Homeland sees ‘heightened threat’ of attacks on churches, cops and feds ahead of 2024 election
New bulletin says “legislative and judicial decisions” could trigger violence
The Homeland Security Department is warning communities nationwide about an increased risk of terror attacks on churches, schools, federal installations and law enforcement heading into the 2024 election, specifically cautioning that "legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues" could trigger violence in coming months.
In a bulletin issued just before Memorial Day, the agency cited a spate of violent acts this spring, including on a Christian school in Tennessee, a shopping mall in Texas and a plot on a church in Ohio by white supremacists as harbingers for future concern.
"The United States remains in a heightened threat environment," the bulletin stated. "Lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and personal grievances continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat to the Homeland.
"Both domestic violent extremists (DVEs) and those associated with foreign terrorist organizations continue to attempt to motivate supporters to conduct attacks in the homeland, including through violent extremist messaging and online calls for violence."
You can read the full bulletin here.
The agency said the start of the presidential election campaign season and expected controversial decisions by the courts and Congress and state legislatures could further activate people and groups seeking to commit violence.
"In the coming months, factors that could mobilize individuals to commit violence include their perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues," the bulletin warned.
"Likely targets of potential violence include U.S. critical infrastructure, faith-based institutions, individuals or events associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, schools, racial and ethnic minorities, and government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement."
Officials point to the recent arrests of domestic extremists – "driven by a belief in the superiority of the white race" – for plotting an attack on an electrical substations in Maryland.
The arrests, they also said, followed a series of similar attacks on electrical infrastructure, which some domestic extremists praised and "leveraged to call for more attacks on critical infrastructure."
The bulletin also cited progressive anarchists in March attacking an under-construction, police training center outside of Atlanta. More than 20 people from across the country are facing terror-related charged in connection with the incident that include protesters throwing rocks and flaming bottles at police.
"Since spring of 2022, alleged DVEs in Georgia have cited anarchist violent extremism, animal rights/environmental violent extremism, and anti-law enforcement sentiment to justify criminal activity in opposition to a planned public safety training facility in Atlanta,” the bulletin reads.
The memo also offered lots of recommendations for prevention, including several public-private partnerships that are training community leaders to detect early potential radicalization and one that is hardening soft targets at faith institutions.
"The DHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships continues to engage a coalition of faith-based and community organizations, including members of the Faith-based Security Advisory Council(FBSAC), which DHS reconstituted in July 2022, to help build the capacity of faith-based and community organizations seeking to protect their places of worship and community spaces," the memo reads.
The Homeland Security bulletin mirrors similar warnings by FBI Director Chris Ray, who in April gave a speech at Texas A&M in which he said the national security threats facing the United States today are as complex and sophisticated as ever.
He also said terrorism remains the FBI’s top priority and that for perhaps the first time in its history, the "tempo” of the agency's counterterrorism operations remains high simultaneously for international, state-sponsored and domestic terrorism.
"What we call homegrown violent extremists remains our most immediate concern, groups like ISIS and al-Qaida remain committed to attacking U.S. and Western interests domestically and abroad,” he said “And our intelligence collection against these threats has been further strained without U.S. and coalition militaries on the ground and in the air above Afghanistan, making it harder to detect operational plotting against the West."