June 7, 2022 Gary Bai
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a National Terrorism Advisory notice on June 7 amid what the agency calls a “heightened threat environment” that it says will become “more dynamic” heading into the midterm elections.
“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,” the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin stated.
“These targets could 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,” it continued.
“We continue to assess that the primary threat of mass casualty violence in the United States stems from lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances.”
Citing several recent high-profile violent attacks, the bulletin highlighted the threat posed by lone offenders who target minority communities such as schools, houses of worship, and mass transit.
It pointed to the New York City subway shooting in April, and three violent incidents in May: the Buffalo shooting, the Uvalde school shooting, and an attack targeting a Taiwanese church.
“Individuals in online forums that routinely promulgate domestic violent extremist and conspiracy theory-related content have praised the May 2022 mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and encouraged copycat attacks,” the bulletin stated.
The DHS also anticipates an increase in “calls for violence by domestic violent extremists” who could be inspired by “false or misleading narratives” regarding current events such as border security, and the Supreme Court decision on abortion.
“As the United States enters mid-term election season this year, we assess that calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events, and election workers will likely increase,” the statement read.
DHS also warned that foreign adversaries would continue to seek to exploit the dynamic threat environment to “sow discord, undermine U.S. democratic institutions, and promote or inspire violence by their supporters.”
It noted the adversaries include state actors from China, Russia, and Iran, adding that these foreign actors have “amplified narratives that radicalized individuals have cited to justify violence, including conspiracy theories and false or misleading narratives promoting U.S. societal division.”
“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,” the bulletin stated.
In response to such threats, the DHS said it will continue to collaborate with partners in the government and private sectors, such as the FBI, operators of critical infrastructure, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
The notice is the sixth time the DHS has issued an NTAS since January 2021.