The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a nationwide terrorism threat advisory on Tuesday after a series of mass shooting incidents and the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision on abortion. The terror advisory also raises concerns about continued unrest in the lead-up to the 2022 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 DHS said in a Tuesday statement. “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.”
“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 advisory added. “Foreign adversaries—including terrorist organizations and nation state adversaries—also remain intent on exploiting the threat environment to promote or inspire violence, sow discord, or undermine U.S. democratic institutions.”
The DHS went on to cite more specific reasons for concern, including a shooting on a subway in New York City, a shooting at a Taiwanese church in California, the shooting at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo and the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
“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 DHS said of the Uvalde shooting. “Others have seized on the event to attempt to spread disinformation and incite grievances, including claims it was a government-staged event meant to advance gun control measures.”
The DHS also said, “Some domestic violent extremists have expressed grievances related to their perception that the U.S. government is unwilling or unable to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and have called for violence to stem the flow of undocumented migrants to the United States.”
The DHS further cited the leak of a draft opinion by the Supreme Court that could overturn the landmark decision the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion case as another potential cause for unrest. The DHS said, “individuals who advocate both for and against abortion have, on public forums, encouraged violence, including against government, religious, and reproductive healthcare personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies.”
The DHS also said the number of threats specifically targeting political candidates, offices and election workers is likely to increase with the approaching midterm elections.
The DHS advisory went on to detail the various steps the agency and other government offices have taken to address the terrorism threats. The advisory stated the DHS and FBI continue to share timely information about potential threats and have worked with the National Counterterrorism Center to provide an updated list of behavioral indicators linked to extremism in the U.S.
DHS said its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has also worked with government and private sector partners, “including owners and operators of critical infrastructure, soft target facilities, and public gathering places,” to mitigate security risks posed by terrorists and active shooters.