Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin on Friday that says as the Covid-19 virus restrictions diminish, another threat looms: “The United States is facing threats that have evolved significantly and become increasingly complex and volatile.” These threats are posed by “domestic terrorists, individuals, and groups engaged in grievance-based violence, and those inspired or influenced by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influences.”
Because restrictions are lifting on people’s movement, there are now more opportunities for bad actors to carry out their plans to harm the country, DHS says.
Specifically, the DHS says:
- Violent extremists may seek to exploit the easing of Covid-19-related restrictions across the country to conduct attacks against a broader range of targets after previous public capacity limits reduced opportunities for lethal attacks.
- Historically, mass-casualty Domestic Violent Extremist attacks linked to racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists have targeted houses of worship and crowded commercial facilities or gatherings. Some extremists advocate via social media and online platforms for a race war and have stated that civil disorder provides opportunities to engage in violence in furtherance of ideological objectives.
- Through 2020 and into 2021, government facilities and personnel have been common targets of domestic violent extremists, and opportunistic violent criminals are likely to exploit constitutionally protected freedom of speech activity linked to racial justice grievances and police use of force concerns, potentially targeting protestors perceived to be ideological opponents.
- Ideologically motivated violent extremists fueled by perceived grievances, false narratives, and conspiracy theories continue to share information online with the intent to incite violence. Online narratives across sites known to be frequented by individuals who hold violent extremist ideologies have called for violence against elected officials, political representatives, government facilities, law enforcement, religious or commercial facilities, and perceived ideologically-opposed individuals.
- The use of encrypted messaging by lone offenders and small violent extremist cells may obscure operational indicators that provide specific warning of a pending act of violence.
- Messaging from foreign terrorist organizations, including al-Qa‘ida and ISIS, intended to inspire U.S.-based homegrown violent extremists continues to amplify narratives related to exploiting protests. HVEs, who have typically conducted attacks against soft targets, mass gatherings, and law enforcement, remain a threat to the Homeland.
- Nation-state adversaries have increased efforts to sow discord. For example, Russian, Chinese and Iranian government-linked media outlets have repeatedly amplified conspiracy theories concerning the origins of COVID-19 and effectiveness of vaccines; in some cases, amplifying calls for violence targeting persons of Asian descent.
- DHS encourages law enforcement and homeland security partners to be alert to these developments and prepared for any effects to public safety. Consistent with applicable law, state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) law enforcement organizations should maintain situational awareness of online and physical activities that may be related to an evolving threat of violence.
“Today’s terrorism-related threat landscape is more complex, more dynamic, and more diversified than it was several years ago. We know that providing timely and useful information to the public is critical as we all work together to secure the homeland. With the issuance of today’s NTAS Bulletin, we are advising the public to be vigilant about ongoing threats to the United States, including those posed by domestic terrorism, grievance-based violence, and those inspired or influenced by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influences,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “In this evolving threat environment, DHS is redoubling our efforts to detect and disrupt all forms of foreign and domestic terrorism and targeted violence, while safeguarding privacy protections, civil rights, and civil liberties.”
DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will continue to provide guidance to state, local, tribal, and territorial partners about the current threat environment. DHS is collaborating with industry partners to identify and respond to the radicalization that results from the spread of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and false narratives on social media and other online platforms, the department said, adding that it has no any information to indicate a specific, credible plot; “however, DHS asks all Americans to report any suspicious activity and threats of violence to local law enforcement, FBI Field Offices, or a local Fusion Center.”
Fusion centers are cooperative functions between state and federal law enforcement agencies. The Alaska fusion center is called the Alaska Criminal Intelligence Center and can be reached at 907-269-8900 / 855-692-5425.
DHS has also established a new, dedicated domestic terrorism branch within the Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis and is increasing training opportunities for law enforcement partners, including through threat assessment and management programs related to domestic violent extremism.