DHS warns of 'heightened threat environment' in coming months

Pointing to the upcoming Supreme Court decision on abortion, the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and the midterm elections, the Department of Homeland Security, warned in a report Tuesday that major events have led to a “heightened threat environment” in which violence driven by extremist ideologies could be triggered over the next several months.

The bulletin from the National Terrorism Advisory System said “several recent attacks have highlighted the dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment.”

“In the coming months, we expect the threat environment to become more dynamic as several high-profile events could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets,” DHS said.

The previous bulletin spotlighted concerns that in response to the leak indicating the Supreme Court is prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, both pro- and anti-abortion activists have advocated for violence against the government, reproductive health care personnel and facilities.

The group Group Shut Down D.C is mobilizing activists to block vehicle entrances to the Supreme Court on June 13, the day when the Supreme Court could release its decision in the Mississippi abortion case poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The “goal,” the group said, “is to create a decision dilemma, presenting the Court, Congress, and law enforcement (and political leaders that oversee them) with three unacceptable (to them) options.”

The new DHS report said potential targets of violent attacks include “public gatherings, faith-based institutions, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents.”

The agency said the “threat actors have recently mobilized to violence due to factors such as personal grievances, reactions to current events, and adherence to violent extremist ideologies, including racially or ethnically motivated or anti-government/anti-authority violent extremism.”

The DHS report cited two recent mass shootings.

At a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, last month, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron killed 10 people and injured three others, 11 of whom were black. In Orange County, California, last month, 68-year-old David Chou is alleged to have attacked a Presbyterian church, killing one person and wounding five, because of his political hatred of Taiwan and the Taiwanese people.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has said the Justice Department is investigating the Buffalo shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.”

The DHS bulletin also warns that copycat attacks in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting are being encouraged on some social media forums.

“With individuals who are younger in age, committing these attacks, we think – and this is something we’re still looking at – access to content online is really fueling those personal grievances and often inaccurate misperceptions about current events,” a senior homeland security official told reporters during a briefing this week, CBS News reported.

“It’s really difficult for younger individuals to navigate the internet and understand what is considered to be credible information that they’re consuming.”

The bulletin also cited social media users who promote al-Qaida and ISIS celebrated the mass shooting in a Brooklyn subway and the British Muslim who took people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, in January.

And it warned that “Chinese, Iranian, Russian, and other foreign malign influence actors have sought to contribute to U.S. internal discord and weaken its focus and position internationally.”

“As the U.S. 2022 mid-term elections approach, malign foreign actors could bolster their messaging to sow discord and influence U.S. audiences in keeping with practices during previous election cycles.”

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