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Congressman says time to look at making ‘domestic terrorism’ a federal charge after Austin bombings

March 25, 2018

A key member of Congress said Saturday he’s willing to look into whether federal laws should include a domestic terrorism charge for killers like the Austin bomber.

U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul, an Austin Republican whose district stretches into Harris County, said Congress should examine “whether domestic terrorism could be turned into a charge rather than just a definition.”

Currently, there is a federal charge for foreign terrorism, but the term “domestic terrorism” is only a definition, he said. To legally be a terrorist, someone has to have political motive for their crime and the motive for the Austin bomber is still unclear, according to police.

While the bomber is not legally a domestic terrorist, McCaul said he understands why people consider him that.

“It is unequivocal that this man, this individual — this sick individual — terrorized the city of Austin and this community,” McCaul said at a press conference late Saturday in Austin.

After killing two people and wounding five others over the course of three weeks, Mark Anthony Conditt, a 23-year-old unemployed college dropout, died early Wednesday when he blew himself up in a car as police confronted him.

Austin Police offered no new details on the investigation during the 24-minute press conference Saturday evening. Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manly repeated that Conditt did not offer a clear motive in his video confession.

“We have the tape, the 25- to 28-minute tape where he talks about a lot of things but as we continue this investigation we will look to see if we can identify a specific motive behind this,” Manly said.

Asked about when the tape will be released to the public, Manly said that will be a discussion when the investigation has concluded.

“We have to finish out to ensure no one else was involved, because if there were, then that might be something that is needed for a potential prosecution,” Manly said.

On the tape, McCaul said Conditt described himself as a psychopath and did not show any remorse for what he did.

“As chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I’m used to see these events in New York and London and Paris,” said McCaul, a seven-term Congressman first elected in 2004. “I never thought I’d see them in my hometown of Austin.”

jeremy.wallace@chron.com

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