The Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol and the lies about election fraud that preceeded it may embolden and “spur” violent extremists to launch attacks in 2021, the intelligence community said in a report released on Wednesday.
The declassified summary of the report, compiled by the Director of National Intelligence, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Justice, confirms what many already suspected to be the case: that domestic extremists motivated by racism or the myth that election fraud was rampant in 2020 are continuing to plot potentially lethal attacks.
The document, titled Domestic Violent Extremism Poses Heightened Threat in 2021, provides a summary of intelligence around extremist violence in the U.S. It’s a review of the threat posed by violent members of the far-right ordered by the Biden administration after taking office in January.
That includes those motivated by pandemic restrictions, the report says, as well as conspiracy theories.
“Newer sociopolitical developments—such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the US Capitol, conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and conspiracy theories promoting violence—will almost certainly spur some DVEs to try to engage in violence this year,” the document reads.
The report echoes a statement that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made to Congress on Wednesday: that “lone wolf” far-right domestic extremists remain the greatest threat.
The document says that lone wolves “often radicalize independently by consuming violent extremist material online and mobilize without direction from a violent extremist organization, making detection and disruption difficult.”
Intelligence officials found that “lone offenders” are dangerous in part because they can “mobilize discreetly,” but also because they can gain access to firearms with relative ease and without detection.
But the most “lethal” attacks, the intel community found, are likely to be committed either by militias or extremists motivated by racism.
It’s the militia threat that is unusually elevated this year, the document reads, because of “contentious sociopolitical factors.”
While militia are likely to target the government, the report says, it’s white supremacists who prefer “mass casualty attacks against civilians.”
The summary goes on to discuss the threat posed by white supremacists who have traveled abroad “to network with like-minded individuals,” describing those ties as “persistent and concerning.”
Some American white supremcaists have been found to have connected with or traveled to Ukraine to meet with far-right militias in the country. Ukraine this week approved a U.S. extradition request for a former U.S. Army soldier who fought with a far-right militia in the country’s war against Russia.
The intelligence report identified “escalating support” from abroad as a reason for the increased threat in 2021, as well as “high-profile attacks spurring follow-on attacks and innovations in targeting and attack tactics.”
Read the summary here: