The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Aug. 13 issued a new national terrorism bulletin, warning of a “heightened threat environment” across the United States as the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks approaches.
The United States continues to face “diverse and challenging” threats, according to the DHS. Those threats include domestic terrorist activities by individuals or groups engaged in “grievance-based violence,” and those motivated by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influences.
Both domestic and foreign threat actors are increasingly using the internet to spread their violent extremist narratives and promote violent activities, the bulletin warns.
“Foreign and domestic threat actors, to include foreign intelligence services, international terrorist groups and domestic violent extremists (DVE), continue to introduce, amplify, and disseminate narratives online that promote violence,” the DHS said, noting that potential targets include elected officials, political representatives, government facilities, law enforcement, religious communities, and “perceived ideologically-opposed individuals.”
“There are also continued, non-specific calls for violence on multiple online platforms associated with DVE ideologies or conspiracy theories on perceived election fraud and alleged reinstatement, and responses to anticipated restrictions relating to the increasing COVID cases,” it added.
The DHS said one of the reasons for the concern is that al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks, recently released the first English-language issue of its Inspire magazine in more than four years—a sign that “foreign terrorist organizations continue efforts to inspire U.S.-based individuals susceptible to violent extremist influences.”
Officials also noted that public health restrictions during the pandemic have contributed to “increased societal strains and tensions,” which could be taken advantage of by violent extremists against the government or certain groups.
“The reopening of institutions, including schools, as well as several dates of religious significance over the next few months, could also provide increased targets of opportunity for violence though there are currently no credible or imminent threats identified to these locations,” the DHS said. Several religious holidays fall in September, including Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The department also warned of efforts to sow discord by nations hostile to the United States, including Russia, China, and Iran.
“Russian, Chinese and Iranian government-linked media outlets have repeatedly amplified conspiracy theories concerning the origins of COVID-19 and effectiveness of vaccines; in some cases, amplifying calls for violence targeting persons of Asian descent,” the bulletin states.
The bulletin is the third released by DHS since January, and will remain in effect through Veterans Day on Nov. 11.