fits both definitions, right? Why the Charleston, um, murders fit both definitions. Now there is debate about whether or not we should have a domestic terrorism charge, right? Should we be able to charge, um, these guys with domestic terrorism? And the challenge there is that under our system we obviously have a First Amendment and that politically motivated violence—remember, that's our definition of domestic terrorism—bumps up sometimes against what is otherwise First Amendment protected activity, right? It is protected by the First Amendment to hold absolutely noxious and, and, um, really abhorrent views. You just can't act on those in a violent way, right? So, uh, the challenge for a domestic terrorism statute is, is, uh, kind of navigating that line. But there's been some interesting proposals, um, recently. Things like from, um, my former colleague Mary McCord, um, who, uh, held, uh, the job, uh, that I had in the Justice Department is head of the National Security Division. Uh, she was, uh, in that post at the end of the Obama administration. She has proposed that we should at least criminalize stockpiling weapons for the purpose of committing a domestic terrorism act, right? So you see how that could navigate that line, which I think is an interesting proposal.
Jen Psaki: 15:05 And I just wanted to ask you before we go to a quick break here about, um, an event I think we both remember, uh, I mean, very vividly I do is, uh, the day of the Charleston shooting. Um, and you know, I remember that just as a person who was working in the White House and it was chaotic and obviously something was happening. Um, but you were the Homeland Security Advisor. So explain to our listeners when a horrible event like that happens, of which you were there for many, unfortunately. What happens then? Um, you go brief the president, you're getting information. What is, what is the next 48 hours look like?
Lisa Monaco: 15:43 Yeah. So in the, in the case of the Charleston massacre, which is really what it was, it was the evening. It happened kind of after hours, right? It was in the evening of June 17th, in 2015.
Jen Psaki: 15:58 I remember I was talking to interns and I didn't have my phone and I came out and this, but you know, my memories are very specific to my own personal reaction. I wasn't responsible for anything in the same way you were.
Lisa Monaco: 16:07 Right. And I, um, I started seeing, um, something on my phone, whether it was a news alert, but very quickly at the same time I, um, was contacted by the Situation Room as, as you know, and as your listeners may know, that is not just one room in the West Wing of the White House, but a group of rooms where, um, it's manned 24/7 by terrific, uh, professionals from, uh, the intelligence community, from the Defense Department, from law enforcement, and they're monitoring what's going on around the world and here at home. And, uh, it was, uh, the Situation Room I think who, uh, also contacted me to, to tell me what was happening. So what do I do? I immediately in the wake of that or, uh, the Boston marathon bombing or you name it. Um, I'm immediately gathering information because my job, as you noted as the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, uh, first and foremost was to understand what the president needs to know in that moment and to help him and the rest of the national security team, uh, advise the president on how to respond to crises and, and how to, um, uh, coordinate policy that could be responsive to major crises. And so in this instance, I immediately started gathering information, contacting, um, the FBI, contacting, uh, folks at the National Counterterrorism Center. 'Cause remember, we don't know, uh, we, we quickly later learned of course about Dylann Roof, um, and what the local law enforcement, um, had identified about him. But in the first hour or so after you get word of an event like this, it could be the start of a network of attacks. It could be, um, a one-off incident. It could look like something at, at in the first hour and then look like something completely different. So the thing in my mind is always, what's the information? Um, what do I need to tell the president? What are the steps we need to be taking? One, from a public safety perspective. Two, together the information we need to make the right decisions and inform the public about what they should be doing.
Jen Psaki: 18:26 And in that period of time, you're briefing the president whenever you have new information. I mean, it can be around the clock.
Lisa Monaco: 18:32 That's exactly right. So in this instance, I got word, um, and uh, I can't remember if he was, he, I think he might've been, um, out of the building at the time. I wasn't sure. Uh, and so I emailed him, um, and let him know that we were getting word about this and we knew where the attack had happened. And I said it was the AME Mother Emanuel Church, um, in Charleston. And he immediately, of course, knew the church and knew the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was unfortunately, of course, one of the victims in that attack. So he immediately told me that he knew not only that church, but he knew the Reverend Pinckney. So, um, it had immediate personal resonance, uh, as well as of course, um, we had a, a sense that given the nature and the scale of it and the brutality of it, that um, we were in the middle of something that was really quite horrific.
Jen Psaki: 19:31 When we come back from a quick break, we're going to talk about how white nationalist terrorists are becoming radicalized online.
News Clip: 19:43 The author, presumably 21 year old Dylann Roof, says he was not raised in a racist home or environment and that the event that truly awakened him was the Trayvon Martin case. He says it prompted him to search for information online where he read Wikipedia articles and extremist websites.
