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Saturday, February 4, 2023

NTAS: Praise for Recent Attacks, Holiday Gatherings, Capitol Attack Anniversary Feed ‘Dynamic and Complex’ Threat Environment

Online extremists have praised the deadly shootings at LGBTQI+ bars in Colorado Springs and Slovakia and encouraged additional violence, new bulletin notes.

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, according to a new National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin released by the Department of Homeland Security today.

“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,” the bulletin said.

The last NTAS bulletin expired today at 2 p.m. The latest version incorporates recent attacks and threats that have demonstrated “the continued dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment in the United States.”

“Following the late November shooting at an LGBTQI+ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado—which remains under investigation—we have observed actors on forums known to post racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist content praising the alleged attacker,” the bulletin states. “Similarly, some domestic violent extremists in the United States praised an October 2022 shooting at a LGBTQI+ bar in Slovakia and encouraged additional violence.”

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 just pleaded guilty to killing 10 in the May mass shooting, as “the final nail in the coffin” who compelled him to commit extremist violence.

Krajcik said that he began writing his own manifesto the month of the Buffalo attack. “Saint Gendron gave me the final nudge, allowing me to overcome my own indecision and begin seriously working towards carrying out an operation,” he wrote, using the terminology in which accelerationists “canonize” white killers who meet certain criteria including deliberate intent, motive, inflicting at least one death, and having a neo-Nazi, white nationalist, or far-right anti-system worldview; Krajcik was quickly labeled a “saint” by accelerationists online.

The NTAS bulletin also notes that recent incidents “have highlighted the enduring threat to faith-based communities, including the Jewish community,” including the arrest of Omar Alkattoul, 18, of Sayreville, N.J., on Nov. 10; he was charged with posting a manifesto online threatening to attack a synagogue and declaring that the “motive of this attack is hatred towards Jews and their heinous acts.”

The last 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.”

“Individuals in online forums that routinely promulgate domestic violent extremist and conspiracy theory-related content have praised the May 2022 mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and encouraged copycat attacks,” the bulletin noted. “Others have seized on the event to attempt to spread disinformation and incite grievances, including claims it was a government-staged event meant to advance gun control measures.”

The new bulletin says that midterm election violence was “isolated” but officials “remain vigilant that heightened political tensions in the country could contribute to individuals mobilizing to violence based on personalized grievances.”

“Over the past few months we observed general calls for violence targeting elected officials, candidates, and ballot drop box locations,” the bulletin adds.

Citing the October hammer attack on the husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s at their home in San Francisco, DHS notes that the man charged in the crime, David DePape, 42, “was allegedly inspired by partisan grievances and conspiracy theories.”

“Several elected officials, candidates, and political organizations received threatening letters with suspicious powders, which, while found not to be dangerous or toxic, were likely intended to target the political process,” NTAS continues. “Voting for the midterm elections has concluded, but certifications for some elections will continue through December 2022, and some social media users have sought to justify the use of violence in response to perceptions that the midterm elections were fraudulent, citing technical difficulties at voting sites and delays in certifications.”

Threats and violence against law enforcement and government officials are being driven by “perceptions of government overreach,” the bulletin says, citing the August attack by Ricky Walter Shiffer, 42, on the FBI field office in Cincinnati. The previous day, a Truth Social account in Shiffer’s name posted, “It won’t matter if we don’t get violent. We see the courts are unfair and unconstitutional, all that is left is force.”

“Some domestic violent extremists have expressed grievances based on perceptions that the government is overstepping its Constitutional authorities or failing to perform its duties,” the NTAS bulletin continues. “Historically, issues related to immigration and abortion have been cited by prior attackers as inspiration for violence. Potential changes in border security enforcement policy, an increase in noncitizens attempting to enter the U.S., or other immigration-related developments may heighten these calls for violence.”

The new NTAS bulletin is set to expire on May 24. It includes links to preparedness resources on topics such as how to better protect businesses, houses of worship and schools, and ensure the safety of public gatherings.

“Our homeland continues to face a heightened threat environment —as we have seen, tragically, in recent acts of targeted violence— and is driven by violent extremists seeking to further a political or social goal or act on a grievance,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “To keep Americans safe, DHS is committed to working with partners across every level of government, in the private sector, and in local communities by sharing information, equipping communities with training and resources, and providing millions of dollars in grant funding for security enhancement and prevention.”

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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