DHS issues national terrorism alert for domestic extremists
The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism alert warning that violent domestic extremists could attack in the coming weeks, emboldened by the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. DHS, in an alert issued Wednesday, said violent extremists opposed to the government and the presidential transition “could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.” The department said it doesn’t have evidence of a specific plot.
The DHS release was part of a public alert called a National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin.
The alert is the department’s first in about a year. The last such bulletin from DHS came in January 2020, warning about Iran’s potential to carry out cyberattacks. DHS notably didn’t issue an alert ahead of the Jan. 6 planned rally in Washington, D.C., that devolved into a mob siege at the Capitol, despite public chatter online that extremists planned to do so.
Wednesday’s alert described a series of factors in the recent past that have increased the potential for violence among U.S. extremists.
Violent extremists have been “motivated by a range of issues, including anger over Covid-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force,” the alert said. The alert also listed opposition to immigration, citing that as a motivating factor in a white supremacist’s killing of 23 people in El Paso, Texas, in 2019.
DHS said it is “concerned these same drivers to violence will remain through early 2021 and some [domestic violent extremists] may be emboldened by the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., to target elected officials and government facilities.”
“This is a bulletin that should have been issued in late December,” said Elizabeth Neumann, a former DHS counterterrorism official who served during the Trump administration and has been critical of how the department has approached the issue. “I’m grateful that the new team at DHS has quickly assessed the available intelligence and performed their statutory duty to warn the public about the threat environment we are facing.”
Since the Jan. 6 riot, far-right groups have used increasingly violent rhetoric in online chats, sharing bomb-making materials and guerrilla tactics and calling for asymmetric war with the government, according to researchers at the Soufan Group, a nonpartisan center that tracks extremist movements.
“There is open talk of war, that the war is coming, that ‘2021 will be our year,’ ” said Mollie Saltskog, an analyst at the Soufan Group. “This is all in the aftermath of January 6.”
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