News Clip: 20:00 A social media account linked to the suspect is filled with anti-Semitic posts and threats.
News Clip: 20:05 This is a rambling hate-filled message. It was posted online around the time of the attack, purported to be written by the suspect. In it, praising Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring, and American Dylann Roof.
Jen Psaki: 20:17 Lisa, as you've already touched on, a lot of the perpetrators of these attacks seem to have been radicalized online. This is a tool that radical Islamist groups have been using for a long time. We've learned a lot of lessons on how governments and social media companies can collaborate to track down, uh, but it seems from the outside, but maybe this isn't right, that a lot more has been done to crack down on ISIS and kind of more obvious terrorist groups than some of the, uh, you know, white nationalist, uh, radicalizing that's happening online. Why is that and what lessons do you think should be applied or can be applied, um, from what we've done, uh, with groups like ISIS to, uh, some of these more domestic groups?
Lisa Monaco: 20:58 So a few things on this. One is, um, I think first of all, it's hard to know precisely what does, um, cause somebody get, to get radicalized to violence, right? So I think what can fairly be said about some of the most recent domestic terrorist, uh, incidents, whether here at home or, for instance, the New Zealand, uh, massacre in, uh, Christchurch. You know, social media has played a part and in many instances has fueled the, uh, the actual conduct of that attack. Certainly that's true in, in the New Zealand case. I mean people have described that attack as basically made for social media. Um, and the individual there is somebody who live-streamed of course, that attack as it was happening, and just, um, something we really hadn't seen before, uh, and in many instances was also taking a cue from some of the things that ISIS has extolled its followers to do in the past. Uh, things like act wherever you are; you don't need to travel to Iraq or Syria, uh, to, uh, commit your violence. So, uh, so I think we can, whether or not we can say these individuals were specifically radicalized online, hard to know what kind of goes into, uh, the jumble of motivations, but for sure, um, consumption of material in these, uh, in these channels and on these platforms plays a part, I think, in that radicalization. And then interestingly, we're seeing a development of the use of these platforms to actually fuel the attack itself, as we saw with Christchurch. Now, in the ISIS context, you know, when, when you and I were still working in the White House, we were dealing with the phenomenon that ISIS was basically using social media platforms as a way to recruit and radicalize individuals all over the world to violence and spreading propaganda, spreading recruitment, and then using it also ultimately to, um, to sometimes direct people to violence. So, you know, we spend a lot of time trying to work with the social media companies to have them address the what is frankly an abuse of their platforms. Um, and I think over time they've gotten a lot more focused on this issue with respect to things like ISIS content. But the, the thing that's hard here is the content that we're talking about, um, can be difficult to both identify and then discern about whether or not it's appropriate to, to be online. Certainly a beheading video, uh, as we saw so brutally with, with ISIS. Those social media platforms, I think, confronted with that specific piece of content would go out and quite, um, quite eagerly, I think, and, and, you know, take an approach to take down that content. It becomes harder if you're talking about, uh, less specific types of radicalizing content, right? Uh, an ISIS banner that appears as, as part of a recruitment video also has, can sometimes have news value, right? That, that particular video may have news value, so that can become a difficult line. Um, when it comes to domestic terrorist content or content that is abhorrent, because it is promoting white supremacists views or racially-biased views, etc. That also, again, we get back to our issues of how do you discern what is First Amendment protected, although abhorrent speech. Uh, and where does it then turn to something that is extolling violence? And so I think what you're seeing is the social media companies grappling with how to, um, how to walk that line.
Jen Psaki: 25:05 Several prominent white nationalists have been deplatformed, so they have taken some steps, uh, people like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos. Is that a successful strategy or one that can be impactful or do we know yet?
Lisa Monaco: 25:18 Look, I think it is not a panacea. Um, but these platforms, these social media companies need to be, in the first instance, enforcing the rules that they have laid out for themselves, right? So one thing I think that's interesting as we talk about censorship, right? While these, you know, these social media platforms sometimes get criticized for acting as quote "censors," right? Well, think what we need to remember is governments are the ones that censor, right? Otherwise, this is a company that is, lays out the terms of service for you to sign up as a Facebook user or Google user or whatever. Um, you sign up to abide by the rules of that platform. And so those companies, if they lay out those rules, they've got to find a way to enforce them in a way that makes sense, that is transparent, and that is effective. So, um, do I think that deplatforming, um, folks like Alex Jones, um, is a perfect solution? It's part of a solution. It's not, uh, it's not the whole solution.
