U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers with the Office of Field Operations stand their posts as they support security operations for the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C, January 19, 2021. (CBP Photo by Brian Sowards)

New Terrorism Advisory Warns of Domestic Extremists ‘Fueled by False Narratives’

A heightened threat environment expected to “persist in the weeks following the successful presidential inauguration” drove the Department of Homeland Security to issue a National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin today focusing on domestic extremists.

The bulletin, which is a grade below elevated alert or imminent alert advisories under the NTAS, goes into effect today and expires April 30.

“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin states.

Domestic violent extremists (DVEs), ranging from those motivated by issues including “anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force” have “targeted individuals with opposing views engaged in First Amendment-protected, non-violent protest activity” and “have plotted and on occasion carried out attacks against government facilities,” the bulletin notes.

“Long-standing racial and ethnic tension — including opposition to immigration — has driven DVE attacks, including a 2019 shooting in El Paso, Texas, that killed 23 people,” it continues. “DHS is concerned these same drivers to violence will remain through early 2021 and some DVEs 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.”

The department also “remains concerned” about the threat posed by homegrown violent extremists inspired by foreign terrorist groups, who committed three attacks targeting government officials in 2020.

“Threats of violence against critical infrastructure, including the electric, telecommunications and healthcare sectors, increased in 2020 with violent extremists citing misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 for their actions,” the bulletin states.

DHS along with other federal agencies and law enforcement partners “will continue to take precautions to protect people and infrastructure across the United States” and the department “remains committed to preventing violence and threats meant to intimidate or coerce specific populations on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity, identity or political views.”

State, local, tribal, and territorial homeland security partners are urged by DHS “to continue prioritizing physical security measures, particularly around government facilities, to protect people and critical infrastructure.”

The NTAS bulletin calls on Americans to “choose non-violent ways to make your voice heard and support friends and family in doing the same.”

“Communities are strongest when they are not divided: Strengthen your community by standing together against violence,” it adds.

People are reminded that “avoiding large crowds, including protests, is safest due to ongoing pandemic conditions. However, if taking part in protests do so peacefully, safely, and wear masks.”

Members of the public are asked to report suspicious activity and threats of violence, including online activity, to local law enforcement, FBI Field Offices, or their local Fusion Center.

The last NTAS bulletin, which expired in March, warned of the threat of terrorism from Iran or its proxies, stating that Iran “likely views terrorism as an option to deter or retaliate against its perceived adversaries” and expanding on threats posed by homegrown violent extremists.

“At this time, we have no information indicating a specific, credible threat to the Homeland; however, we remain concerned about Iran’s potential to carry out cyber attacks,” that January 2020 bulletin said. “Additionally, Iran and its partners, such as Hizballah, have demonstrated their capability to conduct various operations in the U.S.”

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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 senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She 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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