DHS warns as pandemic restrictions ease, the nation – and Utah – face threats from within

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – As pandemic restrictions begin to ease, the Department of Homeland Security has warned states that terrorist attacks may increase.

DHS reported Friday the country is facing threats from domestic terrorists, individuals, and groups that are influenced by foreign terrorist organizations.

The alert does not specify any specific threats, but it does warn of potential danger.

The national warning has been made known to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

“Our federal partners are really great at making sure we have information that may require state, county, municipal agencies to act, and to also be aware,” said Lt. Nick Street, a spokesperson for DPS and Utah Highway Patrol.

Social media platforms and online forums, DHS notes, are being used to spread rhetoric.

In Utah, Street said there’s an increase in people talking about violent behavior online.  

“Generally, political unrest is a big determining factor,” he said.

Making sure Utahns stay safe, Street said public safety officials take any threat seriously.

“We’re putting those outreach tools into place and investigation tools to hopefully mitigate that,” Street said.

As pandemic restrictions ease, the concern for the rise in threats does not surprise University of Utah law professor Amos Guiora, who also has a background in security and terrorism.

“For reasons I will not understand, I think the mask question plays into this, in terms to keep government away and a sense of anger and some quarters about government overstepping into my personal liberty,” he said. “I think the masks issue has become…the politicization of public health. And I think that leaves people feeling intruded upon and marginalized.”

The Global Terrorism Database writes these acts can be used to “attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation.”

Guiora offers some insight.

“For the typical terrorist, they really don’t care who the victim is, frankly, they don’t care if their own type are the victims (unless it’s a hate crime), because their intended goal is to impact government policy,” he said.

Terrorism is a danger to society, Guiora said, but being dismissive of it is also a danger.

“I think it is important to understand them without being sympathetic to them,” he said. “There’s an absolute requirement on each and every one of us to understand that terrorism is here, terrorism is here to stay.”

He advises people to always be aware of their surroundings.

As public safety is concerned, Street said DPS investigates every threat made known to them, doing what they can to keep Utahns safe.

“Looking at something that’s a potential threat, planning a course of action for security, intelligence gathering, law enforcement needs, investigation needs, and giving it that whole-agency approach,” he said.

If you see or hear something, say something, the DPS motto that they believe can help prevent violent behavior.

“Make sure it gets into the proper authority’s hands to assess the risk of surrounding what you may have seen or may have heard,” Street said.  

Reports can be made at siac.utah.gov.

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