Team: Ciro Mazzola | Crime
Week of: January 11, 2021
On January 6, 2021, the Capitol building in Washington DC, was attacked by violent mobs supporting President Trump and the “Stop the Steal” movement. The aim of the protest was to prevent lawmakers in the US Capitol from confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college results to allow for the ‘rightful’ re-election of President Trump, who claims that his electoral loss was due to fraud. Amongst the rioters who stormed the Capitol, authorities have been able to identify militants from extremist groups such as the Proud Boys, the Last Sons of Liberty, Anticom, and the Rise Above Movement (a white supremacist movement that has been highly active in the far-right community within the past year). Regardless of the violence surrounding the Capitol, Biden’s victory has since then been confirmed and Trump has been impeached a second time for encouraging the marching on the Capitol as well as endangering national security. The events of January 6, coupled with numerous online threats made by militias and anti-government individuals, have raised concerns about safety protocols in the US Capitol for Biden’s upcoming Inauguration Day. It is very likely, in fact, that the large and violent mobs that stormed the Capitol building will return during this monumental day in order to disrupt a peaceful transition of power and to attack any individuals who do not side with them—be it public officials, law enforcement, or civilians. It is highly recommended for law enforcement to be on high alert for any kind of threat on this day and to be prepared to respond immediately to any signs of violence in order to avoid a repetition of the events that occurred on January 6. It is also very likely that the risk of such far-right violence will not dissipate after the ceremony on January 20. Thus another recommendation to be taken into consideration is for Biden’s Administration to immediately advance US national security by strengthening policies (for example, gun control) to counter these domestic threats.
It is normal for every presidential inauguration—especially since the events of 9/11—to pursue increased security measures in order to ensure everyone’s safety the day of. These proactive procedures are put into place specifically because presidential inaugurations have historically raised concerns about terrorist threats. Usually, these threats have involved foreign sources of danger. This year, however, will mark the first time these threats will revolve around domestic terrorists. A joint security bulletin created by the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and other eight agencies has warned that violent extremists might feel emboldened by the successful siege of January 6 and could, consequently, decide to go back to Washington DC to protest Biden’s inauguration. Federal law enforcement agencies have also postulated that these violent groups may currently be provoked by the death of Ashli Babbitt (a protestor who was killed by the police during the Capitol Riot) to pursue plans of protests and potential attacks in the days leading up to the inauguration or on the US Inauguration Day itself.
Additionally, these extremist groups may attempt to organize violent events in the US Capitol on Inauguration Day through the use of the Internet. Such groups have already stated their willingness to resort to violence and to treat any who stand in their way as enemy combatants on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Parler, and Gab. As recommended above, law enforcement agencies have already taken several measures to crack down on these sites and to lock down on potential protesting venues proposed by these groups in public posts or messages. Many of these places have been made inaccessible to the public through street closures, newly installed non-scalable fencing, and a heavily armed law enforcement presence. Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that protesters in Portland, Oregon, were able to defeat fencing last year by utilizing power tools, ropes, chains, and other improvised tools. Therefore, we recommended that authorities maintain an attitude of hypervigilance and be prepared to quickly respond to any indication of a violent outbreak on the upcoming US Inauguration Day.
However, it must be noted that the risk of violent protests and attacks is not limited to Biden’s Inauguration Day. There is also a high likelihood for these occurrences to affect the rest of 2021 according to the DHS and FBI. The people who attacked the Capitol during the Capitol Riot have perceived their actions to be a successful expression of their efforts and, as a result, will very likely see the event as a powerful motivator for further violence in the future. Following this hypothesis, several agencies have conjectured that the violent breach of the US Capitol Building will be part of an ongoing trend “in which [extremists] exploit lawful protests, rallies, and demonstrations, and other gatherings to carry out ideologically-motivated violence and criminal activity.” Potential future targets, however, could be extremely varied. Considering the large range of people these groups view as their enemies, extremists may take aim at government officials and institutions, racial and religious minorities, journalists, and the LGBT community. The aftermath of the US Capitol Riot may have also created a means for a variety of groups to establish intergroup relationships, which may potentially lead to collaborations on attacks in the future. All of these predictions present possible threats that underline the risk of far-right groups not only for Inauguration Daybut also for the rest of 2021.
To combat these unfolding events, CTG and other AOCs must remain exceptionally vigilant in these upcoming days and monitor for any far-right groups’ movements that could be suspicious. This does not mean that a blind eye must be turned to foreign terrorist activity, but that it is important to remember that the primary threat, for what this year’s Inauguration Day is concerned, is represented by domestic groups. All agencies, companies, and organizations must not ignore open-source intelligence as it is amongst the most efficient manners to collect information about these kinds of groups and their plans. Failure to do so has already resulted in the disaster that occurred on January 6. Classified and human intelligence may be of significant value as well, but open source communications will undoubtedly prove to be the most successful means of information gathering during these unprecedented times.
__________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)
 “How the Attack on the Capitol Happened, From Planning to Siege to Arrests”, GQ, January 11, 2021, https://www.gq.com/story/wednesday-capitol-attack-summary.
 “Members of Several Well-Known Hate Groups Identified at Capitol Riot”, PBS, January 2021, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/several-well-known-hate-groups-identified-at-capitol-riot/.
 “Impeachment: Donald Trump’s reckoning”, The Economist, January 16, 2021, https://www.economist.com/leaders/2021/01/16/donald-trumps-reckoning.
 “New security bulletin says domestic extremists most likely threat to inauguration”, CNN, January 15, 2021, https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/15/politics/security-bulletin-domestic-extremists-threat-inauguration/index.html.
 “Beyond domestic terrorists, officials eye foreign influence, drones as threats to Biden inauguration”, ABC News, January 16, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/domestic-terrorists-officials-eye-foreign-influence-drones-threats/story?id=75281116.
 “Authorities tracking multiple threats for a 'week of siege' after Capitol breach”, ABC News, January 16, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/US/authorities-tracking-multiple-threats-week-siege-capitol-breach/story?id=75232824.
 “Feds warn extremists may be emboldened to carry out additional attacks after Capitol insurrection”, CNN, January 14, 2021, https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/13/politics/us-government-prepares-for-extremists/index.html.
 “Feds warn extremists may be emboldened to carry out additional attacks after Capitol insurrection”.