‘Heightened threat environment’ from far-right extremists continues despite peaceful inauguration

‘Heightened threat environment’ from far-right extremists continues despite peaceful inauguration

The threat of violence at the inauguration may have fizzled, without even substantial protests developing, but “the intent to engage in violence has not gone away” on the part of right-wing extremists, intelligence officials are warning. Far-right groups and Trump supporters still believe the election was stolen (it was not) and are enraged by any challenge to white supremacy, and the Department of Homeland Security has released a public warning about “a heightened threat environment across the United States, which DHS believes will persist in the weeks following the successful Presidential Inauguration.” 

”Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” according to a National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin. Perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, eh? Gee, who could have been spreading those false narratives and fueling those perceived grievances, and is he going golfing today or just sulking while he watches OAN?

The bulletin is focused not on a specific threat, but on the general pattern, and on recent experience: “Throughout 2020, Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) targeted individuals with opposing views engaged in First Amendment-protected, non-violent protest activity. DVEs motivated by a range of issues, including anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force have plotted and on occasion carried out attacks against government facilities.”

The threat hasn’t gone away—the extremists didn’t, like, get it out of their systems by attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and then fade away. It’s the reverse: “DHS is concerned these same drivers to violence will remain through early 2021 and some DVEs may be emboldened by the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. to target elected officials and government facilities.”

The New York Times notes that, in 2009, the Homeland Security Department issued a warning about returning military veterans being recruited by terrorist groups or extremists—and the backlash against the warning forced then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to apologize, and the report was retracted. Fast forward to 2021, and as of two weeks after the Capitol attack, nearly one in five people charged in that insurrection were veterans. By contrast, about 7% of adults are veterans. 

President Biden has ordered an assessment of the threat of domestic violent extremism. Maybe let’s listen to that one, rather than allowing demands for apologies and retractions to succeed?

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