New DHS Memo Warns of Heightened Threat of Terror Attacks Through 2024 Election Season

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
May 30, 2023US News
New DHS Memo Warns of Heightened Threat of Terror Attacks Through 2024 Election Season
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security building building in Washington on July 22, 2019. (Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images)

The United States faces a heightened risk of terror attacks from now through the 2024 election cycle, according to a new memo from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The DHS issued a new National Terrorism Advisory Bulletin (pdf) on May 24 stating “perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues” could “mobilize individuals to commit violence.”

The DHS bulletin states likely targets for attacks include law enforcement, government facilities, critical infrastructure, faith-based institutions and “individuals or events associated with the LGBTQIA+ community.” The bulletin states these threats come from extremists associated with foreign terrorist organizations as well as domestic violent extremists motivated by a range of ideological beliefs.

DHS said it’s working with the FBI and a variety of additional federal partners and programs in an effort to identify threats and inform security planners. The bulletin also lists resources for faith-based organizations, community organizations, schools, and other potential targets to prepare against attacks.

The heightened terrorism alert will remain in effect until Nov. 24, 2024.

Recent Attacks and Violent Threats

The bulletin notes several recent incidents that could indicate future violent attacks, including a shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas, earlier this month and another shooting at a Christian private school in Nashville, Tennessee, in March. The DHS document did not name the suspect of the Texas mall shooting, 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia, but said he fixated on past mass shootings and held views consistent with racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist (RMVE) ideology and involuntary celibate (incel) violent extremist ideologies.

The DHS bulletin similarly avoided naming the suspect in the March 27 shooting at the Covenant Christian school in Nashville and said law enforcement continues to investigate the attack. Law enforcement officials initially identified the suspect in that shooting attack as Audrey Hale, a woman who identified as a man. Police said they had found a “manifesto” they believe was written by Hale. At a March 27 press briefing, when asked by reporters whether there may have been a connection between Hale’s transgender identity and her motive for carrying out the attack, Metro Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake said “there is some theory to that,” but did not provide any additional details on the matter. Authorities have yet to release the manifesto more than two months after the shooting.

In addition to the two mass-shooting incidents, the DHS noted alleged attack plots they consider to be connected to RMVE ideology. One of the RMVE suspects is an Ohio man accused of plotting to use an incendiary device to burn down a church in Ohio that was preparing to host a drag-themed event. A Florida man and Maryland woman were arrested in another alleged RMVE plot in February on suspicions they were planning to knock out power stations in the Baltimore area.

The DHS bulletin also noted the sporadic clashes near a construction site for a new police facility in Atlanta, Georgia. The bulletin said domestic violent extremists “have cited anarchist violent extremism, animal rights/environmental violent extremism, and anti-law enforcement sentiment to justify criminal activity in opposition” to the police training facility, which opponents have dubbed “Cop City.” In January, while attempting to clear protesters away from the construction site, police shot and killed an activist, Manuel Terán, after police said Terán shot and wounded a Georgia State Trooper. Twenty-three more people face terrorism charges after agitators set multiple pieces of construction equipment on fire near the site in March.

The bulletin also cited an incident in which a suspect “who was inspired by a variety of foreign terrorist content” attacked three New York City police officers with a machete on New Year’s Eve. In January, the Department of Justice said the suspect in this machete attack, 19-year-old Trevor Bickford, was motivated by radical Islamic extremism.