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Imminent Warning Report: Threats of Violence in Wake of FBI Raid in Mar-a-Lago

Date: August 12, 2022

Savanah Fellows, Rhiannon Thomas, Daniel Brown, NORTHCOM Team

Valentina Topatigh, Editor; Hannah Norton, Senior Editor


FBI Building in Washington DC[1]


Event: On August 8, 2022, the FBI searched former President Trump’s residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, seeking evidence of the possible violation of the Presidential Records Act and laws related to classified material allegedly held there.[2] After the search, the spread of violent rhetoric against federal agents rapidly increased and protests occurred outside of some FBI buildings, like the one in Columbia, South Carolina.[3] On social media, federal agents are facing increasing threats, including “kill all feds”, and many far-right individuals are referring to the event as the start of the next US civil war. Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed the search warrant, FBI agents, and Attorney General Merrick Garland are referred to as “enemies” by far-right violent extremist groups, like the Proud Boys.[4] Talks of attacks targeting federal agents, Garland, and Reinhart continue to rise on social media platforms like Truth Social, Telegram, and 4chan, increasing the chances of exposure to radicalized postings that are encouraging individuals to take up arms to start a “civil war.” On August 11, radicalized January 6 insurrectionist Ricky Shiffer was fatally shot by FBI officials when he attempted to attack the FBI building in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a nail gun and an AR-15.[5] Shiffer previously communicated with like-minded “revolutionists” but had not called for direct violence or specifically mentioned the FBI until after the FBI searched Trump’s residence. While the FBI has yet to confirm his motive, his online postings on Truth Social appear to make hidden references to the FBI search with phrases such as “we cannot tolerate this one” and “kill the FBI on sight.”[6]


Significance: The FBI search on former President Trump’s residence will almost certainly be used by far-right extremists as propaganda, likely claiming the FBI has abused its power and there is a “need for armed action.” These talks will very likely take place on encrypted platforms like 4chan and Telegram to avoid detection and being taken down by social media content moderators. The call for firearms among far-right extremists and tension between Trump supporters and opposition will very likely increase acts of violence, almost certainly raising the security risk for federal agents. The demand for firearms will very likely increase the use of illicit methods to obtain firearms, such as using the dark web and the straw purchase strategy, where a companion will purchase the firearm for them. There is a roughly even chance some radicalized individuals will resort to other weapons, like improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Far-right violent extremists attacking federal locations and targets will almost certainly garner international media attention, very likely increasing the publicity and influence of their ideology.


Recommendations

  • Anyone with information surrounding a past or future protest, threat, or attack, should immediately report to the proper authorities, including local law enforcement.

  • Local law enforcement should work with federal agents and part of intra-agency cooperation to help prevent social unrest and protests from becoming violent.

  • Local law enforcement must share any tips and information regarding threats to federal officials with federal authorities to ensure all parties are aware.

  • It is recommended federal employees, and FBI agents in particular, exercise extreme situational awareness and caution and increase overall security personnel.

  • All federal buildings and employees must remain on high alert and maintain current knowledge of the threats being made against them to avoid a surprise attack.

  • It is recommended online discussion boards and chats are monitored for discourse relating to threats, attacks, and protests in order to react quickly to social unrest and violence.

  • Social media platforms, including mainstream and encrypted media sites, should monitor key phrases like "civil war," "arms," "FBI," and “attack,” especially with the heightened threat level.

  • If there is any additional and or critical information please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-248 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com

________________________________________________________________________The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)


[1]FBI Building” by David Shane licensed under Creative Commons

[2] FBI searches Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, PBS News, August 2022, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/fbi-searches-trumps-mar-a-lago-estate

[3] Protests at Columbia FBI building in response to Mar-a-Lago search, WIS TV, August 2022, https://www.wistv.com/2022/08/10/protests-columbia-fbi-building-response-mar-a-lago-search/

[4] CTG Threat Hunter

[5] Who is Ricky Shiffer, the Ohio gunman who attacked the FBI and broadcast Trump conspiracies on Truth Social,? The Independent, August 2022, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/ricky-shiffer-fbi-cincinnati-trump-b2143549.html

[6] CTG Threat Hunter

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