An intelligence bulletin shared among federal law enforcement agencies warns that the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January will fuel far-right violence leading up to the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden.
White nationalists, militia groups, “boogaloo” civil war adherents and other “domestic violence extremists” may “exploit the aftermath of the Capitol breach by conducting attacks to destabilize and force a climactic conflict in the United States,” according to the bulletin obtained by The New York Times.
The attacks in Washington DC and the deaths of rioters, including a woman who was fatally shot by Capitol Police, will “very likely serve as a significant driver of violence” and galvanise groups and inspire “more sporadic, lone-actor or small-cell violence” against others, according to the bulletin, released by the FBI, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center.
Federal law enforcement’s latest warning echoes previous testimony, internal reporting and intelligence bulletins chronicling the rising threats of far-right violence and white nationalists.
Last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Judiciary Committee that the threat of far-right domestic violent extremism has risen to a “national threat priority” and poses a “steady threat of violence and economic harm” to the US while its underlying drivers – including “perceptions of government or law enforcement overreach, socio-political conditions, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and reactions to legislative actions” – persist.
A 2020 report from DHS claimed domestic violent extremist groups remain the nation’s largest security threat.
The latest bulletin, dated 13 January, says those groups “very likely pose the greatest domestic terrorism threats in 2021.”
Across social media platforms, rioters discussed and debated plans for weeks leading up to the day a joint session of Congress formally convened to count the Electoral College votes, with vice president Mike Pence presiding, as a growing caucus of Republican lawmakers announced plans to support the president’s false allegations of widespread voter fraud and claims that the election was “stolen” from his supporters.
In the riot’s wake, platforms have moved to block and remove users and content that engaged with insurrection, while Parler – among the most accessible apps for far-right violence – has been removed entirely. But insurrectionists, QAnon cultists and others – bolstered with hours of content documenting their attacks – have migrated to other encrypted platforms and forums, fuelled by embittered conspiracies and grievances and the evidence of their cataclysmic event that was months in the making.
Once organisers met in Washington ahead of the riot, their connections likely increased their “willingness, capability, and motivation to attack and undermine a government they view as illegitimate,” the bulletin says.
Many rioters and supporters, viewing the attacks as a success, have elevated the deaths of those at the Capitol as martyrs, inspiring further violence, according to federal law enforcement.
The bulletin notes: “The shared false narrative of a ‘stolen’ election and opposition to the change in control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government may lead some individuals to the belief that there is no political solution to address their grievance and violence action is unnecessary.”
Federal law enforcement’s latest report follows criticism against federal agencies and the US Capitol Police for the response to the attack and claims that there was no intelligence suggesting a Capitol breach, despite open calls for violence and civil war across social media platforms in the days leading up to the event.
The FBI and Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it was investigating “significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy”; more than 160 case files have been opened and 70 people have been charged to date.
US Attorney for Washington DC Michael Sherwin said that “people will be shocked by the egregious conduct that happened within the Capitol” as more evidence and charges emerge.