The threat of violence by lone offenders is “likely heightened” throughout the winter, and surrounding holiday events, including New Year’s Eve, according to a new intelligence bulletin obtained by CBS News.
According to the four-page bulletin, the Homeland Security Department (DHS), the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center, which is the U.S. government’s hub for threat analysis, found the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas would “likely heighten the threat of lone offender violence targeting large public gatherings throughout the winter, including holiday-related, faith-based, New Year’s Eve, and first amendment-protected events related to the conflict.”
The bulletin goes further than recent warnings about the risk posed by individuals who are inspired to act by foreign terrorist media, as well as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists known as RMVEs.
“Lone offenders seeking to attack public gatherings will probably rely on simple weapons to target easily accessible events,” the bulletin to law enforcement, first responders and emergency management teams warned.
Examples of the types of weapons that might be used include “firearms, knives, and vehicles to target public gatherings which have fewer observable indicators of potential violence.” The intelligence assessment added, “Threat actors could also leverage nonviolent tactics, including hoax bomb and active shooter threats, to disrupt and delay operations of targeted facilities or gatherings.”
While the bulletin does not cite a specific or credible threat, it suggests that “calls for violence will probably increase” leading up to the holidays. It said factors that could “exacerbate the threat of violence include escalations in the conflict…and notable instances of violence in the Homeland inspiring copycat or retaliatory attacks.”
In early December, a joint bulletin from the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to local, state and federal law enforcement warned that groups like al Qaeda and ISIS would likely use the Israel-Hamas war “to increase calls for violence in the U.S. during the holiday season compared to prior years.” It said the most likely “primary targets” could include churches, synagogues and members of the Jewish community.
With the Israeli military bearing down on southern Gaza and Christmas only days away, the new intelligence report reviewed by CBS News warns of increased threats from foreign terrorist groups. It echoes FBI Director Christopher Wray’s testimony on Dec. 5 on Capitol Hill, when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I see blinking lights everywhere I turn,” in response to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham about possible warning signs.
Wray said the number of threats is at a “whole other level” since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and added, “I’ve never seen a time where all the threats, or so many of the threats, are all elevated all at exactly the same time.”
Wray also warned terrorists could try to exploit the U.S. southern border and said the FBI is working to “identify and disrupt potential attacks.”