(NYPD photo)

NTAS Bulletin: Homegrown Violent Extremists ‘Could Capitalize’ on Iran Tensions and Attack

The Department of Homeland Security issued a National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin on Saturday warning that homegrown violent extremists “could capitalize on the heightened tensions” after the targeted killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani “to launch individual attacks.”

NTAS replaced in 2011 the post-9/11 color-coded terror alert system, issuing advisories in the forms of bulletins, elevated alerts or imminent alerts. The new bulletin will expire on Jan. 18 at 1 p.m. EST.

“At this time there is no specific, credible threat against the homeland,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement. “The department issued this bulletin to inform, share protective measures, and reassure the American public, state and local governments, and private-sector partners that the Department of Homeland Security is actively monitoring and preparing for any specific, credible threat, should one arise.”

“The department is operating with an enhanced posture and various operational components are taking protective measures where prudent and necessary,” he added. “We have been in constant communication with Congress and interagency partners. The American people should feel assured the entire department is working for them to keep them safe.”

Iran has vowed retaliation for Friday’s airstrike that hit Soleimani’s convoy at Baghdad airport. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced Saturday that Brigadier General Esmail Qa’ani is the new Quds Force commander, and “the strategy of the Quds Force will be identical to that during the time of Martyr General Soleimani.”

Khamenei tweeted Friday that “#SevereRevenge awaits the criminals who have stained their hands with his & the other martyrs’ blood.”

The NTAS bulletin noted the absence of current specific threats and noted that Iran “maintains a robust cyber program and can execute cyber attacks against the United States.”

“Iran is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects against critical infrastructure in the United States,” the bulletin continued. “Iran likely views terrorist activities as an option to deter or retaliate against its perceived adversaries. In many instances, Iran has targeted United States interests through its partners such as Hizballah.”

More generally, the advisory stresses that “an attack in the homeland may come with little or no warning” and reminds people to report suspicious activity or signs of operational planning.

The Los Angeles Police Department tweeted Friday that “while there is no credible threat to Los Angeles, the LAPD is monitoring the events developing in Iran.”

“We will continue to communicate with state, local, federal and international law enforcement partners regarding any significant intel that may develop,” the LAPD added. “This Department is committed to ensuring the safety of our vibrant and diverse community, and we ask every Angeleno to say something if you see something.” L.A. is home to a large Persian population, including many who fled from the regime in Iran, resulting in the nickname Tehrangeles.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told MSNBC on Friday that while there are “no credible and specific threats” involving his city, “Iranian proxies have previously – we know this, it’s public information – they’ve scouted out in New York City targets – Hezbollah, in particular.”

“This goes back years and we know that Iran and its many agents have long since had plans to prepare to attack American locations,” he said. “…We’re dealing with a very sophisticated modern country with a huge military and an internationally organized terrorist network.”

“Look, this is New York City, we dealt with 9/11, we dealt with lone wolf attacks, all sorts of things. This is a whole other reality now that we’re facing, a much more organized threat, and we have to be you prepared, and that’s why the NYPD is on high alert to protect New Yorkers and to protect those symbols of America that are the places most likely you might see an attack by an Iranian proxy.”

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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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