New DHS terror alert blames Russia, China, Iran for COVID conspiracies, stoking anti-Asian fears
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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Russian Geographical Society via video link in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) more >
By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times
Friday, May 14, 2021
Homeland Security issued a new terrorism alert Friday saying online forums are increasingly being exploited by America’s adversaries, and specifically connected Russia, China and Iran to fomenting violence against Asians amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletin listed a host of threats taking to online, from White supremacists to jihadists like al Qaeda.
The NTAS also said countries with interests opposed to the U.S. are using the online environment for their purposes.
“Nation-state adversaries have increased efforts to sow discord,” the bulletin warned. “For example, Russian, Chinese and Iranian government-linked media outlets have repeatedly amplified conspiracy theories concerning the origins of COVID-19 and effectiveness of vaccines; in some cases, amplifying calls for violence targeting persons of Asian descent.”
Reports of anti-Asian crimes have risen along with the coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in China.
Homeland Security’s new warning comes amid a series of high-profile cybersecurity breaches and ransomware attacks, but its focus is on the nature of social media communications as an amplifier of fringe activities, or a recruiting tool.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the terrorism landscape is increasingly complex, with the rise of domestic extremists adding to threats from abroad.
“With the issuance of today’s NTAS Bulletin, we are advising the public to be vigilant about ongoing threats to the United States, including those posed by domestic terrorism, grievance-based violence, and those inspired or influenced by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influences,” he said.
The NTAS warnings were accompanied by mundane recommendations such as reporting suspicious activity or getting help for people suffering from mental health issues.
The bulletin also suggested Americans improve their “digital literacy” to spot “false and harmful narratives.”