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Law enforcement rushes to assess new threats to lawmakers


Growing anxiety among local law enforcement comes just a day after the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Capitol Police and the National Counterterrorism Center issued an intelligence bulletin, first reported by POLITICO, outlining how violent extremists could pose a threat to intermediaries, including election workers.

“There have been a significant number of recent violent attacks motivated by political rhetoric and socio-political narratives promoted on extremist forums. The attack on Mr. Pelosi is just another on a growing list,” said John Cohen, the former counterterrorism chief at DHS. “These people are troubled and angry people who try to justify violence to express their anger. They consume online content uploaded by domestic and foreign threat actors. »

A person with direct knowledge of the law enforcement conversations said groups and organizations, including local law enforcement agencies that specialize in domestic threats, lobbied the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI for more information to discuss the current climate, which they say is unprecedented in the danger posed to lawmakers. Their concerns only grew as the midterm reviews approached. But there have only been a handful of briefings in recent weeks – many of which focused primarily on cyber threats related to the midterm elections.

“It’s unclear how much these threats of physical violence have increased in recent weeks as we get closer to the midpoints,” the person said. “It would be useful to know that stuff, especially for local law enforcement.”

Department of Homeland Security and FBI spokespersons said their agencies “regularly” share information with local law enforcement and notify them of threats.

Cohen said traditional US intelligence methodologies don’t always capture the kinds of domestic threats posed by people like DePape.

“People who become attackers don’t communicate in the usual way,” he said. “They don’t associate themselves with terrorist organizations or extremist groups. It’s not that they’re not on the radar, it’s that we’re looking at the right radar screen.

A 2021 Brookings Institution study conducted after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol found that conservative websites and political leaders, particularly at the state and local level, “now routinely use rhetoric violent and demonize their political opponents” and that “the inflammatory rhetoric of political leaders against their political opponents” does not “fade away after they are given away.

Federal agents are helping investigate the attack on Speaker Pelosi’s husband, Paul, which took place at his home in the early hours of Friday morning and left him with a fractured skull.

The FBI confirmed to POLITICO that its San Francisco office is participating in a joint investigation into the attack alongside the San Francisco Police Department and the United States Capitol Police.

Investigative agencies are currently working to determine both the timeline and the motive for the attack. “The FBI provides resources such as investigators and forensic analysis from our Evidence Response Team,” the FBI spokesperson said.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats had long warned that Pelosi, as the subject of relentless Republican attack ads and internet conspiracy theorists, was in particular danger. But there was also a broader concern that modern political and media climates had created a situation in which lawmakers at large were increasingly targeted.

According to the Associated Press, US Capitol police investigated nearly 10,000 threats against members last year, more than double the number in 2018, the last midterm cycle.

“It’s been pretty scary since Jan. 6,” Deputy Chief Whip Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said. “I had to put extra security measures in place at my house. Of course, what worries us all is that this type of behavior can usually be “contagious”. Terrible.”

“Of course our biggest concern is for Paul’s well-being at this stage,” Kildee said.


POLITICO

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