In the days ahead of the anniversary of the January 6 US Capitol attack, federal officials have seen an increase in unspecified calls for violence, the targeting of politicians and calls for rebellion on domestic violent extremist forums, according to a federal law enforcement official. However, there is still nothing to suggest a coordinated plan or specific threat, the official and other law enforcement sources said.
The uptick in violent rhetoric comes as law enforcement readies for Thursday’s anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, stepping up security efforts and information sharing among federal, state and local agencies.
US Capitol Police were recently warned of online posts that called for a “real insurrection” on the anniversary, according to a law enforcement source.
A senior Capitol security official told CNN the most likely threat would be from a lone actor, an ongoing concern for Capitol Hill security, but that they are not tracking any credible threats against the Capitol specific to this week.
There has been a dramatic uptick of threats made against lawmakers, with 9,600 in 2021 alone, the Capitol Police chief said this week. The security official attributed that increase in part to “a more bitter and partisan political environment and citizens for whom the issues that they’re angry about are core value and identity issues.”
As always, the problem remains sifting through the noise of angry tweeters versus actual threats, the official said, adding that the “majority” of threats don’t “represent a risk of real violence.”
Most of the threats have been against specific members, the official said, not the complex itself, pointing out that what made January 6, 2021, unique was that there was a specific legislative action the Congress was undertaking as a body that the rioters sought to disrupt. That isn’t the case this week.
On Tuesday, an Alaska man pleaded guilty to threatening to murder his state’s US senators in 17 violent and profane voicemails over a five-month period — a series of encounters that the senior Capitol security official called “typical” of the kinds of threats that end in eventual prosecution.
The chatter, media and prevalent sentiments point toward a very different atmosphere for January 6, 2022, from what we saw a year ago, according to Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks and analyzes the online activity of the global violent extremist community.
“We have indeed seen calls for violence this week: accusations of ‘treason,’ threats of hangings and so on, but none of this chatter appears anywhere near as targeted and singularly focused as what we saw last year ahead of the Capitol riot,” she said.
However, the extremist momentum behind January 6 “has not diminished — it has spread in all directions,” she added.
On Tuesday, the heads of the US Capitol Police and the Department of Homeland Security stressed that their departments were better prepared a year after a mob overwhelmed law enforcement and descended on the Capitol. Both US Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said there were no specific, credible threats.
Mayorkas said the department is operating at a “heightened level of vigilance, because we are at a heightened level of threat,” pointing to the ongoing threat from domestic violent extremists.
Despite the lack of specificity, federal law enforcement agencies have put deployment plans in place, if they are needed this week.
Last week, a DHS intelligence assessment warned that “threat actors” may take advantage of the anniversary “to promote or possibly commit violence.”
Lone offenders are the most likely threat to the anniversary, according to the intelligence assessment, which was shared with state and local authorities.
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