National terrorism alert issued by DHS warning of ‘potential attacks’ by ‘ideologically-motivated violent extremists’

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WASHINGTON, DC – The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security has issued a national terrorism alert due to a heightened threat environment across the United States from ideologically-motivated violent extremists. The alert cited the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as a motivating event for domestic terrorists.

The alert did not mention specific threats but believes the potential for violence will continue for weeks. The alert narrative suggests officials see a link between violence last year motivated by various causes, including pandemic restrictions, racial tensions, election results, and police use of force issues.

The alert bulletin issued Wednesday reads:

“DHS does not have any information to indicate a specific, credible plot. However, violent riots have continued in recent days and we remain concerned that individuals frustrated with the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition… could continue to mobilize a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors to incite or commit violence.”

According to the bulletin, the alert lists several factors that have led to concern that violent extremists, labeled domestic violent extremists (DVEs) by the Biden administration, may be planning attacks against elected officials and government facilities.

Factors named in the alert include DVEs targeting individuals with opposing views engaging in “First Amendment-protected, non-violent protest activity” throughout 2020.  The report also indicates that DVEs have previously carried out attacks against government facilities over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force. The alert said:

“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.”

Officials are concerned that the attack on the U.S. Capitol may breed further violence:

“DHS (Department of Homeland Security) is concerned these same drivers of 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.”

More than 150 people, some later identified as members of far-right, armed extremist groups, swarmed the U.S. Capitol targeting lawmakers and Vice President Pence while they were voting to certify the 2020 election results. Five people were killed in the incident, which has been labeled an insurrection.

Former President Donald Trump was impeached for a record second time over his speech to the pro-Trump crowd shortly before the attack. The Articles of Impeachment accuse him of “incitement of insurrection.”

The terror alert adds that DHS remains concerned about homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) inspired by foreign terror groups, who have committed three attacks targeting government officials in 2020. The alert did not go into further detail about those attacks.

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The alert did mention the 2019 shooting in EL Paso, Texas that killed 23 people. Officials called the mass shooting an act of domestic terror after gunman Patrick Crusius drove more than 600 miles across the state from North Texas to target Hispanics in the border community. He had posted a 2,356-word white supremacy manifesto online before the attack.

The alert was issued by Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske because President Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet position, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not yet been confirmed by the Senate. Two former secretaries have called on the Senate to move through the confirmation process quickly so that he can work with the FBI and other agencies to address the threat, according to the Associated Press.

Senate Republicans have been fighting the confirmation of Mayorkas over immigration policy differences.  Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security Secretary under the George W. Bush administration, pointed out that far-right, domestic extremists have killed more people in recent years inside the United States than those linked to jihadists such as al-Qaida. He told reporters, “We have to be candid and face what the real risk is.”

Secretary Chertoff, a Republican, expressed frustration with the politics:

“Between a very significant, massive hack that compromised sensitive U.S. government online files, disastrous fires and rainstorms and hurricanes, and domestic violence that was an insurrection, I would have thought there were a few other things that are to be considered besides immigration

“If members of Congress want to contest elements of the proposal, they are free to do so, they’re free to argue about it and vote against it. But hostage-taking is not an appropriate way to do this, particularly if a result of that is to put the lives of Americans in jeopardy.”

Former Homeland Security Secretary under the Obama administration Janet Napolitano joined Chertoff’s call for quick confirmation in the Senate:

“It really mystifies me what benefit is being served by this continued delay in his confirmation.”

The alert made no mention of the violence throughout 2020 and into 2021 by members of far-left groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa. Many Democrats have expressed support for the protests carried out in cities like Portland and Seattle despite violence and riots repeatedly resulting in property damage, injuries, and deaths.

DHS is asking the public to report any suspicious activity and/or threats of violence, including online activity, to local law enforcement, the FBI, or their local Fusion Center.

Officials provided guidance to the public, including avoiding large crowds, including protests. The alert suggested members of the public carry emergency contact and medical information with them.

The national terrorism alert remains in effect until April 30, 2021.

 

 

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