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Domestic Extremism, Accelerationism, and other Top Threats for 2022

Domestic Extremism, Accelerationism, and other Top Threats for 2022

Created: Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 13:37
General Security and Resilience

The current extremist threat environment facing the U.S. is dynamic, complex, and highly volatile. “What keeps me up at night,” according to John Cohen, acting director of the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, “[Is] the threat environment as we enter 2022.” Indeed, 2021 was a galvanizing year for both international and domestic extremists who seek to harm the U.S. and its interests, despite the dearth of deadly terrorist attacks. The January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to polarize American society and inspire domestic violent extremists (DVEs). The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will likely allow foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) to safely operate from the territory once more and could also inspire U.S.-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) to action. "We are operating at a heightened level of vigilance because we are at a heightened level of threat,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas emphasized last week.

On the domestic terror front, threat actors are continuing to evolve and diversify. The domestic extremist threat ranges from white-supremacists and anti-government DVEs, to violent incels (Involuntary celibate), and “violent far-left extremists – motivated primarily by racially-charge police violence and inactivity against climate change,” according to counterterrorism scholas Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware. The most lethal domestic threat stems from individuals who espouse an accelerationist ideology. The goal of accelerationists is to instigate a societal collapse of the existing order, via violent attacks, and then set of a second civil war. Last October, for example, a Texas man was sentenced to ten years in prison for plotting to blow up an Amazon data center, based on the belief that destroying the facility would damage around 70 percent of the internet and motivate the American people to take up arms against the government.

Moreover, international terrorism remains a significant threat to the U.S. and its global interests. According to Hoffman and Ware: “Today, the threat matrix of foreign terrorist groups is more complex—populated by both Shi’a and Sunni groups backed by state patrons who direct and sponsor their violence.” The U.S. faces an increasing number of FTOs across the globe, who espouse the desire to harm the U.S and its international partners. As WaterISAC has previously reported, FTOs such as al Qa’ida and the Islamic State currently don’t have the capacity to attack the U.S. homeland, but in less than a year some of these groups may be able to. The more immediate threat from FTOs is their ability to inspire HVEs in the U.S. to conduct violent attacks. Additionally, Iran and the terror groups they support will continue to attack U.S. facilities and personnel internationally, and advocate for attacks in the U.S. homeland. In short, the extremist threat landscape going into 2022 is challenging, diverse, and active. Read more at Lawfare and at CNN.