White House Report To Detail Anti-Extremism Effort NPR has learned from officials who have seen the report that the strategy will revolve around folding federal, state and local officials into a broad initiative. The idea is to bring together agencies and departments that have everyday ties to communities and give them the tools they need to help counter radicalization.
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White House Report To Detail Anti-Extremism Effort

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White House Report To Detail Anti-Extremism Effort

White House Report To Detail Anti-Extremism Effort

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Today, the White House plans to say how it wants to fight violent extremists in America. NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston has some details. She's on the line.

Dina, good morning.


INSKEEP: So what's the plan?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, according to sources who've seen a draft of this report they're going to put out later today, they're calling it the National Strategy on Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism.

Now, violent extremism is this new buzzword for what we used to call radicalization. I mean, theoretically it doesn't matter whether someone is an al-Qaida sympathizer or a violent anti-government activist, the research shows they all go through a similar process.

So the headline here about this new report is that this is the first time the U.S. has tried to fold a bunch of federal and local agencies into an effort to counter violent extremism and basically do it as a part of normal day-to-day operations with the community.

And this is the first time the U.S. has laid out a comprehensive strategy to tackle all this. I mean, the Department of Justice and the FBI have always part of outreach programs to various communities. But other agencies and local partners have always been on the sidelines. This is supposed to change all that.

INSKEEP: Well, that's what I'm trying to understand here. I mean, it is almost a decade since 9/11. There's certainly been efforts to find extremists of various kinds across the country.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes, exactly. I mean, basically what they've been trying to do is build off the mistakes that have been made elsewhere. I mean, the U.K. had this program called Prevent, which was supposed to blunt radicalization in Britain. But it's had a lot of detractors because basically it was lead by their law enforcement.

I mean, the same guys who were gathering intelligence on cases, or arresting people, were wading into the Muslim community there and saying, trust us, let us run your after-school programs and your soup kitchens. And it's not too surprising that there wasn't a lot of trust there.

So the idea in this new plan out of the White House is that you'd have local people wading into the communities - people the communities recognize.

INSKEEP: OK. So that's the mechanics of this. What about the actual messages? I mean, how do you - do you use persuasion? What do you use if you're trying to fight against the rise of extremism in some community?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Or radical ideologies. I mean, that's what's interesting. I mean, it turns out that ideology may not necessarily be the driving factor that takes young people and turns them into violent Islamists or Neo-Nazis.

I mean, a couple of weeks ago there was this conference that was sponsored by Google Ideas in Dublin, Ireland. And basically what it did is it brought together all these former violent extremists - Neo-Nazis, Islamists, skinheads. And whether these guys were from, you know, a suburb in Wisconsin or a small village in Nigeria, what was really interesting is they all had this similar backstory. They were restless kids who lacked identity growing up and found an identity with these extremist groups.

So the idea behind this new White House strategy is to use all these various government agencies and their local partners to make sure that these people feel they have an identity and a place in society. I mean, you don't have to be Muslim or an extremist to benefit from these programs. That's the way they see it. They think those groups are clearly also going to be affected.�

INSKEEP Although, some people are going to wonder how does - when you talk about these other departments, how does something like the Department of Education fit into this effort.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. Well, let me just give you an example. So the Department of Education has been focused on a number of anti-bullying campaigns in schools recently. And included in those reports of bullying have been school girls who get picked on for wearing a hijab or a scarf. Well, by not singling anybody out, they can basically sort of fold that bullying into the broader campaign.

I mean, some of this for sure is a little touchy-feely, but it is a comprehensive strategy, which we haven't had until now. So in that respect this is progress.

INSKEEP: Dina, thanks very much.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're very welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston.

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