The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin regarding the continued heightened threat environment across the United States. This is the fifth NTAS Bulletin issued by the agency since January 2021, and it replaces the previous bulletin that expired Feb. 8, 2022.
“DHS remains committed to proactively sharing timely information and intelligence about the evolving threat environment with the American public,” says DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “We also remain committed to working with our partners across every level of government and in the private sector to prevent all forms of terrorism and targeted violence, and to support law enforcement efforts to keep our communities safe.”
While the conditions underlying the heightened threat landscape have not significantly changed over the last year, DHS says the convergence of the following factors has increased the volatility, unpredictability, and complexity of the threat environment:
- The proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions:
- For example, there is widespread online proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding unsubstantiated widespread election fraud and COVID-19. Grievances associated with these themes inspired violent extremist attacks during 2021, including the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
- Malign foreign powers have and continue to amplify these false or misleading narratives in efforts to damage the United States.
- Continued calls for violence directed at U.S. critical infrastructure; soft targets and mass gatherings; faith-based institutions, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques; institutions of higher education; racial and religious minorities; government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement and the military; the media; and perceived ideological opponents:
- Foreign terrorist organizations and domestic threat actors continue to amplify pre-existing false or misleading narratives online to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions. Some of these actors do so to encourage unrest, which could lead to acts of violence against the facilities, individuals, institutions, and organizations cited above.
- Violent extremists inspired by a range of grievances and ideologies continue to target crowded venues traditionally perceived to be soft targets, such as commercial and publicly accessible facilities, public gatherings, certain government and state facilities, and houses of worship.
- The recent attack on a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, highlights the continuing threat of violence based upon racial or religious motivations, as well as threats against faith-based organizations.
- Threats directed at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other colleges and universities, Jewish facilities, and churches cause concern and may inspire extremist threat actors to mobilize to violence.
- As COVID-19 restrictions continue to decrease nationwide, increased access to commercial and government facilities and the rising number of mass gatherings could provide increased opportunities for individuals looking to commit acts of violence to do so, often with little or no warning. Meanwhile, COVID-19 mitigation measures—particularly COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates—have been used by domestic violent extremists to justify violence since 2020 and could continue to inspire these extremists to target government, healthcare, and academic institutions that they associate with those measures.
- Domestic violent extremists have also viewed attacks against U.S. critical infrastructure as a means to create chaos and advance ideological goals, and have recently aspired to disrupt U.S. electric and communications critical infrastructure, including by spreading false or misleading narratives about 5G cellular technology.
- Some domestic violent extremists have continued to advocate for violence in response to false or misleading narratives about unsubstantiated election fraud. The months preceding the upcoming 2022 midterm elections could provide additional opportunities for these extremists and other individuals to call for violence directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events, and election workers.
- A small number of threat actors are attempting to use the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan nationals following the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan last year as a means to exacerbate long-standing grievances and justify attacks against immigrants.
- Calls by foreign terrorist organizations for attacks on the United States based on recent events:
- Foreign terrorist organizations will likely continue to maintain a highly visible online presence to attempt to inspire U.S.-based individuals to engage in violent activity.
- Supporters of foreign terrorist organizations have encouraged copycat attacks following the Jan. 15, 2022, synagogue attack in Colleyville, Texas.
- Foreign terrorists remain intent on targeting the United States and U.S. persons, and may seek to capitalize on the evolving security environment overseas to plot attacks. The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) or its affiliates may issue public calls for retaliation due to the strike that recently killed ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi.
DHS says it and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) continue to share timely and actionable information and intelligence with the broadest audience possible, including partners across every level of government and in the private sector. Under the Biden administration, DHS is prioritizing combating all forms of terrorism and targeted violence, including through its efforts to support the first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. Since January 2021, DHS has taken several steps in this regard, including:
- established a new domestic terrorism branch within DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis dedicated to producing sound, timely intelligence needed to counter domestic terrorism-related threats;
- launched the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) to provide communities with resources and tools to help prevent individuals from radicalizing to violence;
- designated domestic violent extremism as a “National Priority Area” within DHS’s Homeland Security Grant Program for the first time, resulting in at least $77 million being spent on preventing, preparing for, protecting against, and responding to related threats nationwide;
- provided $180 million in funding to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements to non-profit organizations at high risk of terrorist attack through DHS’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP);
- increased efforts to identify and evaluate MDM, including false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories spread on social media and other online platforms, that endorse violence; and,
- enhanced collaboration with public and private sector partners—including U.S. critical infrastructure owners and operators—to better protect our cyber and physical infrastructure and increase the Nation’s cybersecurity through the Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
This new NTAS Bulletin will expire on June 7, 2022. DHS urges the public to report any suspicious activity or threats of violence to local law enforcement, FBI Field Offices, or a local Fusion Center.