Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin regarding the continued heightened threat environment across the United States. In it, the agency became even more specific about the threat of misinformation and disinformation online, related to Covid, and other matters.
“The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors. These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence. Mass casualty attacks and other acts of targeted violence conducted by lone offenders and small groups acting in furtherance of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances pose an ongoing threat to the nation,” DHS wrote in its summary.
This is the fifth NTAS Bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security since January 2021 and it replaces the current Bulletin that was expired on Wednesday. Previously, the agency had warned about violence that might occur as a result of lockdowns.
“While the conditions underlying the heightened threat landscape have not significantly changed over the last year, the convergence of the following factors has increased the volatility, unpredictability, and complexity of the threat environment: (1) the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions; (2) continued calls for violence directed at U.S. critical infrastructure; soft targets and mass gatherings; faith-based institutions, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques; institutions of higher education; racial and religious minorities; government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement and the military; the media; and perceived ideological opponents; and (3) calls by foreign terrorist organizations for attacks on the United States based on recent events,” the bulletin says.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, DHS is prioritizing combating all forms of terrorism and targeted violence, including through its efforts to support the first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. Since January 2021, DHS has taken several steps in this regard, including:
- established a new domestic terrorism branch within DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis dedicated to producing sound, timely intelligence needed to counter domestic terrorism-related threats;
- launched the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) to provide communities with resources and tools to help prevent individuals from radicalizing to violence;
- designated domestic violent extremism as a “National Priority Area” within DHS’s Homeland Security Grant Program for the first time, resulting in at least $77 million being spent on preventing, preparing for, protecting against, and responding to related threats nationwide;
- provided $180 million in funding to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements to non-profit organizations at high risk of terrorist attack through DHS’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP);
- increased efforts to identify and evaluate MDM, including false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories spread on social media and other online platforms, that endorse violence; and,
- enhanced collaboration with public and private sector partners – including U.S. critical infrastructure owners and operators – to better protect our cyber and physical infrastructure and increase the Nation’s cybersecurity through the Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).