KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The FBI on Wednesday urged police chiefs across the country to be on high alert for extremist activity and to share intelligence on any threats they face, as the U.S. government has published a terrible intelligence bulletin warning of potential violence before the inauguration.
During the call with police chiefs, Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, and Kenneth Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, warned of potential attacks on state capitals, federal buildings, the homes of members of Congress and businesses, according to one of the chiefs on appeal. Officials did not identify specific threats, participants said, but called on law enforcement officials across the country to watch for signs of problems, however small.
“They don’t want to be dismissive of anything,” Miami Police Department Chief Jorge Colina, one of the thousands of officials participating in the call, said in an interview. “So even though that sounds ambitious, even though it’s just like, ‘Yeah, that would be great if the whole place is burnt down,’ they don’t want us to think, ‘Ah, that’s just a head of ‘pin,’ and be dismissive.
Federal authorities also issued a joint intelligence bulletin warning that the murderous breach at the Capitol last week would be a “major driver of violence” for armed militias and racist extremists who are targeting the presidential inauguration next week.
Extremists aiming to start a race war “may exploit the consequences of the Capitol breach by carrying out attacks to destabilize and force a culminating conflict in the United States,” officials wrote in the bulletin published by the National Counterterrorism Center and the United States. departments of justice and homeland security. , which was widely disseminated to law enforcement agencies across the country.
In Washington, readiness remained high, with Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee III saying on Wednesday he expected more than 20,000 National Guard members in the Washington area on the day of the ‘inauguration. It is still not clear how many members of the Guard will carry arms.
Defense Department officials said Tuesday evening Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy decided to arm members of the National Guard who will be deployed to protect the Capitol Building complex at the time of the swearing-in by Mr. Biden.
The number of National Guard soldiers in Washington could eventually exceed 20,000; The figure has risen rapidly in recent days, as intelligence officials monitoring pro-Trump groups online are increasingly concerned that far-right militant organizations have plans for violent protests in Washington.
The decision to arm members of the Guard sheds light on the gnawing uncertainty of the past week. Members of Congress have expressed concern about their return to the Capitol after being informed of several active threats against them, and the FBI has warned of possible violence at the 50 Capitol buildings.
Defense Department officials met with officials in Washington on Wednesday to work on plans to prevent last week’s violent violation from happening again. The scale of the demonstrations and the violence of the crowd surprised the police.
Capitol Riot Fallout
A Pentagon official has expressed concern over the repeat of the homemade bombs planted in Washington last week. The official said law enforcement was also concerned that some protesters threatened to show up at lawmakers’ homes or target their families.
During the call with police chiefs, federal officials said they were closely monitoring extremist communications online and urged chiefs to be on the lookout for potential lone wolf actors and local armed groups, the government said. Chief Chris Magnus of Tucson, adding that he had rarely heard from federal officials. this alarmed.
“They are very, very worried about these, what they called violent domestic extremists, who are involved in other protests,” he said. “Christopher Wray seemed particularly concerned about the contempt these people have for democratic government.”
There were also discussions on the balance between the rights of protesters and the threat of violence.
“I think the message is that they want everyone to have their First Amendment rights and to be able to come together without any government intrusion,” said Chief Rick Smith of Kansas City, Missouri, who was on call. “At the same time, how do you prevent violence?”
In the newsletter, written by the National Counterterrorism Center and the Justice and Homeland Security departments and obtained by The New York Times, federal officials said extremist groups viewed the Capitol violation as a success and had been galvanized. by the death of Ashli. Babbit, a military veteran and follower of QAnon who was shot dead by police as she tried to enter the heavily guarded President’s Hall just outside the Chamber’s chamber. Extremists might perceive this death as “an act of martyrdom,” they said.
Officials have warned of possible “boogaloo” activity, a movement seeking to spark a second civil war. They also wrote that “the shared false narrative of a ‘stolen’ election”, “a narrative that has been perpetuated by President Trump,” may lead some individuals to believe that there is no political solution for it. respond to their grievances and violent actions. is necessary.”
Anti-government militias and extremist groups “quite possibly represent the greatest threats to national terrorism in 2021,” the bulletin, dated January 13, said.
The national and local authorities are already taking the preparations in hand.
In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown activated the National Guard “to help with possible future civil unrest,” Oregon State Police said Wednesday. Authorities have not identified where the National Guard would be deployed, but troops from neighboring Washington state have used the Guard in recent days to protect the state Capitol building.
“Recent events on our nation’s Capitol and in our own state illustrate the need for law enforcement to be prepared and properly staffed for all large gatherings,” said the police commissioner of the Oregon State Terri Davie in a statement.
The National Guard also assisted in the state capitals of Michigan and Wisconsin.
Law enforcement presence has intensified at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, with California Highway Patrol officers on standby and outside at entrances, and with squad cars parked on the grounds, blocking the alleys. The FBI has set up a joint command post with local authorities in Sacramento, and members of state, federal and local law enforcement meet daily.
Although Los Angeles officials did not receive specific threats, the Los Angeles Police Department chief ordered all officers, nearly 10,000 people, to wear uniforms every day before the inauguration in order they are ready to be deployed at any time. note. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has adjusted its numbers in anticipation of the protests.
Part of the challenge for law enforcement intelligence gathering was to weed out “ambitious” comments, Miami Chief Colina said. During Wednesday’s call, the FBI acknowledged the unease felt across the country over the attack on the U.S. Capitol, he said.
“It kind of rocked everyone, you know, to see what happened on Capitol Hill. It gives you a terrible sense of unease, and therefore, they are concerned about it, “he said, adding,” They are concerned about the mindset of, ‘Are we safe here in this? country?’ ‘
John Eligon reported from Kansas City, Frances Robles from Miami and Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Helene Cooper from Washington. Adam Goldman of Washington contributed reporting; Mike Baker of Seattle; Shawn Hubler of Sacramento, Simon Romero of Albuquerque; Richard Fausset in Atlanta; Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio in New York; Julie Bosman in Chicago and Tim Arango and Manny Fernandez in Los Angeles.