White supremacists are using the coronavirus as a weapon, according to brief.
A federal intelligence brief warned White supremacists discussed plans to spread the coronavirus via “saliva,” a “spray bottle” or “laced items” after this message was discovered on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app. In the conversations, the White supremacists suggested targeting law enforcement agents and “nonwhite” people with attacks designed to infect them with the coronavirus.
“Violent extremists continue to make bioterrorism a popular topic among themselves,” the brief, written by the Federal Protective Service, stated. “White Racially Motivated Violent Extremists have recently commented on the coronavirus stating that it is an ‘OBLIGATION’ to spread it should any of them contract the virus.”
The intelligence brief, marked “for official use only,” also noted neo-Nazis “suggested targeting law enforcement and minority communities, with some mention of public places in general.” According to the document, the extremists “discussed a number of methods for coronavirus attacks, such as spending time in public with perceived enemies, leaving saliva on door handles at local FBI offices, spitting on elevator buttons and spreading coronavirus germs in nonwhite neighborhoods.”
In late February, President Trump said he “expected the cases to go down to zero in the United States in a couple of days” despite the fact that intelligence agencies were issuing “ominous” warnings about the virus as early as January and February given the internal information they already had in hand.
According to the Federal Protective Service, the Telegram app, devoted to the “siege culture” philosophies of neo-Nazi author James Mason and “accelerationism,” is a popular method for neo-Nazis to disseminate sensitive information. An increasing number of White supremacists have also expressed interest in “accelerationism,” which involves advocating for “extremist attacks with the express goal of provoking a larger societal conflict.” Homeland Security has identified these hate crimes and violence as “one of the major domestic extremist threats facing the United States.”
The FBI warned, “Members of extremist groups are encouraging one another to spread the virus, if contracted, through bodily fluids and personal interactions.” Agents confirmed they were able to intercept messages from these groups showing members were asked to use spray bottles to attack law enforcement officers. Some were directed to spread COVID-19 to Jews by going to “any place they may be congregated, to include markets, political offices, businesses and places of worship.”
“From pushing the idea that Jews created the coronavirus virus to sell vaccines to encouraging infected followers to try to spread the illness to the Jewish community and law enforcement, as the coronavirus has spread, we have observed how White supremacists, neo-Nazis and others have used this to drive their own conspiracy theories, spread disinformation and incite violence on their online platforms,” said Michael Masters, the head of Secure Communities Network. “While the world faces a deadly pandemic, it’s a stark reminder that certain groups – notably the Jewish community and law enforcement – must also continue the battle against those who wish to hurt or kill them.”
“There is a big concern right now, including from people who work in counter-terrorism, that it’s an opportune time for these accelerationist groups to strike,” said Nick Martin, who is the editor of the Informant, an extremist newsletter, and a former investigative reporter at the Southern Poverty Law Center.