Abortion Ruling, Midterms Heighten Domestic Terrorism Threat

  • Homeland Security officials assess complex extremism risks
  • Upcoming elections, Supreme Court ruling cited as targets

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The Uvalde school shooting, an upcoming Supreme Court decision on abortion, and federal immigration policies are all providing fodder for domestic extremists threatening violence to the US, officials say.

The Department of Homeland Security outlined the dynamic Tuesday in its latest National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin, a regular analysis of prevalent threats.

“As recent acts of violence in communities across the country have so tragically demonstrated, the nation remains in a heightened threat environment, and we expect that environment will become more dynamic in the coming months,” Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Tuesday.

The US government has turned fresh attention to combating domestic terrorism in recent years, especially after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol and a steady rise in horrific mass shootings and other attacks motivated by racist and hateful ideologies or personal grievances.

Terrorism, Texas Hostage-Taking Copycat Threats Rise in U.S.

Photo: Ellen M. Gilmer/Bloomberg Government
Flags at Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“The continued proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding current events could reinforce existing personal grievances or ideologies, and in combination with other factors, could inspire individuals to mobilize to violence,” the new analysis says.

Upcoming high-profile events, including elections and major court rulings, are prime targets for violence, a senior DHS official told reporters ahead of the release of the terrorism bulletin.

Threats against democratic institutions, political candidates, and election workers are likely to increase ahead of the November midterm elections, according to DHS. The agency also assesses violent threats from advocates for and against abortion rights, along with conspiracy theorists and White supremacists. The Supreme Court is due to issue an opinion on abortion rights this summer.

DHS also expects domestic extremists to use border-related policy changes to justify violence against non-White communities and law enforcement at the border. And the agency is worried about copycat school shootings after the attack in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 children and two teachers. Lone offenders and small groups motivated by personal grievances are the primary threats, the DHS official said.

Political fights have stymied some recent efforts to change the way federal agencies try to monitor and prevent violence. Senate Republicans last month blocked legislation that would have authorized domestic terrorism offices in three agencies, arguing the bill would make it easier for federal officials to target political opponents.

Congressional appropriators, however, did secure a bipartisan increase in funding this year for a DHS grant program that helps houses of worship and nonprofits protect against attacks.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com; Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com

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