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ODNI Assesses That Domestic Violent Extremism Poses Heightened Threat in 2021

Tia Sewell
Wednesday, March 17, 2021, 5:08 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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On Mar. 17, 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the U.S. intelligence community’s unclassified assessment of domestic violent extremism in the United States. The four-page document states that “domestic violent extremists (DVEs) who are motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanized by recent political and societal events in the United States pose an elevated threat” to homeland security this year. It cites unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the 2020 election, the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, pandemic-related conditions and conspiracy theories as sociopolitical developments that could embolden or spur violence in 2021.

The report details that “lone offenders or small cells of DVEs adhering to a diverse set of violent extremist ideologies are more likely to carry out violent attacks in the Homeland than organizations that allegedly advocate a DVE ideology” as such attackers are often radicalized online and mobilize without direction—a dynamic that makes it more difficult for U.S. officials to detect and thwart the planned violence, according to the document.

The intelligence community also finds that the most lethal DVE threats are presented by “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists”—who are “most likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks against civilians”—and “militia violent extremists,” who are “typically targeting law enforcement and government personnel and facilities.” The document provides that white supremacists are “the DVE actors with the most persistent and concerning transnational connections because individuals with similar ideological beliefs exist outside of the United States,” and it states that a small number of racially or ethnically motivated extremists “have traveled abroad to network with like-minded individuals.”

The report also assesses that DVEs exploit a variety of online platforms “to recruit new adherents, plan and rally support for in-person actions, and disseminate materials that contribute to radicalization and mobilization to violence.”

You can read the threat assessment here.

Tia Sewell is a former associate editor of Lawfare. She studies international relations and economics at Stanford University.

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