US intelligence agencies believe that “narratives of fraud in the recent general election” and “the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the US Capitol” will “almost certainly” spur domestic extremists to try to engage in additional acts of violence this year, according to the unclassified summary of a new joint assessment released Wednesday.
That warning was included in a comprehensive classified assessment of domestic violent extremism produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, which was ordered by the White House in January.
The full report was transmitted to the White House and Congress. The summary was released on the same day that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers domestic violent extremism is the “greatest threat” to the US – a clear reminder that federal officials remain very concerned about the potential for more violence in the coming months.
“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 (domestic violent extremists) to try to engage in violence this year,” the unclassified summary says.
The assessment breaks down domestic extremists into several categories, including racially or ethnically motivated extremists, animal rights and environmental extremists, abortion-related and anti-government extremists.
The “most lethal” domestic extremist threats come from “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” and “militia” extremists, it adds. Racially motivated extremists are most likely to conduct mass casualty attacks against civilians, the assessment finds, while militia extremists typically target law enforcement and government personnel and facilities.
The militia threat “will almost certainly continue to be elevated throughout 2021” because of sociopolitical factors, the assessment notes.
A Senate aide familiar with the report’s findings told CNN that it highlights the challenges of dealing with so-called lone wolf extremists – individuals with loose associations following ideologies of hate and extremism who Mayorkas said Wednesday are “willing and able to take those ideologies and execute on them in unlawful, illegal, violent ways.”
Lone offenders or small cells of domestic violent extremists are “more likely to carry out violent attacks” in the US than organizations, the summary says. Attackers often “radicalize independently by consuming violent extremist material online and mobilize without direction from a violent extremist organization, making detection and disruption difficult,” it says.
White supremacist extremists have the most “concerning” connections outside of the US, because of like-minded views in other countries, the report finds. A “small number of US (racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists) have traveled abroad to network with like-minded individuals,” the summary says.
The full classified assessment was prepared in response to President Joe Biden’s request for a comprehensive threat assessment of domestic violent extremism, an ODNI official told CNN, adding that the intelligence community was tasked to draw on analysis from across the government and, as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations.
The ODNI official also told CNN that the assessment does not evaluate or address actions of individuals engaged solely in activities protected by the First Amendment or other rights secured by the Constitution.
This story has been updated with additional details from the summary of the assessment.