Extremists could be mobilized to commit acts of violence in the coming months by “their perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues,” said a new National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin released by the Department of Homeland Security today.
The bulletin sites recent attacks including this month’s mass shooting at an Allen, Texas, outlet center in which eight people were killed and seven injured. “Law enforcement continues to investigate the motive behind the attack, but initial reporting suggests the attacker fixated on mass shootings and held views consistent with racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist (RMVE) and involuntary celibate violent extremist ideologies,” NTAS says. It also notes that “law enforcement continues to investigate the motive behind the attack” that killed six people at a Christian elementary school in Nashville in March, with investigation revealing so far that “the individual studied other mass murderers.”
“Also in March 2023, a RMVE driven by a belief in the superiority of the white race was arrested and charged with allegedly attempting to use an improvised incendiary device to burn down a church in Ohio that was planning to host a drag-themed event,” the bulletin continued. “In February 2023, two RMVEs driven by a belief in the superiority of the white race were arrested and are now awaiting trial for plotting an attack against electrical substations in Maryland. These arrests followed a series of recent attacks against electrical infrastructure, which some DVEs have praised and leveraged to call for more attacks on critical infrastructure.”
The bulletin also mentions “anarchist violent extremism, animal rights/environmental violent extremism, and anti-law enforcement sentiment” used by alleged domestic violent extremists since spring 2022 “to justify criminal activity in opposition to a planned public safety training facility in Atlanta.” This has included “an alleged shooting and assaults targeting law enforcement and property damage targeting the facility, construction companies, and financial institutions for their perceived involvement with the planned facility.”
Foreign terrorist organizations are likewise noted for their ongoing attempts to encourage lone attacks, such as the New Year’s Eve attack on NYPD officers in Times Square. Trevor Thomas Bickford, 19, of Wells, Maine, has been charged in the attack and allegedly sought to join the Taliban after consuming jihadist content online.
“The United States remains in a heightened threat environment,” NTAS states. “Lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and personal grievances continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat to the Homeland. Both domestic violent extremists (DVEs) and those associated with foreign terrorist organizations continue to attempt to motivate supporters to conduct attacks in the Homeland, including through violent extremist messaging and online calls for violence.”
“In the coming months, factors that could mobilize individuals to commit violence include their perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues,” the bulletin continues. “Likely targets of potential violence include US critical infrastructure, faith-based institutions, individuals or events associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, schools, racial and ethnic minorities, and government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement.”
The previous NTAS bulletin was set to expire today. That bulletin, issued on Nov. 30, warned that large gatherings connected to the holiday season could be attractive targets for those seeking to conduct terrorist attacks and events such as the second anniversary of the Capitol attack, certifications related to midterm elections, and “potential sociopolitical developments connected to ideological beliefs or personal hostility” may drive extremists to violence.
“Targets of potential violence include public gatherings, faith-based institutions, the LGBTQI+ community, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents,” that bulletin said, citing the November shooting at an LGBTQ bar in Colorado Springs and domestic violent extremists’ praise for the October 2022 shooting at a gay bar in Slovakia.
The Bratislava shooter, 19-year-old Juraj Krajcik, posted a 65-page manifesto shortly before the attack that cited Buffalo supermarket shooter Payton Gendron, who pleaded guilty to killing 10 in the May 2022 mass shooting, as “the final nail in the coffin” who compelled him to commit extremist violence. Krajcik was quickly labeled a “saint” by domestic accelerationists online.
The previous bulletin, released in June, said that changes in policies related to border enforcement could be used to “justify violence” against minority communities or border enforcement, and that potential changes in abortion laws and looming midterm elections increased the potential for attacks perpetrated by domestic extremists.
That bulletin singled out the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the May 14 mass shooting at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, the May 15 attack on Taiwanese congregants at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., and the April 12 mass shooting in a New York City Subway car as examples of how lone actors “demonstrated the dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment facing the United States.”
The new bulletin expires on Nov. 24.
“Recent tragic events highlight the continued heightened threat environment our nation faces, and these threats are driven by violent extremists who seek to further their ideological beliefs and personal grievances,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “We are working with partners across every level of government, within the private sector, and in local communities to keep Americans safe. We will continue to share information and intelligence, equip communities with training and resources, and fund security enhancement and prevention efforts through millions of dollars in grant funding.”