Jen Psaki: 26:35 It seems, you know, many of these platforms, as you well know, they've kind of, you know, they've wanted to be perceived as a, as a social good, right? And that's how they were founded, and they run into a tricky place because people have different definitions about what responsibilities they have.
Lisa Monaco: 26:50 Right.
Jen Psaki: 26:51 There are a lot of other platforms, um, that, um, our listeners may not pay attention to, but I was curious about how law enforcement views them, um, beyond Facebook and Twitter, like Gab and 8chan, probably many more that I'm not even familiar with. Um, are those areas we should be concerned about in terms of new avenues for, um, for people to be communicating that we're not tracking as closely?
Lisa Monaco: 27:14 So I think we do need to be concerned about it simply because if you look at some of the most recent, uh, violent acts that have been perpetrated, they have links to these places. So 8chan is a place that, um, the, the individual, the attacker in Christchurch, um, was, you know, in that, in that world and, um, you know, communicating there and posting things there. Um, Gab, similarly with the Tree of Life synagogue shooter, you know, a lot of people asked. You know, he had posted a number of postings on Gab and other places that were pretty clearly laying out his, uh, abhorrent views and talking about taking action on those views. And so the question I think rightly arises, well, why don't we know that? And could that be something that law enforcement should be aware of? And so these are the types of questions that law enforcement is having to grapple with, right? As, as we look at these platforms as some form of community space and being publicly available, how should law enforcement look at those, be aware of what's going on there, act as kind of, uh, a early warning system. But then you, on the other hand, you've got people rightly asking the question, does that mean that you're going to have law enforcement monitoring, you know, citizens, uh, even though it's in a public forum who are, you know, doing nothing other than sharing their views? They may be objectionable, uh, but they're not acting on them. And, and of course the FBI doesn't investigate views. It doesn't investigate an individual's views. It, it, um, investigates violent acts or criminal acts. So, um, that is, uh, is a really big challenging line these days for law enforcement.
Jen Psaki: 29:17 We'll be back in a minute to talk about the tools we need to fight these extremists.
Jen Psaki: 29:30 You've advocated, Lisa, in a Washington Post piece—am I getting this right?—um, recently, which I've shared, I'll re-share, um, for people to see, um, for a whole of government approach to fighting domestic, terrorism, uh, given how much has changed. Um, what does that mean and what does that look like?
Lisa Monaco: 29:46 So I think what it means is that we have to organize ourselves at the federal, state and local level to address what is a, as again, the FBI has called a persistent and pervasive threat. We've got to resource this as a priority, as the priority threat that it is. I mean, look, the FBI has made more domestic terrorist related arrests this year than they have international terrorist arrests this year, right? That is not something that you used to be able to say. And this is a, this is a shift I think that we're seeing.
Jen Psaki: 30:24 Yeah, it's been interesting listening to people like yourself who have lived through post-9/11 and all of the changes in focus on terrorism kind of say we have to be focusing on this. And there's been a shift that that has been, uh, maybe a little outsized.
Lisa Monaco: 30:39 Yeah, and we, we absolutely need to be focusing on it. We need to be keeping up with the threat that was true in the post-9/11 world and seeing how groups like al-Qaeda were evolving, metastasizing, changing their tactics. We needed to evolve our approaches as we confronted homegrown violent extremists. Those acting here at home, radicalized by messages from groups like ISIS, but not directed by Isis. And similarly, now we've got to be focusing on this rise in domestic terrorist related violence and white supremacist related violence and resourcing that appropriately. And, and finally giving the tools, yes to law enforcement, but also to our communities. It's the communities that, for all the reasons we talked about at the outset, that are going to be in the best position in many instances to understand what's going on and hopefully, whether it's a homegrown violent extremists radicalized by ISIS content online, or whether it's an individual who's radicalized by white supremacist ideology or racist ideology or anti-government ideology to understand what is going on there and try and off-ramp that individual before something horrible happens. And those three things—organizing, resourcing, and giving tools to, uh, communities—are things that we should be focusing on. And on the organizational front—look, we created the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 to focus on these threats. We created the job, uh, I held in the White House, the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor. Um, you know, we've, since, uh, in the last couple of years, that job has been, uh, effectively downgraded. It's now, uh, not at the same rank as the National Security Advisor.
Jen Psaki: 32:37 What do you think that—I realize you're not serving in the White House—but what do you think that means in practice and how that person has access or not, or how does it, why does it matter?
