Terrorism, both foreign and domestic, remains a top threat to the Homeland, according to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a report.
“During the next year, we assess that the threat of violence from individuals radicalized in the United States will remain high, but largely unchanged, marked by lone offenders or small group attacks that occur with little warning,” the DHS said in 2024 Homeland Threat Assessment (HTA).
Foreign terrorist groups like al-Qa’ida and ISIS are seeking to rebuild overseas, and they maintain worldwide networks of supporters that could seek to target the Homeland, it said.
DEADLY DRUG TRADE: A LETHAL THREAT
In addition to the enduring terrorism threat, illegal drugs produced in Mexico and sold in the United States will continue to kill more Americans than any other threat. During the past year, US-based traffickers have become more involved in the mixing and pressing of fentanyl, contributing to more lethal mixes of this already deadly drug, the report said.
MIGRANT ENCOUNTERS AND BORDER SECURITY
This year, record encounters of migrants arriving from a growing number of countries have complicated border and immigration security. While monthly encounters have fallen from record highs in December, overall encounters for the fiscal year are on pace to nearly match 2022’s record high total, the report said.
As part of the overall increase in migration, a growing number of individuals came in the Terrorist Screening Data Set (TSDS), also known as the “watchlist.” Inclusion in the TSDS ranges from known associates of watchlisted individuals, such as family members, to individuals directly engaged in terrorist activity.
CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE UNDER THREAT
Domestic and foreign adversaries will likely continue to target 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 DHS said. “While cyber attacks seeking to compromise networks or disrupt services for geopolitical or financial purposes continue apace, we noted an uptick over the last year of physical attacks on critical infrastructure,” the report said.
INFORMATION SHARING FOR HOMELAND SECURITY
“Sharing information with the public on the threats we face is a vital part of protecting our homeland from today’s evolving security challenges,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “The annual Homeland Threat Assessment is a publicly available resource on the most pressing challenges facing the nation. By sharing our analysis of the threat landscape, we will enable our partners across state, local, tribal, and territorial government, along with the private and non-profit sectors, to make better-informed decisions that account for these security challenges.”
ELECTION SECURITY CONCERNS
2024 election cycle will be a key event for possible violence and foreign influence targeting election infrastructure, processes, and personnel.
Against this backdrop of traditional homeland security threats, the DHS said that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will continue to use predatory economic practices to advantage its firms and industries over the US. The PRC will likely continue to manipulate markets, employ economic espionage and coercive economic tools, and seek to illicitly acquire our technologies and intellectual property. Concurrently, financially motivated criminal actors are adapting new methods to improve their ability to financially extort victims and will likely continue to impose significant financial costs on the US economy over the next year.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND TECHNOLOGY
Climate change, natural disasters, and technological advances have the potential to compound many of these threats. Climate-related disasters, such as heat waves, droughts, wildfires, coastal storms, and inland flooding, have the potential to disrupt regional economies, foster health crises like disease outbreaks, and tax law enforcement resources. Meanwhile, the proliferation of accessible artificial intelligence (AI) tools likely will bolster the adversaries’ tactics, the DSHS said. Nation-states seeking to undermine trust in government institutions, social cohesion, and democratic processes are using AI to create more believable mis-, dis-, and malinformation campaigns, while cyber actors use AI to develop new tools and accesses that allow them to compromise more victims and enable larger-scale, faster, efficient, and more evasive cyber attacks.