Jan 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Federal officials release guide to identify U.S.-based violent extremists

Photo of a cracked glass window looking into a room with the American flag hanging from the wall

A damaged door inside the U.S. Capital on Jan. 6, 2021, after a pro-Trump mob stormed the building and drove lawmakers from their chambers. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center this week shared an updated resource for identifying U.S.-based violent extremists.

Why it matters: Domestic violent extremism has reached new heights in recent years, with the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection being one of the more prominent examples. The new document, which has been updated every two years since it was first published in 2015, includes for the first time indicators that apply to "multiple ideologically-motivated U.S.-based violent extremists, given the evolving complexity and variety of factors influencing the domestic threat landscape."

What they're saying: "It is important to consider the totality of an individual’s circumstances when observing potential indicators because some factors may increase the risk that the individual could mobilize to violence in a given situation," according to the guidance.

Indicators include:

  • Changing one's vocabulary, mannerisms or behavior to "reflect a hardened point of view or new sense of purpose associated with violent extremist causes, particularly after a catalyzing event."
  • "Posing with weapons and imagery associated with violent extremism in photos or videos."
  • Engaging online concealment tactics like deleting, hiding or manipulating social media as part of an effort to plan a specific act of violence.

Worth noting: Members of the community such as relatives and peers are almost always the first to pick up on hints of violent motivations and are "often best positioned to witness signs of mobilization to violence," according to the guidance.

  • The resource was updated in part to help community members better identify and report such behaviors.

Read the full booklet.

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