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DHS issues nationwide terrorism alert over ‘violent extremists’ motivated by election results, COVID lockdowns and police activity

Homeland Security officer guards garage entrance of Gerald R. Ford Federal Building and U.S. Court House in Grand Rapids, Mi. on Oct. 13, 2020. (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/TNS)
January 27, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security issued a nationwide terrorism alert on Wednesday warning the public of “domestic violent extremists” who could incite or conduct violent acts.

In an official terrorism advisory directed by Acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske that lasts until April 30, DHS warns of increased threats in the U.S. of “some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.”

The advisory came after Pekoske’s consultation with intelligence and law enforcement, though no signs of credible attack plots were found.

DHS described Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) as motivated by various issues including “anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force,” and Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs) inspired by foreign terrorist groups.

Both DVEs and HVEs were described among “the primary terrorist threat in the United States” in an October 2020 DHS threat assessment report. The report claimed that white supremacist extremists (WSEs) within DVEs would “remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.”

DHS said on Wednesday that anger and tensions over issues have led to plots and actual attacks on government facilities and officials, and others. The agency pointed to the 2019 mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas Walmart as an example of violence from those opposing immigration. It also cited three attacks against public officials in 2020.

“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,” DHS added.

DHS called on the public to report suspicious activity and threats, including those made online, to local law enforcement or the FBI. It also advised people to avoid large crowds and protests.

The terrorism advisory comes after President Joe Biden ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct threat assessments.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat. The Biden administration will approach this threat with the necessary resources and resolve.”