This is the Executive Summary of a report that reviews the Obama Administration’s multi-faceted initiative to prevent violent extremism, named by this report’s authors as “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE).
The CVE Initiative was launched in August 2011 and continued until it was terminated by the Trump Administration shortly after January 2017. This report’s conclusions about the CVE Initiative are based on research conducted during 2014-16. This involved a nationwide survey of U.S. Attorneys about their CVE activities; interviews with key stakeholders at the federal agencies involved in the CVE Initiative; interviews with federal law enforcement officials in local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI Field Offices; and focus groups composed of Muslim Americans, who discussed their views of federal CVE efforts and related issues. Prior to reporting the results of this research effort, the report notes that the two primary sources of violent extremism inside the United States since 9/11 have been 1) individuals inspired by the ideology espoused by al Qaeda, ISIS, and like-minded groups, as well as 2) individuals inspired by White supremacy. Their presence in the United States entitles them to the right to obtain firearms and civil liberties protections that limit law enforcement’s ability to conduct surveillance. The CVE Initiative was an attempt by the federal government to develop and implement policies intended to reduce the number of individuals attracted to violent extremism. This report draws three conclusions about the CVE Initiative. First, its programs strengthened communication on this issue between communities and federal agencies. Second, it stimulated strategic thinking about ways to prevent violent extremism. Third, it provided a forum for addressing many problems experienced by Muslim Americans in the post-9/11 era. Discussions of barriers and key flaws in the CVE Initiative are followed by recommendations.