DHS Bulletin Warns of ‘Miscellaneous and Difficult’ Terrorist Threats Ahead of Vacation
While DHS is not aware of an imminent and credible threat, the public bulletin points out that upcoming religious holidays and associated mass gatherings have already served as potential targets for acts of violence.
The bulletin notes that stressors linked to the pandemic have contributed to increasing societal tensions and tensions, leading to several plots by domestic violent extremists.
These stressors “could contribute to more violence this year and next,” the newsletter reads.
DHS fears that if a new variant of Covid-19 emerges and additional public health restrictions are imposed, violent anti-government extremists “could potentially use the new restrictions as a justification to target government officials or facilities or public health “.
According to a senior DHS official, on some online platforms related to domestic violent extremism, there has been a fairly consistent focus on public health restrictions imposed due to Covid-19 and the content that describes those restrictions as excessive government interference.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan also had an environmental impact of the national threat. Foreign terrorist organizations and domestic extremists will likely continue to try to inspire potential U.S.-based supporters to engage in violent activity, including by exploiting recent events in Afghanistan, the bulletin said.
The potential for violence fueled by conspiracy theory also remains a major concern for the department.
According to the bulletin, law enforcement officials expressed concern that the widespread sharing of false narratives and conspiracy theories endorsing the use of violence continues to gain traction.
The online activity of foreign and domestic threat actors is fueling the volatility of the current threat environment, the senior DHS official said.
“We continue to be concerned about the use of online platforms by domestic extremist organizations, foreign terrorist groups, foreign intelligence services as they seek to disseminate conspiracy theories, disinformation for the express purpose to inspire acts of violence in the United States, “the official said. of the bulletin.
“We have become much more forward-oriented when it comes to analyzing online activity and assessing activity from a potential risk of violence perspective,” he said.
Cohen told the committee that DHS is “much more aware and attentive” to incorporating this threat-related information into operational planning.
He cited the day of the inauguration as an example. The law enforcement response on inauguration day “was very different” from previous weeks, he said, and included physical security measures in and around the Capitol and other locations. as well as a highly visible National Guard and law enforcement presence in Washington, DC, and state capitals across the country.
Comments on the day of the inauguration on social media and extremist platforms reflected an understanding of such security measures and a reluctance to come to Washington, Cohen said, adding that “those who plotted acts of violence saw him as a trap set for their arrest or given that it is not the right time to come and engage because of the presence of security. “
The lesson to be learned, he said, is that DHS’s analysis has focused more on understanding when there may be a potential act of violence, and then on taking action – sometimes very visible. – to create security measures that serve as a deterrent.