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“There has to be a way to get information on the leftist politicians,” an anonymous user wrote on a message board Jan. 8, two days after a pro-Trump mob assaulted the Capitol. “Their addresses, driving routes, etc.”
The user, who was responding to a thread about an upcoming march in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day, had a clear message: “It would be much more healing for the nation if there were targeted assassinations.”
Those messages, and thousands more like them, have been swept up into raw intelligence reports created by the Department of Homeland Security, becoming part of an avalanche of material law enforcement has to sift through when determining potential threats.
Yahoo News has obtained more than half a dozen intelligence reports detailing some of the social media threats being evaluated. The reports make clear the gravity of the threat facing law enforcement in the weeks ahead, but also the difficulty in trying to determine which threats are of serious concern and which may simply be online bravado.
“We are seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter about a number of events surrounding the inauguration,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a press conference Thursday.
“As you can imagine the volume of information is significant, but we’ve been pushing this information as rapidly as possible to all of our relevant law enforcement and intelligence partners,” Wray said.
The open-source intelligence reports obtained by Yahoo News detail some of the potential threats Wray mentioned. These reports, produced by the Department of Homeland Security, contain raw intelligence, the type of online chatter flagged as a potential threat to the inauguration or Capitol. They include social media posts urging others to assassinate Democratic lawmakers, build improvised explosive devices and use sniper rifles to kill law enforcement members stationed around the Capitol on Inauguration Day.
The reports include screenshots and a brief summary and are sent to law enforcement, including the FBI. The reports are all dated in the days immediately following the Jan. 6 riot in Washington, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, leading to the deaths of five people, including a police officer. Many of the posters refer to upcoming marches and protests planned for the next week.
Law enforcement is now gearing up for a series of demonstrations, and potential violence, in Washington and at state capitols in the days leading up to the presidential inauguration. On Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, a “Million Militia March” is planned in the nation’s capital.
Among the reports was the anonymous poster who suggested assassinating left-wing politicians. The same person also advocated using improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, as part of the plans for violence. “[I]f they can build IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, why aren’t Americans that clever?” the person wrote.
Two IEDs were found in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. Law enforcement is still searching for the suspect who is believed to have planted the devices.
In another report, someone believed to have been involved in the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol called for an armed return to Washington to kill lawmakers. “Many of Us will return on January 19, 2021, carrying Our weapons, in support of Our nation’s resolve,” the user wrote before the siege.
After the siege, the person posted again: “over the next 24 hours, I would say, lets get our personal affairs in order. Prepare Our weapons, and then go get’em. Lets hunt these cowards down like the Traitors that each of them are.”
The person called the siege of the Capitol a success, which appears to confirm previous reports that the riot has emboldened extremists. “Today, the cowards ran as We took the Capital. They have it back now, only because We left. It wasn’t the building that We wanted...it was them!” the person posted.
The report says it’s unknown if the user is an organizer for the Million Militia March. Since late November this person has been advocating “for armed response to the U.S. election results and the U.S. electoral process.” This includes the growing sentiment that armed militia response is necessary “to restore the United States and protect the country from ‘traitors,’” the report states.
Another report obtained by Yahoo News highlights a person who advocated for using snipers in Washington. “Alright in about two weeks there is going to be a march in D.C., you know those cops are going to be lined up with their shields and [expletive] you know what I mean?” the person wrote, according to the report. “We’re gonna have to get some [expletive] going on with snipers.”
Other reports refer to plans to storm federal buildings, and bounties on specific politicians, including one senator.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the intelligence reports.
With thousands of such threats being made online, and many by anonymous users, law enforcement is left to figure out where to focus its limited resources. FBI Director Wray alluded to this problem on Thursday.
“One of the real challenges in this space,” he said, “is trying to distinguish what’s aspirational and what’s intentional.”
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images
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