In 2017, domestic terrorists were responsible for a total of 45 attacks, disrupted plots, threats of violence, and instances of weapons stockpiling, including four incidents in New Jersey. NJOHSP defines domestic terrorism as violence committed by individuals or groups—including race-based, single-issue, anti-government, and religious extremist ideologies—associated primarily with US-based movements.
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 greatest threat to New Jersey and will likely remain so this year.
The 2018 Terrorism Threat Assessment is designed to give our customers an understanding of the terrorist threat to New Jersey this year. As we continue into 2018, NJOHSP will build upon this assessment through briefings, written products, and webinars to provide analysis that is relevant, timely, accurate, and insightful.
White supremacist extremists often use imagery that can be broken down into four categories—traditional, religious, Nazi-related, and Internet-based—to convey their ideology, show support for a specific group, or intimidate minority populations. These symbols should not automatically be assumed to be hate-related, but should be evaluated in the context in which they are used.
An NJOHSP review of violent protests nationwide indicates an increase in confrontations between white supremacists, militia members, and counter-protesters—including anti-fascist anarchist extremists. Since 2016, there have been at least 11 violent protests in the United States, resulting in one death, at least 75 injuries, and over 300 arrests.
In the past six months, Vanguard America—a white supremacist group—has expanded beyond Internet-based activity to attending violent protests nationwide, distributing propaganda, and intimidating minority populations. The leader of the group claims there are approximately 200 members in 20 states, including New Jersey.
Terrorists—particularly homegrown violent extremists (HVEs)—will likely continue using vehicles as weapons based on foreign terrorist organizations promoting this tactic, the success of past attacks, and the ease of vehicle acquisition. An NJOHSP review of vehicle-ramming attacks in the West over the last 10 years shows increases in this tactic and resulting casualties.
A Point Pleasant (Ocean County) man faces federal terrorism charges after a family member notified law enforcement of his erratic behavior—underscoring the role friends, relatives, and close associates play in countering violence. According to authorities, Gregory Lepsky plotted to build a pressure-cooker bomb and detonate it in New York City to “kill as many people as possible” in support of ISIS.
To appeal to new audiences susceptible to its radical messaging, the national white supremacist movement has tried to deemphasize hate symbols and attacks against non-white communities. These organizations have “rebranded” since at least last year, when they took a more high-profile role with conferences and rallies, official statements, and recruitment efforts.
On May 25, ISIS released a video calling on supporters to conduct assaults and justifying the killing of innocents during Ramadan, the most sacred month in Islam, which runs from May 27 to June 24. Historically, ISIS and its predecessor groups have called for an offensive campaign during this month.
Since late February, two mosques and four Islamic centers in New Jersey have received letters with crude drawings of individuals being beheaded from an unidentified perpetrator using the pseudonym “Muslim slayer.” These acts are occurring against the backdrop of national threats against the Muslim community, including arson attacks and vandalism, and an increase in bias crime reporting.
Between January 2015 and May 1, 2017, there were 81 domestic terrorist attacks, disrupted plots, threats of violence, and weapons stockpiling by individuals with a radical political or social agenda who lack direction or influence from foreign terrorist organizations. These infographics compare different types of extremists, identify notable incidents, and highlight the targets and methods used by domestic terrorists with different ideologies.
NJOHSP encourages the public, law enforcement, first responders, and our private- and public-sector partners to report suspicious activity that could be related to terrorism. In the last few years, such reports in the tristate area led to investigations that thwarted several terrorist plots. Here are a few incidents where a suspicious activity report helped uncover and frustrate possible attacks.
After becoming suspicious of his daughter’s behavior, a Maryland father discovered her journal detailing plans for a Columbine-style school shooting and immediately notified authorities—underscoring the role parents, friends, and close associates play in countering violence. In March, Nicole Cevario was arrested for planning to conduct a mass shooting at Catoctin High School in Thurmont, Maryland. She has been charged with possession of explosive and incendiary materials, with the intent to create a destructive device.
To appeal to new audiences susceptible to its radical messaging, the national white supremacist movement has tried to deemphasize hate symbols and attacks against non-white communities. These organizations have attempted to “rebrand” since at least last year, when they took a more high-profile role with conferences and rallies, official statements, and recruitment efforts.
Anarchist extremists are protesting the North Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and aiding in the destruction of pipeline construction material, resulting in transport disruptions in at least two states. DAPL is a $3.7-billion project to build a pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois, where crude oil would be transported to refineries on the Gulf or East Coast. It is unlikely this activity will impact New Jersey pipeline projects because no New Jersey-based companies are directly supporting the DAPL project.
Last week, an “anonymous environmental activist collective” defaced one of the President’s private golf courses in Rancho Palos Verde, California, claiming offense with the Trump Administration’s perceived “disregard” for the environment and threatening further action. This act, which caused roughly $20,000 in damages, is the first time a US golf course affiliated with the President has been targeted; other Trump properties have been vandalized in the past.
FBI is working with local authorities to determine whether the shooting last week of two Indian immigrants in Olathe, Kansas, was racially motivated. On February 22, Adam Purinton shot two Indian men, killing one and wounding the other—as well as injuring another witness—before leaving the scene.
The proposed Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines pose little impact to New Jersey due to the State’s robust, independent infrastructure and the lack of credible threats from anarchist or environmental extremist groups. The Dakota Access Pipeline will transport crude oil from the Bakken shale oil fields in northwest North Dakota to a terminal in Illinois, where it will travel to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico and the Midwest. The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed project awaiting US State Department approval, which will provide a more direct route to transport crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska.
NJOHSP continues to offer resources to religious facilities in New Jersey, especially following recent bomb scares against Jewish centers across the United States and Canada. Since January, approximately 60 Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and day schools in 30 states have received roughly 100 bomb threats. The FBI is coordinating all investigative activity with state and local law enforcement partners.