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Homeland Security warns of heightened extremist threats, Uvalde copycats

The midterm elections and a ruling on Roe v. Wade could spark extremist action, the agency said in a new bulletin.

The Department of Homeland Security warned Tuesday of potential domestic violence in the coming months due to "several high-profile events."

The bulletin was issued as the Supreme Court appears poised to end constitutional protection for women's rights to abortion and as a highly charged midterm election unfolds less than two years after violent protesters tried to overturn legitimate election results.

"The United States remains in a heightened threat environment, as noted in the previous Bulletin, and several recent attacks have highlighted the dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment," Homeland Security said in a statement. 

"In the coming months, we expect the threat environment to become more dynamic as several high-profile events could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets."

Clint Watts, a national security analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, said the emotional debates about gun control and abortion rights amount to a "powder keg" of potential violence.

The DHS report shows "no surprises and is consistent with what my research team and I see," Watts added.

And Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the George Washington University's Program on Extremism, likened the DHS warning to a horrific weather forecast.

"DHS is basically saying that there's clouds in the sky and they're getting darker and it's likely going to rain," he said.

While counterterrorism analysts once had to view foreign invaders as the prime threat, potential attackers are now coming from all sorts of directions.

"They keep hammering home the point that this is the most complex and complicated threat picture they've seen in recent years," Hughes said.

"If you look at the 2015-16 time frame, they were largely worried about ISIS and Al Qaeda — and now they're still worried about those things — but now they've got far-right extremism, single-issue [extremists], and then you have people who just want to watch the world burn."

Targets of violent extremists could include places of public gatherings, faith institutions, schools, racial and religious minorities, government buildings and workers, infrastructure, the media and anyone believed to be an ideological opponent, the agency said.

"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/anti-authority violent extremism," it said.

Foreign adversaries, which could include terrorist groups and sanctioned government forces, "also remain intent on exploiting the threat environment to promote or inspire violence, sow discord, or undermine U.S. democratic institutions," the agency added.

The bulletin expires Nov. 30.

DHS cited recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, as "key aspects of the evolving threat environment."

"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."