The Department of Homeland Security is warning that threats in the US could become even more volatile throughout the summer and midterm election season, fueled by election year misinformation and potential violence surrounding an upcoming Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights.
“Threat actors have recently mobilized to violence due to factors such as personal grievances, reactions to current events, and adherence to violent extremist ideologies, including racially or ethnically motivated or anti-government/antiauthority violent extremism,” a National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin issued Tuesday said.
“One of the key upcoming events that we are worried about are first and foremost the mid-term elections,” said a senior DHS official. The official noted that those harboring grievances over the 2020 election and fueled by misinformation may feel compelled to respond to the election season using violence.
“As the United States enters mid-term election season this year, we assess that calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events, and election workers will likely increase,” the bulletin, obtained by CNN, said.
Another key event of concern: A final Supreme Court opinion in a case that stands as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade’s holding of a federal constitutional right to an abortion. Votes and language can still change before the final opinion, which is not expected to be issued until late June, but a draft opinion leaked in May that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Given a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court case about abortion rights, individuals who advocate both for and against abortion have, on public forums, encouraged violence, including against government, religious, and reproductive healthcare personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies,” the DHS alert said.
The senior official warned that “going forward, we’re concerned that grievances related to restricting abortion access in general could fuel a broader response.”
Traditionally, terrorism bulletins warned of threats posed by groups beyond America’s borders. Tuesday’s bulletin – the sixth since the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol – continues a pattern of DHS sounding alarms about threats from Americans. The bulletin notes that foreign influencers will likely seize on and exploit the division in America.
“Foreign adversaries — including terrorist organizations and nation state adversaries — also remain intent on exploiting the threat environment to promote or inspire violence, sow discord, or undermine U.S. democratic institutions,” the bulletin said.
Federal officials are also warning that social media continues to pose a major risk.
“Individuals in online forums that routinely promulgate domestic violent extremist and conspiracy theory-related content have praised the May 2022 mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and encouraged copycat attacks,” the bulletin said. “Others have seized on the event to attempt to spread disinformation and incite grievances, including claims it was a government-staged event meant to advance gun control measures.”