WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a “heightened terrorism threat” on February 7, saying that the heightened alert status was due to several factors, including “misinformation,” “conspiracy theories,” and “false and misleading narratives,” although DHS officials have not disclosed what parties are responsible for disseminating this dangerously erroneous information.
“The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors,” a bulletin issued by DHS said.
The bulletin said that those spreading the aforementioned misinformation and conspiracy theories – with the goal being to “sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions” – are responsible for inspiring “lone offenders and small groups” domestically to commit acts of “targeted violence.”
“Mass casualty attacks and other acts of targeted violence conducted by lone offenders and small groups acting in furtherance of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances pose an ongoing threat to the nation,” the DHS bulletin said. “Foreign terrorist organizations and domestic threat actors continue to amplify pre-existing false or misleading narratives online to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions.”
The DHS bulletin noted that part of this misinformation campaign is centering on minorities and religious groups – citing the horrific January attack on a Jewish synagogue in Texas as an example – in addition to other targets, including “Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” “U.S. critical infrastructure,” and institutions that employ “COVID-19 mitigation measures.” Government personnel or facilities have also been named as potential targets.
The DHS bulletin also noted the recent death of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi during a raid by U.S. forces may result in the global terrorist organization to “issue public calls for retaliation” which could put American lives at risk.
According to the DHS, the heightened terrorism threat alert is due to expire on June 7, 2022.