U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Investigating Nazi Swastika Drawn in Building

Internal email obtained by CNN says 'there is no room in the workplace for such symbols of hate'

The Department of Homeland Security seal on the podium used by acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan as he announces new rules about how migrant children, August 21, 2019 in Washington, DC
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

CNN reported over the weekend that a swastika found on the third floor of a Department of Homeland Security building in Washington has sparked an internal investigation. 

CNN anchor Jake Tapper reported that staffers in the Nebrask Avenue Complex in Washington “were notified about the Nazi symbol in an email from Principal Deputy Undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy.”

CNN obtained the email which said: "Unfortunately, today a hand drawn swastika was located on the third floor. First, I want to repeat what (Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis David Glawe), the Secretary, and many others in the Department have said in the past: there is no room in the workplace for such symbols of hate. And there is no room in the workplace for those who ascribe to such a thing. I have communicated with USIA Glawe, who is currently in Israel, and he is disgusted by what has happened." 

In August, two mass shootings and a presidential tweet put a spotlight on the idea of “domestic terrorism,” adding momentum to a debate about whether such attacks should be classified and tried in the same way as crimes against America by foreign extremist groups and their supporters. A Republican senator and a Democrat in the House of Representatives are drafting bills to do that while some Republicans call for a left-wing group to be designated a terrorist organization.

“Domestic terrorism is in our backyard and we need to call it and treat it under the law the same as other forms of terrorism,” said U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican who intends to introduce legislation when Congress returns in September.

McSally’s proposal would allow federal law enforcement to charge suspects with acts of domestic terror and add punishments for those crimes, including the death penalty.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, introduced legislation on Aug. 16 that he says is a “very high priority.”

“The goal is to put domestic terrorism at the same level of priority as ISIS- or al-Qaida-inspired terrorism, since Americans on American soil now are just as likely, if not more likely, to die at the hand of a domestic terrorist motivated by some hateful ideology like white supremacy,” Schiff said in a telephone interview.

Separately, two Republican senators are calling for an anti-fascist movement known as antifa to be designated as a domestic terrorist organization. The push comes after clashes between white supremacists and antifa in Portland, Oregon, which drew a tweet from President Trump suggesting domestic terrorism designation for antifa but not the white supremacists. Such a designation does not currently exist.

While a push to rethink what should be deemed terrorism gains some momentum, it has sparked concerns about infringement of constitutional rights. It’s also not clear whether the debate will be embraced in a bipartisan way, though McSally said this week that her bill has received “a lot of positive feedback ... from both sides of the aisle.”