National terrorism alert issued after Capitol violence

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a national terrorism bulletin warning of the potential for violence from people motivated by anti-government sentiment after President Joe Biden’s election.

The department did not cite a specific threat but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” after Mr Biden took office on January 20.

“Information suggests that some ideologically motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fuelled by false narratives, could continue to mobilise to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said.

It did not mention any ideological or political affiliation, instead warning more broadly about “individuals frustrated with the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances and ideological causes fuelled by false narratives”.

These individuals “could continue to mobilise a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors to incite or commit violence”, the DHS said.

Biden Inauguration
Pro-Trump supporters attacked the Capitol (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

But this particular bulletin, issued through the the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System, is notable because it effectively places the Biden administration into the politically charged debate over how to describe or characterise acts motivated by political ideology and suggests that it sees violence aimed at overturning the election as akin to terrorism.

The wording of the single-page document suggests that national security officials see a connective thread between recent violence over the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, whether over Covid-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results or police use of force.

It also singles out racially motivated acts of violence such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terrorist organisations.

The alert comes at a tense time after the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-president Donald Trump who were seeking to overturn the presidential election.

The DHS also notes violent riots in “recent days,” an apparent reference to events in Portland, Oregon, linked to anarchist groups.

The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Mr Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate.

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