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WASHINGTON — “How long before a politician is killed for mandating vaccines?” someone posted on a social media platform being monitored by law enforcement. The responses were numerous and discussed targeting U.S. and Australian politicians, U.S.-bound migrants and mass transit and passenger rail systems with chlorine gas and or explosive-laden unmanned aircraft systems in response to vaccination mandates.
The online posts discussing targeting politicians, migrants and mass transit systems in response to vaccination mandates, were flagged by the Department of Homeland Security and sent to law enforcement for further investigation, according to internal intelligence reports obtained by Yahoo News.
The vaccine discussion was just one example of some of the online potential threats being tracked by law enforcement in the weeks leading to an updated National Threat Advisory System Bulletin on the heightened threat environment ahead of the holiday season.
The DHS issued the new threat bulletin on Wednesday, the fourth such warning put out since January 2021. “These threats include those posed by individuals and small groups engaged in violence, including domestic violent extremists (DVEs) and those inspired or motivated by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influences,” the bulletin states.
The bulletin cites the pandemic and public health measures as among the factors contributing to those threats.
According to internal law enforcement raw intelligence and other reports obtained by Yahoo News, those online posts currently being monitored include threats to doctors and hospitals administering COVID vaccines; threats to infrastructure and houses of worship; fundraising campaigns launched by known white supremacist and other extreme groups; and calls to kill politicians who are in favor of COVID restrictions.
The day before the DHS issued the updated threat bulletin, the agency flagged several online threats made by domestic extremists in raw intelligence reports that were forwarded to the FBI and other agencies for further investigation.
In one, a person described as a suspected “Racially Motivated Violent Extremist” encouraged violence against the government and shared links to 3D printing files for firearms in a popular instant messaging channel. The administrator of that same channel also encouraged violence against the U.S. government and shared links for printing 3D firearms and firearm components and a QR code leading to a website hosting files with detailed instructions on how to print weapons for use against an unspecified government target.
Law enforcement is also tracking online posts by a white supremacist group soliciting cryptocurrency to purchase of a plot of land for training, according to a summary of the Open Source Intelligence Report dated Nov. 10 and sent to law enforcement for further investigation.
The money, the online post says, would fund the white supremacist group’s “survivalism training” and “networking opportunities,” which have direct and indirect costs such as “travel expenses, e.g., gas money, airfare, lodging.” The post also said donations would be used for “ongoing long-term projects such as purchasing land for communal bugout locations” and developing those plots of land.
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies also appear concerned about what they see as changing tactics by extremists, citing one who was sentenced in mid-October in connection to a plot targeting an Amazon Web Service warehouse in Virginia.
“The plot highlights a departure from traditional targets and signifies potential willingness to attack private entities believed to be supporting or enabling the government’s perceived abuse of power,” according to a FBI Joint Intelligence Bulletin dated October 15 and obtained by Yahoo News.
In late October and early November, the DHS compiled raw intelligence reports on potential threats made online that include:
– a known domestic violent extremist encouraging violence against doctors who administer vaccines
– a racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist posting a recruitment video detailing plans to purchase territory in the U.S. for training and other purposes
– a suspected racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist encouraging attacks against multiple critical infrastructure sectors
– a suspected racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist promoting arson or attacks against critical infrastructure, law enforcement officers and places of worship in the latest issue of the extremist group’s publication, “Daily News.”
In response to a request for comment, a DHS spokesperson directed Yahoo News to a statement made earlier this week by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“The threat stream has not changed significantly; however this is an important product that keeps the public updated about threats facing the United States and underscores the importance of the public to staying vigilant and reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement,” Mayorkas said in reference to the new threat bulletin.
It’s not just domestic threats being tracked; the easing of COVID travel restrictions has apparently led to an uptick in threats from groups like ISIS.
One senior law enforcement official involved in aspects of investigating potential online threats said the challenge is figuring out what digital chatter should be taken seriously and what is just talk. In either case, the official said, law enforcement is worried about the winter ahead with rising COVID cases.
“Now we have Delta-plus, which has already hit the U.K., and we’re going to have to start shutting things down if it spreads here, which it will,” the official said. “More restrictions will make the antigovernment nuts even crazier, and that’s when we’re really worried something will happen.”