Feds Warn of ‘Heightened’ Extremist Threat as Political Turmoil Grows

The DHS on Tuesday issued a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin, warning that the U.S. “remains in a heightened threat environment”

Department of Homeland Security officials are warning that the nation “remains in a heightened threat environment” and that the likelihood of extremist violence is likely to increase across the nation 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 National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin (NTAS), which was reissued on Tuesday.

“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 agency added.

According to the advisory, potential targets in the U.S. include public gatherings, faith-based institutions, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents could all be potential targets.

This is the sixth time DHS has issued an NTAS bulletin since January 2021, VOA News reports. It is not set to expire until November 30.

The advisory arrives at a time when Americans are reeling from a recent uptick in mass shootings across the country, including the May 24 attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in which an 18-year-old gunman murdered 19 children and two adults.

Nearly two weeks earlier, a lone shooter, also 18-years-old, targeted Black victims at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, killing 10. And, two days after those gun murders, 68-year-old Chinese American David Chou opened fire in a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods church, killing one person. In recent weeks, deadly shootings have also occurred in Tulsa and New York City.

Gun Violence Archive, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit organization that tracks gun violence incidents, found that as of June 3, more than 124 people have been killed and 325 injured in more than 300 shootings across the country, VOA reports.

The DHS also raised concerns about potential copycat attacks, particularly from individuals
who regularly post violent extremist and conspiracy theory-related content in online forums. They added that such individuals praised the Uvalde school shooting.

Southern California, meanwhile, has seen an increase in threats of violence at schools in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, police increased patrols at Jordan High School in Long Beach after a student threatened to place a bomb on the campus, KTLA reports. No credible threat was found and classes were resumed.

Authorities announced Sunday that they arrested a 17-year-old boy in Menifee after he allegedly made threats of a school shooting via social media. Police reported finding an unregistered “ghost gun” and brass knuckles in the teen’s home, according to CBS News.

Last week, Mater Dei High School officials closed the Santa Ana campus for two days after a former employee allegedly sent a threat to the school, NBC Los Angeles reports. Police determined that the threat was credible and not directed at students. Also, a juvenile student at Sierra Vista High School in Baldwin Park was arrested after sending multiple threats regarding explosive devices on campus.

In the bulletin, DHS officials said they were concerned about this year’s midterm elections because some individuals may still be holding onto grievances over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The agency also noted that the “continued proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding current events,” such as abortion rights and immigration, “could reinforce existing personal grievances or ideologies, and in combination with other factors, could inspire individuals to mobilize to violence.”

DHS officials said they have been trying to work more closely with state and local partners, as well as community organizations to help them identity individuals who may be radicalized or motivated to engage in violence, and prevent future attacks, VOA reports.

The department has also partnered with nonprofit organizations at risk of attack, providing more than $250 million in funding “to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements to non-profit organizations at high risk of terrorist attack.” Officials are hoping to secure more funding for similar programs in the near future.

“We’re working very closely with Congress to ensure we can increase funding so that all of our faith-based communities have what they need to upgrade their security and protect themselves against whether it’s terrorism, hate crimes or other targeted violence,” a senior DHS official told reporters during a briefing ahead of the bulletin’s release.

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.