JEWISH COMMUNITIES AND LAW ENFORCEMENT SHOULD INCREASE THEIR SECURITY, AWARENESS, AND VIGILANCE IMM

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to all those of the Jewish faith in the United States and Europe, and law enforcement globally but specifically in the United States, to increase general security, awareness, and vigilance during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a threat of weaponizing of COVID-19. While we are seeing a medium to low level threat in regards to this, members of these communities who are required to go to work, cannot stay home and must interact with the general public should be aware. Also, all Synagogues and Jewish Centers should be aware of this alert. White supremacist groups and neo-Nazi’s are calling for the ‘weaponizing’ of COVID-19, specifically through coughing on targets.

With the COVID-19 pandemic came an increase in threats of utilizing COVID-19 as a bio-weapon and purposefully infecting individuals. These threats specifically came from accelerationists - violent neo-Nazis seeking a race war see COVID-19 as a weapon.[1] Simon Lindberg, the leader of the Swedish branch of the neo-Nazi group Nordic Resistance Movement, stated, “[COVID-19] might be precisely what we need in order to bring about a real national uprising and a strengthening of revolutionary political forces.”[2]

The specific targets as of now are those of the Jewish faith and law enforcement.[3] As seen by the propaganda shared from the Sternenkrone Division Telegram chat group (Image 1), there is a strong utilization of the phrase ‘Holocough’. As stated by TRAC Analyst Kelsey Tamplin in their email blast, “The term 'holocough' now being widely used by many racist groups on Telegram has a dual meaning - one to suggest that coughing on Jews would be equivalent to the Holocaust; the other to make fun of the Holocaust which they widely perceive as a Jew-manipulated conspiracy that never actually occurred.”

Threats issued so far include weaponizing COVID-19 in spray bottles filled with saliva or other bodily fluids, lacing items, committing crimes to expose responding law enforcement to the virus, or coughing on specific targets and spreading the virus in targeted communities.[4][5] In an aerosol form, such as coughing or similar, COVID-19 can remain active in the air for up to 3 hours according to the latest research, in cardboard for up to 24, and on steel, glass, or plastic for up to 72 hours.[6] It is at this time unclear how long COVID-19 can remain active in isolated bodily fluids; however, given the exponential decay of the virus once removed from the body, it would most likely be difficult to collect any significant amount of the active virus.

COVID-19 can be reportedly rendered inactive by hydrogen peroxide or bleach, as used in common disinfectants. Under quarantine, any potential target is likely to be cleaned and disinfected more frequently.[7] Quarantine also means fewer mass gatherings and thus, fewer targets for infection. Finally, mass awareness in regards to the threat of COVID-19 means that infected victims are more likely to monitor their symptoms and seek treatment quickly. While there is a possibility of death, it has a high survival rate which makes this threat more about fear.

However, it is feasible that, if isolated, COVID-19 could be modified to a more lethal variant to become a weapon. We have not yet seen any accelerationist groups seriously considering this option, and to do so would require money, resources, and knowledge not knowingly available to these groups. It appears that they are utilizing COVID-19 as an opportunity to assist the already infectious disease to ultimately help reach their end goal.

There is more of a threat in the United States, based on what is being stated in chat rooms, although anywhere there is a Jewish population or law enforcement, a threat may apply. There has been no direct statement to limit these attacks to just the United States and while many of these neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups have divisions in other countries, a call from one division will be heard in others. This can be seen in the statements made by the Nordic Resistance Movement, saying COVID-19 is here to help.

In Essex County in England, the threat of the virus has been used as a weapon against the police.[8] This is either done by individuals choosing to cough and spit on the police, or actively trying to bite them during an altercation. Although the individuals are not known far-right extremists and no group has claimed responsibility, these actions are very similar to those being suggested by extremist groups in the United States.

It does not appear to be that there is a specific group doing the threatening, as threats and statements come from a wide range of white supremacists, alt-right, and neo-Nazi groups. Within Telegram, increased anti-Jewish and violence inciting statements were made in the following chats: Moon Krieg Division; Feuerkrieg Division; Eichmann Division; and Sinister Division.

A now deleted account called Skorge's Mount'o'Sermons, posted the following, “It would be really unfortunate if such a hypothetical ‘28 year old lone wolf domestic terrorist’ were to use exports to a hypothetical country with high population density and a large but unstable economy like China as a vessel for some sort of virus to expedite worldwide economic collapse or something crazy like that *cough cough*” (Image 2).

It appears that while there has been a call to attempt to accelerate the virus, not many members are actively participating. For the amount of statements being made in chat rooms to the amount of reported cases of it being carried out, it does not appear to be an imminent threat, but all individuals in the Jewish and Law Enforcement communities should be alert. These statements seem to be more showboating and trying to make the current situation fit their narrative as well.

While there may be a lower concern regarding direct coughing on of individuals, there is a risk of having supplies and produce being coughed on. In Pennsylvania, a grocery store had to throw away produce following a woman coughing on them,[9] and in Massachusetts a man was tackled following coughing on produce in a store.[10] As individuals are still required to purchase produce during this time, a potential location to target these communities is in essential item stores. As of now there has been no direct threat or call to action for these actions - although individuals, not seemingly connected to extremist groups, have been carrying it out.

