Homeland Security cites 'misleading narratives' as one reason for heightened terrorism alert

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday issued a bulletin warning of a heightened terrorism alert in part because of “the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions.”

“The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors,” DHS said in its National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin, which remains in effect until June 7.

“These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence,” DHS further claimed.

DHS pinpointed “misleading narratives” about the 2020 presidential election and COVID-19 as specific examples of misinformation that it alleges “inspired violent extremist attacks during 2021.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“The convergence of violent extremist ideologies, false or misleading narratives, and conspiracy theories have and will continue to contribute to a heightened threat of violence in the United States,” said DHS, claiming that “malign foreign powers have and continue to amplify these false or misleading narratives in efforts to damage the United States.”

Rioters try to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

DHS went on to say that the primary terrorism-related threat to the United States is from lone wolves and small cells who have been radicalized by a number of foreign and domestic grievances often encountered through the consumption of online content.

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