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FBI and DHS warn of continued domestic terror threats

The Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin on Wednesday, Jan. 27, warning of a continued threat from domestic violent extremists NPR reports.

The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security issued the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin due to a heightened threat environment across the United States, which DHS believes will persist in the weeks following the Presidential Inauguration. Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other expressed grievances by the former president Donald Trump and house Republicans, have fueled false narratives that could continue to incite or commit violence.

According to the DHS report, throughout 2020, Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) targeted individuals with opposing views engaged in First Amendment-protected, non-violent protest activity.  DVEs were motivated by a range of issues including anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, police use of force, long-standing racial and ethnic tension, and opposition to immigration. These issues have driven DVE attacks that include the 2019 shooting in El Paso, Texas that killed 23 people. DVEs have plotted and, on occasion, carried out attacks against government facilities. 

The DHS is concerned these driving forces behind violence will remain through early 2021, and some DVEs may be emboldened by the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. to target other elected officials and government facilities.

NPR reports that DHS remains concerned that Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs) inspired by foreign terrorist groups, who committed three attacks targeting government officials in 2020, remain a threat. At this time federal agencies and law enforcement partners will continue to take precautions to protect people and infrastructure across the United States.

DHS encourages state, local, tribal and territorial homeland security partners to continue prioritizing physical security measures, particularly around government facilities, to protect people and critical infrastructure.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, commended DHS for issuing the bulletin:

“The domestic terrorism attack on our Capitol earlier this month shined a light on a threat that has been right in front of our faces for years. I am glad to see that DHS fully recognizes the threat posed by violent, right-wing extremists, and is taking efforts to communicate that threat to the American people,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.

According to a report obtained exclusively by The Nation titled “Boogaloo Adherents Likely Increasing Anti-Government Violent Rhetoric and Activities, Increasing Domestic Violent Extremist Threat in the FBI Dallas Area of Responsibility,” it warns of the threat posed by the far-right militia group known as the “Boogaloos.” Marked “for official use only” and “law enforcement sensitive,” the document was prepared by the FBI’s Dallas Field Office dated September 29, 2020. It draws on a wide array of intelligence sources, making specific mention of human sources that suggesting the FBI may have confidential informants within the group. The document points to various catalysts for the rise in the group’s membership, including resentment over perceived government overreach embodied by the COVID-19 shutdown and the presidential election.

In summary, the report reads, “FBI Dallas Field Office judges in the next three months, continuing up to the January 2021 inauguration with the presidential elections acting as a potential flashpoint, Boogaloo adherents likely will expand influence within the FBI Dallas AOR [Area of Responsibility] due to the presence of existing anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, the sentiment of perceived government overreach, heightened tensions due to COVID-19-related state and local restrictions, and violence or criminal activity at lawful protests as a result of the death of an African American USPER [US person] in Minneapolis, factors that led to violence at otherwise peaceful and lawful protests in the FBI Dallas Area of Operation (AOR).”

The word “Boogaloo” refers to a second American Civil War, which the loosely organized, fiercely anti-government group has declared its intention to bring about. Its members often wear an outfit of military fatigues and a Hawaiian shirt. While the Boogaloos clearly contain white supremacist elements — many members believe the coming civil war will be a race war — their main focus is strident opposition to the government, according to The Nation.

Armed gun rights protesters led by Boogaloo Boy Mike Dunn march in Richmond, Va., in August. 
Photographer: Chad Martin / Getty

The Guardian reports that Facebook has designated a network of “Boogaloo” groups as a dangerous organization similar to the Islamic State, and banned them from both Facebook and Instagram. At least 15 arrests and five deaths have been publicly linked to “Boogaloo” rhetoric, including the murders of two law enforcement officers in California.

Like the rightwing anti-government militia and Patriot movements of the 1990s and 2000s, many “Boogaloo” supporters see the current federal government as illegitimate, while remaining deeply patriotic. They revere the Constitution and see themselves as the true descendants of America’s founding fathers. In their view, current U.S. lawmakers are the equivalent of occupying British forces during the Revolutionary War.

Steven D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said Tuesday, Jan. 26, that the FBI has identified more than 400 suspects in the breach of the Capitol and assault on law enforcement officers. Of those, the FBI said it had arrested approximately 135.

“Spurred by the public outrage and disgust at what occurred on January 6, we have seen an outpouring of tips and information from citizens around the country that has been nothing short of remarkable. We received more than 200,000 digital media tips from the public,” D’Antuono said. “With your assistance, we have identified more than 400 suspects in the breach of the Capitol and assault on law enforcement officers. Of those, the FBI has arrested approximately 135 to date, with many more being identified and charged every day.”

According to a post on the FBI’s Most Wanted webpage, they are currently seeking the public’s help in identifying additional perpetrators of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have posted photos of additional suspects and are asking for the public to assist them in finding those involved. The FBI post states that “If you have photo or video images to share depicting rioting and violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, please not that in the electronic tip.”

Please include as much information as possible in your tips, such as the name of the person, contact information and where that person may live. Also include the number associated with the individual if seen on one of the seeking information posters listed on the FBI website, and any other identifying information. Their goal is to preserve the public’s constitutional right to protest by protecting everyone from violence and other criminal activity.

You may also call ‪1-800-CALL-FBI (1-‪800-225-5324) to verbally report tips and/or information related to this investigation.