DHS warns of possible uptick in domestic terrorism with easing of COVID-19-related restrictions
- Published: Monday, 17 May 2021 12:19
US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas has issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin after consultation with the Intelligence Community and law enforcement partners. The NTAS Bulletin advises that the United States is facing threats that have evolved significantly and become increasingly complex and volatile.
Key points highlighted in the bulletin are:
- Violent extremists may seek to exploit the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions across the United States 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 (DVE) attacks linked to racially- or ethnically-motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) have targeted houses of worship and crowded commercial facilities or gatherings. Some RMVEs 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 DVEs, 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 US-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) 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.