Additionally, with the fact that recent incidents involving individuals coughing on food in stores or on individuals or threatening to do so has resulted in domestic terrorism charges, many of these white supremacist groups ultimately may not carry out these low level attacks as they are known to want more attention. Bringing attention to their group for, what could be perceived as, a small crime with large repercussions threatens their overall agenda. However, with the public access to forums with this propaganda, individuals who are not connected to these groups may become inspired.

CONCLUSION

CTG assesses the current threat climate as MEDIUM to LOW in regards to the threat of COVID-19 used as a weapon. This is based on the fact that there is a call to action and there have been previous incidents involving individuals coughing on law enforcement, however, it is unknown if these individuals were infected. It appears that the act of coughing, or threatening to cough, is more grandstanding and with increased quarantines, having access to individuals and large gatherings is more challenging. As for actively weaponizing the virus in spray bottles, it is unknown if this has been done with actual COVID-19 liquid. The handful of cases which included a spray bottle and COVID-19 turned out to be hoax weapons. Therefore the threat of COVID-19 being used as a weapon is more of a threat to incite fear.

In summation, there are three aspects with probabilities connected to it.

Our analysis indicates that there is a LOW probability of someone carrying out an attack with COVID-19 as a physical weapon (i.e. spray bottle).

Our analysis indicates that there is a MEDIUM TO LOW probability of someone carrying out an attack by coughing on an individual.

Our analysis indicates that there is a MEDIUM probability of someone utilizing COVID-19 to induce fear within the Jewish population and towards law enforcement.

CTG’s recommendation is to remain alert during this time, remain quarantined and follow local law enforcement’s guidance and direction. CTG recommends that food markets/grocery stores in these and all communities may need to consider security to watch over areas of the store to prevent anyone coughing on food products. Places of worship and community centers should not be gathering during the COVID-19 crisis, but if any are providing services to their community where there may be a gathering of people there should be increased security and awareness. If you believe that you have been a victim of a hate crime or targeted because of your faith with COVID-19, please reach out to your local law enforcement office.

If any individuals are interested in learning more about security measures to protect their facilities and members, please contact us.

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is a unit of the global risk consulting and security firm Paladin 7. CTG proactively searches for and analyzes the threat of terrorism that comes from International Terrorist Organizations, Domestic Terrorist Organizations, and Individuals determined to inflict terror upon societies, organizations, and individuals. Our international and national security professionals set up protective measures to detect, deter, and prevent, discourage, and dissuade any terrorist organization or individual from carrying out an attack on organizations and individuals. We work to protect our clients from any terrorist threat or attack. We also work proactively with the proper authorities to find those in terrorist organizations and individuals who will cause harm and assist in bringing them to justice and mitigating the threat long-term.

Note: Certain pictures in this report were taken from Internet followers or groups supporting and/or promoting the extreme right wing and white supremacy.

[1] As world struggles to stop deaths, far right celebrates COVID-19, Al Jazeera, March 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/world-struggles-stop-deaths-celebrates-covid-19-200326165545387.html?fbclid=IwAR1sbrZ6P611r1wIqdKvW6REGAhMJjl62t7QnFN9y8f74rWJsJnkp9mdgAo

[2] Ibid.

[3] Extremist groups encourage members to spread coronavirus to police, Jews: FBI alert, ABC7, March 2020, https://abc7ny.com/6038813/

‘Spread the Flu’, screenshotted by Allegra, via Telegram

[4] Federal law enforcement document reveals white supremacists discussed using coronavirus as a bioweapon, Yahoo News, March 2020,

https://news.yahoo.com/federal-law-enforcement-document-reveals-white-supremacists-discussed-using-coronavirus-as-a-bioweapon-212031308.html

[5] White Supremacist Corona, DHS Protective Service, February 2020, https://www.scribd.com/document/452676693/White-Supremacist-Corona

[6] Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1, New England Journal of Medicine, March 2020, https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMc2004973

[7] Here’s how long the coronavirus will last on surfaces, and how to disinfect those surfaces, Live Science, March 2020, https://www.livescience.com/how-long-coronavirus-last-surfaces.html

[8] Coronavirus: Covid-19 used as a weapon, says Essex top officer, BBC, April 2020,

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-52125320

Skorge’s Mount’o’Sermonn, screenshotted by Allegra, via Telegram

[9] Woman coughs on $35K of goods at Pennsylvania grocery store in ‘very twisted prank’, NY Post, March 2020, https://nypost.com/2020/03/25/woman-coughs-on-35k-of-goods-at-pennsylvania-grocery-store-in-very-twisted-prank/

[10] WATCH: Massachusetts Shoppers Tackle Man Who Coughed on Produce, Heavy, March 2020, https://heavy.com/news/2020/04/massachusetts-man-cough-produce-tackled/?utm_source=OneSignal

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