The latest terrorism advisory from the Department of Homeland Security warns of a ''heightened threat environment'' with specific threats to religious institutions and institutions of higher learning.
The advisory comes in the wake of a man holding four members of a Texas synagogue hostage for several hours in January and days after bomb threats to historically Black colleges and universities.
''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 (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors,'' the advisory says.
''These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence,'' it continues. ''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.''
Such acts have not significantly changed over the past year, according to the advisory, but it cites multiple factors that Homeland Security says lead to increased chances that it could.
- ''the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions;
- ''continued calls for violence directed at U.S. critical infrastructure; soft targets and mass gatherings; faith-based institutions, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques; institutions of higher education; racial and religious minorities; government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement and the military; the media; and perceived ideological opponents;
- ''calls by foreign terrorist organizations for attacks on the United States based on recent events.''
''They're calling people to use mass shootings, using vehicles, knife attacks, and [offering] some greater specificity in the types of targets they're urging people to target,'' said one DHS official quoted by The Hill.
Another senior DHS official told the Hill that the event at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, sparked chatter among both white supremacists and ''thought leaders across the globe who tend to be supportive of ISIS and Al Qaeda operations actually pointing to Colleyville as an example of the types of activities that lone actors or others should be taking.''
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