Lisa Monaco: 32:46 So I should, I should say that, uh, the individual who's, who's currently the Deputy Assistant to the President who, who works on these issues, Doug Fears is a career Coast Guard admiral and is a, is a professional with, with whom I've, I've talked and I think he's very dedicated to the nation's safety. Uh, as a practical matter what it meant to me to, um, have that highest rank in the White House as an assistant to the president. I spent every morning, uh, preparing for, and then sitting in that first meeting that the president had every day, the—
Jen Psaki: 33:21 The PDB.
Lisa Monaco: 33:21 The PDB, the president's daily brief. That's the meeting where the President sitting next to the Vice President, to the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Advisor, myself, the Homeland Security Advisor, go through what has come in overnight from the intelligence community and law enforcement to the FBI to say, what should we be the most focused on? What are we worried about both impending immediate threats and strategic questions? Both, what is North Korea doing? And also, if I were still in that job, I would be saying, look, the FBI is making more domestic terrorism arrests this year than international terrorism. We're seeing this trend. The intelligence community is telling us we need to be focusing in the following way. We need to be resourcing, etc. So being in that room and having that conversation and being able to focus the government from that perch, um, to convene the, uh, the most senior members of the national security and Homeland Security Community and our government, that's practically, uh, what it means, that power to really drive the conversation and drive policy. Um, so I think that's really, it's really important. These are people, you know, as I said, career folks of goodwill. How do you give them the tools to really shape a response that is commensurate with what we know to be the threat. And we know that because the career professionals are telling us that uh, when it comes to resources, unfortunately we have defunded in the last couple of years that the federal grants that have gone to organizations that are focused on fighting or um, addressing white supremacist extremism. So in the Department of Homeland Security, there was, uh, a grant-making organization there in the Department of Homeland Security that was focused on providing tools to communities that is training to law enforcement, um, training and grants for community-based counselors for um, mental health efforts and study of these issues, uh, programs to intervene when it looks like going down the wrong path. These, these can't be the solutions to this problem. The reason I say they have to be community-based solutions is because they have to be generated by the community, right? You can't have the federal government coming in and telling, uh, one community how they have to address an issue. It's not a cookie cutter approach. What the federal government can do is fund best practices and help communities implement and support the solutions that they come up with. That's I think the role that the federal government should play. And, uh, I'd like to see those resources, um, be going out to communities that need them.
Jen Psaki: 36:19 And there's another, um, challenge, many challenges, but another challenge that there was a lot of debate in the administration we worked in but continues and that's encryption and what law enforcement should have access to. And I just wanted to kind of unpack that a little bit for the audience 'cause you hear that term and sometimes people don't know what it means.
Lisa Monaco: 36:36 Sure.
Jen Psaki: 36:36 Um, so why don't you explain, if you don't mind? What encryption is and what are the different sides of the debate?
Lisa Monaco: 36:42 Well, the, the debate basically, um, goes in the following way. One is of course encryption, um, is an ability to, um, to keep contained and, and um, impenetrable, if you will, um, communications between Jen and Lisa. It's technology that's been applied for, for decades that can be, uh, to basically put an envelope around your communications that is, that is impenetrable and keeps the communication private between you and I, for instance—
Jen Psaki: 37:13 And there are many publicly available apps—
Lisa Monaco: 37:14 Absolutely.
Jen Psaki: 37:14 —that have encrypted communications that I know journalists use and many people, uh, out there in the public use.
Lisa Monaco: 37:22 That's exactly right. Things like WhatsApp or Signal. Now increasingly as communications have moved, um, to, uh, off of phone lines and analog systems to digital systems, to what's called peer-to-peer communications like you just described with WhatsApp or whatever. Um, that encryption technology has proliferated. And look, there is tremendous benefits to that, uh, technology. Frankly from a cybersecurity perspective, it greatly helps protect data sets, your health information, my health information, my banking information. Every time you connect with your, you do your online banking, there's encryption involved so that, um, that very sensitive information isn't out there for all of the world to see. It's incredibly important. But, on the flip side, it poses a real challenge for law enforcement. Um, the, the kind of prototypical example here is after the San Bernardino massacre in 2015 when, um, the FBI had the iPhone of the attacker, one of the attackers, they were unable to get into it because it was an encrypted device and the information on it was accessible only to the owner of that device who is now dead.
Jen Psaki: 38:43 I remember they were guessing or trying to guess.
Lisa Monaco: 38:45 They tried to guess the passwords and then it locks up. And these are all important privacy features for a user and things that we all now, um, really prize. And the reason why we use and buy in many respects, uh, this technology, but the challenge for law enforcement is at that time they wanted very much to understand the answer to all the questions we were just talking about. Who might this attacker have been in contact with? Was he part of a broader network? Was there another attack that might be in the offing?
