Daniel Benjamin & Rev. William Barber on Domestic Terrorism

Daniel Benjamin was co-ordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department under President Obama and had to wrestle first-hand with the United States’ blind spot regarding homegrown racist terror. He joins the program alongside Reverend William Barber, a longtime civil rights activist and Protestant minister who was in El Paso just days before the massacre there.

Read Transcript EXPAND

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, in terms of the counterterrorism aspect of it, Daniel Benjamin, did you hear anything that made you think that the president, with his words today, and he did, you know, used stronger words and he has in the past on this issue, would, I don’t know, encourage sort of legislation or something in the counterterrorism field?

DANIEL BENJAMIN, OBAMA ADMIN. COORDINATOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM: I didn’t hear much that gave me any reason to believe there could be a significant change of course from what we’ve seen in the past. Neither Kellyanne’s remarks nor the president’s really focused on the core issues being the wide availability of guns, the underperformance at the federal government on investigating, intelligence gathering and prevention of White supremacist terror. And I’ve heard today a fair amount of deflection talking about mental illness and talking about video games. And in both of those cases, I think, you know, it’s a bit of a smoke screen. The mental illness issue, and they’re undoubtedly mentally ill people involved in terrorism, but the large majority are not. Researchers have looked at that over and over again. And if you look at the shooter’s manifesto, he doesn’t seem to be mentally ill. And the video game thing is just insulting to the intelligence of Americans. Video games are played all over the world. It seems odd that only in America do White supremacists become motivated to kill people on the basis of their video game watching. So, you know, the president has a wide-open field. I would also add, though, that when the president finally uses strong language in August of 2019, after using language that has really heated up the environment since his very declaration that he was running in 2015 and spoke of Mexican rapists coming across the border, this long trail of racist language finally being interrupted by one set of remarks in 2019, I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference. And I think many of those who take their ideas from the president, including the shooter, will understand why he did this.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, why do you say the shooter? Because of what? I mean, did he mention the president?

BENJAMIN: If you read the shooter’s manifesto, it is fairly clear that he has been listening very, very carefully to President Trump. The language of invasion and replacement and Hispanics coming across the border to, you know, infest our society.


BENJAMIN: He has been taking dictation. It’s very clear where he is getting a lot of his ideas or where his ideas have become essentially activated. How that happened.

About This Episode EXPAND

Kellyanne Conway joins Christiane Amanpour to comment on the mass shootings that happened over the weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Daniel Benjamin and Rev. William Barber join the program to weigh in on the attacks. Danah Boyd sits down with Hari Sreenivasan to explain how digital media amplifies the spread of false information.