The looming Supreme Court abortion decision, an increase in migrants at the US-Mexico border, and the midterm elections are all potential triggers for extremist violence over the next six months, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The United States was already in a “heightened threat environment,” and these factors could exacerbate the situation, according to the latest National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin.
“In the coming months, we expect the threat environment to become more dynamic as a number of high-profile events could be used to justify violent acts against a variety of potential targets,” the DHS said.
It’s the latest attempt by Homeland Security to draw attention to the threat posed by domestic violent extremism, a departure from the agency’s initial focus on international terrorism in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Indeed, the threats from abroad are only mentioned briefly in this bulletin. According to the report, al-Qaida supporters celebrated the January standoff at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. It also mentions that the Islamic State group has called on supporters to carry out attacks in the United States in order to avenge the deaths of the group’s leader and spokesman.
DHS also warns that China, Russia, Iran, and other countries are attempting to sow discord within the United States in order to weaken the country and its standing in the world. They accomplish this in part by amplifying conspiracy theories and false reports that abound in American society.
Domestic violent extremists, on the other hand, pose the most pressing and potentially violent threat, according to the agency, citing, for example, a racist attack in May in which a white gunman killed ten Black people at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket.
The bulletin, which is set to expire on November 30, predicted that domestic extremists’ calls for violence against democratic institutions, candidates, and election workers would likely increase throughout the fall.
A senior DHS official told reporters ahead of the bulletin’s release that the situation is “dynamic” because authorities are seeing a broader range of people motivated by a broader range of grievances and incidents than previously.
The upcoming Supreme Court decision, which could overturn Roe v. Wade, could spark violence from either extremist supporters or opponents of abortion rights, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss some factors that went into the bulletin’s preparation.
Racial extremists may be motivated by immigration enforcement or whether the government continues to rely on Title 42, the public health order used to prevent people from seeking asylum at the southwest border since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to DHS.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement released with the bulletin that the agency and the FBI are working with state and local law enforcement to raise awareness of the threat, and that DHS has increased grant funding to local governments and religious organizations to improve security.
Some domestic extremists have also complained that the US is “unwilling or unable to secure the US-Mexico border and have called for violence to stem the flow of undocumented migrants,” according to the advisory. Extremists could use changes in border policies to justify violence, according to the report.
The Department of Homeland Security stated that it is responding to the threats by collaborating with local governments, the private sector, and community stakeholders across the country.