January 29, 2023

DHS WARNING: Online extremists planning copycat attacks

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After the May 2022 attacks in Buffalo, New York, and in Uvalde, Texas, the Department of Homeland Security is now warning of copycat violence. Information assessed by the Office of Intelligence Analysis prompted the DHS to issue a terror threat bulletin on Tuesday morning. Jesse Rodriguez at MSNBC tweeted:


The DHS credits online forums — where conspiracy theories and misinformation have sowed discontent by reinforcing grievances already held — for alerting it to the heightened threat. A National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletinreleased on June 7th, states:

“In the coming months, we expect the threat environment to become more dynamic as several high-profile events could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets.”

The bulletin highlights several high-profile attacks that have occurred in recent months.

Mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Laguna Woods, California were both racially-related attacks, and the DHS says bad actors celebrated the Uvalde, TX shooting on social media, encouraging more such attacks.

Prior to driving to a predominantly Black area of Buffalo, 18-year-old Payton Gendron had participated in anti-Black and anti-Semitic chatrooms, repeating the narrative pushed in the Great Replacement Theory being propagated by right-wing media and influencers. Believing that minorities were trying to “replace” whites, Gendron echoed that sentiment in a 180-page manifesto he posted online.

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Almost three years prior, 21-year-old Patrick Wood Crusius drove 600 miles across Texas to the largely Hispanic populated city of El Paso, killing 23 at a local Walmart. Like Gendron, Crusius left a manifesto with racist rhetoric under the misguided belief that the country was being “invaded” by immigrants.

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In a coordinated effort with various intelligence groups within the department and at the FBI, the DHS has labeled domestic terrorism a “national priority.” the agency is increasing intelligence measures, particularly online, and training officials in both the government and private sectors about red flag behaviors and how to respond to them.

Age is apparently a factor. CBS News reported that since 2018, in six out of nine of the country’s deadliest mass shootings, the perpetrator has been age 21 or younger. A senior DHS official was quoted as saying:

“With individuals who are younger in age, committing these attacks, we think – and this is something we’re still looking at – access to content online is really fueling those personal grievances and often inaccurate misperceptions about current events.”

According to the DHS, foreign influence has also played a significant role in radicalizing those in online forums. Taking advantage of America’s domestic conflict, countries like China, Russia, and Iran have fueled ideological divides by pushing  “conspiracy theories and false or misleading narratives promoting U.S. societal division.”

The DHS has committed tens of millions of dollars through grants and other resources to combat domestic terrorism – both online and off – through education, tightened security, and preventative measures.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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