Jen Psaki: 39:18 And in some cases, are they searching, um, sites or are they in touch with, uh, members of white supremacist groups?
Lisa Monaco: 39:24 Exactly. I mean it's because everything we do, all of our communications, our history, um, all of that is now carried around in our pocket on our phones. If you're an investigator, that is the first place to go to understand something about a suspect or a potential attacker or, or a past attacker, so you can certainly understand the need, uh, for this type of information if you're law enforcement. But on the flip side, um, the debate goes that if you build technology or if you require companies to build their technology such that it is able to be accessed in that way, you put a chink in the armor of that, uh, encryption technology and you lessen the privacy and security for all of us.
Jen Psaki: 40:14 And people are worried about their, their information and their engagement. And the most majority of people who are not having problematic conversations feel like it shouldn't be at this.
Lisa Monaco: 40:22 So it's a, it's a really, really a hard problem. And the other thing I'd say, Jen, is too often, I think this debate gets kind of dumbed down into a debate over privacy versus security. And for the reasons we were just talking about, um, there's tremendous security benefits to encryption in addition to the privacy benefits. So we, we've got to, and by the same token, um, law enforcement and the private sector are interested in keeping those security and privacy benefits. So, um, rather than kind of talk past each other with this, uh, by staking it out as adversaries, we've, we've got to try and find some common ground.
Jen Psaki: 41:05 I want to just end by asking you about a couple of different partners in different ways, uh, who, um, will be important in this effort, uh, for the United States. Uh, there have been obviously the fight against ISIS was, um, successful in part because of our, uh, Five Eyes partners and our collaboration and work, uh, with those alliances. Can we use that in any way to, um, fight this kind of rising, uh, white nationalism and extremism we're seeing here and in other parts of the world?
Lisa Monaco: 41:38 So, you know, obviously these, these alliances in these partnerships have been absolutely invaluable to the fight against terrorism and, uh, extremism, the rise in extremism that we saw after 9/11 and that we were so focused on combating the Five Eyes that you referenced, right? That's the—
Jen Psaki: 42:00 We should probably explain who that is. I realize I'm short-handing.
Lisa Monaco: 42:03 Exactly. It's the alliance that we've formed with the UK, with Canada, um, with New Zealand, and Australia and these are the countries that, um, are, you know, like-minded, have as close to a similar system, um, to both legal and, and organizational system that we have. And we have trusted relationships with them from a law enforcement and intelligence sharing, uh, perspective. And so, uh, those alliances have been invaluable. That said, there are differences, right? Um, we are unique amongst our, um, Five Eyes allies of having, you know, having the First Amendment, which is, we've previously talked about, poses some different challenges when you talk about political violence and political, uh, politically motivated acts, right? So that, those are, those are challenges and differences. I think we can share information and best practices because, um, you know, we are not unique in having, uh, individuals radicalized to violence, motivated by not an international terrorist organization, but by domestic grievances. We share that, unfortunately, with other partner nations. Um, and so we should share also the practices and what has worked, uh, in our, in each country to combat those, uh, those individuals who have been radicalized and motivated to violence by domestic grievance.
Jen Psaki: 43:38 And as we've talked about, there's been a lot of work, um, that has been done by social media companies. Most people are not satisfied by that. Uh, where should they be going? What should they be thinking about moving forward to, to try to address some of these growing movements online?
Lisa Monaco: 43:55 So, uh, look, I think we've got to improve the relationship between the government and the social media companies. There's got to be some level of trust to share information. The social media platforms know their platforms and their technology the best, right? The government may have unique information about what malicious actors are doing on those platforms. So how do we build a relationship of trust to share that information so that we can, uh, join forces in doing what we all want, which is to stop the abuse of these platforms, um, that results in violence to our citizens, right? I think the social media companies are, you know, these are folks who don't want to see their platforms be abused in this way, so we have a shared goal and we ought to be able, uh, to, to work towards that. We were doing that. Um, uh, when you and I were both in government on the ISIS issues and how, uh, ISIS and sympathizers with ISIS were, were, abusing these platforms, we've got to, uh, do the same thing when it comes to some of this other content.
Jen Psaki: 45:09 Lisa Monaco, it's always a pleasure. One of the smartest people I know. I could just keep asking you questions for a while, but, um, thank you again for, uh, appearing with us on The World Unpacked.
Lisa Monaco: 45:19 Great to be with you.
Jen Psaki: 45:24 Thanks for listening to The World Unpacked, which is produced by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. You can find us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. For more information and to subscribe, you can find us at Don't forget to rate the show. It helps other people find us. Our audio engineer is Tim Martin, and our executive producer is Lauren Dueck.