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DHS intelligence report: Threat of domestic terrorism 'could escalate' in 2021

Jana Winter
·Contributor
·3 min read
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The Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence division circulated an internal report earlier this week saying it expects threats from far-right groups to persist and even escalate this year, according to a copy of the document obtained by Yahoo News.

The report singles out the boogaloo movement, a loose collection of individuals who agitate for a race war. “We judge the pool of violent adherents to this concept probably will continue to grow in the coming months, particularly among lone actors who perceive the Homeland as being vulnerable and close to collapse,” says the report, dated March 1.

Members of the so-called boogaloo bois
Members of the so-called boogaloo bois join other gun-rights advocates at a protest in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 18. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The report comes a little more than a month after the DHS issued a public national terrorism advisory, warning about the heightened risk of domestic terrorism, and amid Senate hearings on the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. One of the issues raised during the Senate hearing on Wednesday was potential violence on March 4, a date when QAnon followers believe Donald Trump will return to the office of president, which would be legally impossible.

The March 1 report was produced by the DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, a division charged with analyzing and disseminating reports to law enforcement agencies on emerging threats. This office has been under scrutiny for its failures in the run-up to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., called for a potential restructuring of the DHS office at the conclusion of the Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wednesday on the intelligence failures that led to the insurrection.

Some have criticized the DHS for not properly tracking and sharing information about the threat from white supremacists and other right-wing extremist groups prior to the attack on the Capitol, and for exaggerating the threat from antifa.

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“We need to take a hard look at reforming the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis,” said Peters, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, during the hearing.

Peters, whose state has seen a dramatic rise in extremist violence, most notably a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, said the DHS needs to do better in monitoring extremist groups.

The acting director of the office, Melissa Smislova, acknowledged its failures at the hearing Wednesday.

“We did not have anything specific about an attack on the Capitol to occur on Jan. 6. So we did not issue a separate report,” she told lawmakers. “In hindsight, we probably should have.”

She said the DHS, the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center issued a report Dec. 30, and she “thought that was sufficient.” She also said the DHS intelligence office issued a bulletin late Tuesday about current and upcoming potential extremist threats to Washington, D.C., associated with March 4.

The March 1 report obtained by Yahoo News does not mention March 4 specifically, but warns of increased threats generally, including attacks on infrastructure.

In a statement to Yahoo News, a spokesperson for the DHS emphasized that the department is working with law enforcement around the country to detect and prevent domestic terrorist attacks.

The pro-Trump insurrection
The pro-Trump insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“DHS has warned that the threat from domestic violent extremism, particularly racially-motivated and anti-government extremists, did not end on Jan. 6 or Inauguration Day,” the spokesperson wrote. “We are witnessing a years-long trend of false narratives fueling violence, and the current heightened security environment in the National Capital Region illustrates that this will be an ongoing challenge for law enforcement in the months to come.”

During her testimony on Wednesday, Smislova said the DHS was considering contracting with outside groups who monitor domestic violent extremists' activity online.

“We are looking at how to better understand the social media world so we can focus on where we might find specific and insightful information about what the adversary is thinking about,” she said.

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