Orlando Update: Prosecutor Says Shooter’s Widow Knew About the Attack; Fort Lauderdale Update: Shooter Claimed ISIS Influence, FBI Special Agent Testifies at Bond Hearing; Ocean County: Barnegat Trash Can Explosion in October Was Not Manmade, ATF Investigation Concludes
On Saturday, September 17, 2016, the citizens of New Jersey witnessed a horrifying event as visitors to Seaside Park in Ocean County were rattled by an explosion minutes before a US Marine Corps 5K run. The series of bombings that followed in New York City and Elizabeth were a stark reminder of the very real threat we face from individuals who want to disrupt our way of life. No longer was terrorism over there; it had arrived here in our backyard.
Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs) are individuals inspired—as opposed to directed—by a foreign terrorist organization and radicalized in the countries in which they are born, raised, or reside. HVEs pose the highest threat to New Jersey and will remain the most likely and persistent threat this year.
Militia extremists pose a moderate threat to New Jersey because of fundraising and recruitment efforts in the state, involvement in protests and standoffs across the United States, and their ability to coordinate and organize on a national scale.
Nationwide, anarchist extremists carry out violence during legitimate protests and engage in criminal acts during otherwise peaceful anti-law enforcement and politically charged protests.
Black separatist extremist groups in New Jersey are disorganized and continue to focus on activities related to narcotics, illegal weapons, and financial crime. In 2016, five black separatist extremists conducted attacks independently of any group affiliation.
Sovereign citizen extremists in New Jersey mostly engage in nonviolent activities, such as self-identifying in court paperwork and traffic-stop encounters and filing liens against law enforcement and public officials. In May 2016, legislation in New Jersey enhanced the penalties on sovereign citizen extremists filing fraudulent financial documents or liens as a retaliatory tactic against public officials; however, criminal penalties are unlikely to deter sovereign citizen extremists because they are adopting new methods to circumvent laws.
White supremacist groups continue to demonstrate a propensity for violence, lack organization, and diverse recruitment methods.
Anti-abortion extremists predominantly adhere to a blend of single-issue and anti-government ideologies and are mobilized by elevated media attention and perceived controversies.
From 2001-06, there were eight documented cases of animal rights extremism in New Jersey involving acts of vandalism and animal liberation. There have been no reported incidents since 2006, when key members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) were convicted and received prison sentences of four to six years.
Environmental rights extremists view manmade threats to the environment as so severe that violence and property damage are justified to prevent further destruction. Groups such as the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Earth First! adopt a “by any means necessary” approach, although violent tactics such as arson are considered a last resort. ELF considers acts of property destruction as “nonviolent” because no human beings or animals are directly targeted.
Al-Qa’ida lacks the presence and capability to carry out an attack in the United States or New Jersey. Although al-Qa’ida remains intent on attacking the United States and US interests overseas, the group continues to experience a decrease in operational capabilities because of its involvement in regional conflicts, leadership losses, and competition with other terrorist groups.
AQAP has demonstrated the intent and capability to act outside its primary area of operations in Yemen and has attempted to strike the United States on three occasions since 2009. AQAP continues to hone media outreach efforts and propaganda through its online English-language magazine, Inspire, publishing its 16th issue in November 2016, which focused on the recent attacks in New Jersey, New York, and Minnesota.
The terror threat from ISIS to New Jersey is moderate because of the group’s ability to attract and dispatch foreign fighters to and from Iraq and Syria, as well as to inspire individuals to plot and conduct attacks. Since 2015, ISIS supporters have issued several threats targeting law enforcement in New Jersey.
AQIM lacks the capability and intent to plan and carry out an attack in the United States or New Jersey. AQIM’s operational focus is North and West Africa, and its membership includes few foreign fighters. While AQIM is hostile toward the West, the group’s efforts in targeting Western assets remain largely focused on Europe.
AQIS continues to focus on carrying out small-scale attacks in Bangladesh due to limited external operations capabilities. Although AQIS-directed operations in New Jersey are unlikely, the group has threatened New Jersey-based facilities and persons online.
Al-Shabaab has encouraged homegrown violent extremists to execute attacks in the United States, with little success. The group lacks the capability to direct attacks against the United States and continues to focus operations on Africa.
Boko Haram’s capability to attack US interests is limited to Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin, while its intent since pledging allegiance to ISIS is to expand regionally.
The threat from HAMAS to the United States and New Jersey is low because the group’s resources and efforts are focused on creating a Palestinian state. Nonetheless, the group has supporters and sympathizers in New Jersey, who are primarily focused on fundraising.
The terror threat from Hizballah to New Jersey is low because the group’s resources and efforts are focused on supporting the Assad regime in Syria. Nonetheless, group supporters and sympathizers are active in the New Jersey region and along the East Coast, primarily in fundraising.