Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a terrorism advisory Friday warning of “targeted violence” throughout the United States on and around the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
According to the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin, the potential threats include domestic terrorists, “individuals and groups engaged in grievance-based violence,” and “those inspired or motivated by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influence.”
The threat alert remains in effect from August 13 to November 11.
Mayorkas said the terrorists frequently use online forums to “influence and spread violent extremist narratives” and encourage violent activity.
The DHS also noted that “racially- or ethnically-motivated violent extremists” and “anti-government/anti-authority violent extremists” remain a priority for the department, warning that the extremists could attempt to “exploit the emergence of COVID-19 variants by viewing the potential re-establishment of public health restrictions across the United States as a rationale to conduct attacks.”
“Pandemic-related stressors have contributed to increased societal strains and tensions, driving several plots by domestic violent extremists, and they may contribute to more violence this year,” the department warned.
The bulletin also said the DHS is continuing its work to recognize and assess calls for violence, noting “online activity associated with the spread of disinformation, conspiracy theories and false narratives.”
“DHS is also advancing authoritative sources of information to debunk and, when possible, preempt false narratives and intentional disinformation, and providing educational materials to promote resilience to the risks associated with interacting with and spreading disinformation, conspiracy theories and false narratives,” the bulletin stated.
The department advised the public to be on alert for threats and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement, and recommended maintaining “digital media literacy to recognize and build resilience to false and harmful narratives.”
The bulletin said both the DHS and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will continue coordinating with state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement to monitor for potential violence, in addition to maintaining open communication with federal partners.
“DHS remains committed to sharing timely information with the public about the heightened threat environment in order to protect communities across our country,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “Today’s NTAS Bulletin advises the public about the heightened threat landscape we face and how DHS is working with our partners, at every level of government and in the community, to combat domestic terrorism and targeted violence in all its forms.”
“We are committed to ensuring every initiative undertaken by DHS in response to the threat is consistent with privacy protections, civil rights and civil liberties, First Amendment-protected rights, and other applicable laws,” he added.