US alert warns of political domestic terrorism

(STL.News) The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin warning of the lingering potential for violence from people motivated by anti-government sentiment after President Joe Biden’s election. (Jan. 28)

The department did not cite any specific plots but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” for weeks after Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

It is not uncommon for the federal government to warn local law enforcement through bulletins about the prospect for violence tied to a particular event or date, such as July 4.

Eric Tucker, an Associated Press reporter said this particular bulletin is notable because it was issued through the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System.

“It was effectively acknowledging that violence from domestic extremists, namely people who are in America without any connection to foreign governments or international terrorism, that the acts that they commit are akin to what we traditionally, historically think of as acts of terrorism,” Tucker said.

The bulletin is an indication that national security officials see a connective thread between different episodes of violence in the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, including over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force.  The document singles out crimes motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in El Paso, Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terror groups.

A DHS statement that accompanied the bulletin noted the potential for violence from “a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors.”

“This bulletin did not purport to take sides. It did not single out far-right extremism. It did not single out far-left extremism,” Tucker said.  “In fact, it said that people motivated by domestic issues are capable of causing violence.  And they cited examples in the last year of violence and unrest from people on actually both sides of the political aisle.”

The alert comes at a tense time following the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the presidential election. Authorities are concerned that extremists may attack other symbols of government or people whose political views they oppose.

“This has been on law enforcement’s radar for a while, even before January 6th,” Tucker said.  “We’ve heard FBI Director Chris Wray say that violence from domestic extremists has actually been responsible for more deadly violence than international terrorism.  And he said it is treated with the same level of urgency and priority.”

The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate.

Federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege, including some with links to right-wing extremist groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers.

YouTube video provided courtesy of Associated Press (AP)