The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned of a “heightened threat environment across the United States” due in large part to domestic terrorists and other groups engaging in “grievance-based violence,” according to an official bulletin issued Friday. Some may be further inspired by “malign foreign influences,” including Al Qaeda and ISIS, which are aiming messages at U.S.-based homegrown violent extremists in an attempt to sow discord and encourage terror attacks, the notice said. Some “may seek to exploit the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions across the United States to conduct attacks against a broader range of targets after previous public capacity limits reduced opportunities for lethal attacks,” DHS cautioned, adding that houses of worship, crowded commercial facilities, and government buildings could face elevated risk.
Certain groups have also called for violence against elected officials, members of law enforcement, and “perceived ideologically-opposed individuals,” the bulletin notes, adding that so-called lone wolves may be able to operate unnoticed through the use of encrypted messaging apps. Furthermore, the bulletin said, “nation-state adversaries have increased efforts to sow discord. For example, Russian, Chinese and Iranian government-linked media outlets have repeatedly amplified conspiracy theories concerning the origins of COVID-19 and effectiveness of vaccines; in some cases, amplifying calls for violence targeting persons of Asian descent.”