2024 election-related violence among security threats facing US, DHS says

CNN  — 

The Department of Homeland Security released a threat assessment for 2024 on Thursday, outlining current and future threats the US faces, including possible violence during the 2024 election season and on the Southern border.

In the report, the department said it expects next year’s election to be “a key event for possible violence and foreign influence targeting our election infrastructure, processes, and personnel.”

“Domestic and foreign adversaries will likely continue to target our critical infrastructure over the next year, in part because they perceive targeting these sectors would be detrimental to US industries and the American way of life,” the report stated.

It is likely that Russia, China and Iran – described as the adversaries with the “most sophisticated malign influence campaigns” – will use methods such as AI-generated content and disinformation campaigns on social media to shape US policy outcomes and influence Americans ahead of 2024, according to the report.

DHS also warned that Americans “motivated by conspiracy theories and anti-government or partisan grievances” could attempt to disrupt the election, noting that violence or threats could be aimed at voters, election workers and government officials or places like polling stations and vote counting sites.

Election officials have faced a steady stream of threats and harassment since the 2020 election, prompting some states to pass laws to protect workers and federal officials to offer training to “safely de-escalate” confrontations.

As of August 2022, a Justice Department task force had investigated more than 1,000 contact incidents against election workers following the 2020 election that were “reported as hostile or harassing.” The task force found that 11% of the incidents “met the threshold for a federal criminal investigation,” CNN previously reported.

Other pressing threats

The assessment also listed border security as among the most pressing national security threats.

According to the report, the number of migrants traveling to the US is expected to remain at record levels, which will continue to complicate border security as agents encounter “a growing number of individuals” on the terror watchlist attempting to enter the country.

As of July, about 160 non-US citizens listed on the watchlist – a database including known terrorists and those with suspected ties to terrorists – had tried to enter the US through the southern border this year, an increase from about 100 in all of 2020, the report said.

The encounters are in line with the increase in migration to the US, a DHS official said, noting that the encounters represent less than 0.01% of all migrant encounters per year.

The report also noted that the threat from lone actors and small groups radicalized in the US will remain high, though largely unchanged from previous years, and outlined the continued threat that US infrastructure faces – whether from cyberattacks or physical attacks to places like electrical substations.

Despite the myriad of threats, illegal drugs – including fentanyl – “produced in Mexico and sold in the United States will continue to kill more Americans than any other threat,” the report said.

“While terrorists pose an enduring threat to the Homeland, drugs kill and harm far more people in the United States annually,” according to the report.

DHS noted that more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in the US last year and that seizures of illicit drugs along the Southern border and ports of entries are on track to reach record levels this year.

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