News and Commentary

Homeland Security Warns Of Possible Georgia Violence As Senate Runoff Election Nears
Department of Homeland Security
Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A field analysis report from the Department of Homeland Security warns of potential violence in Georgia as the two runoff elections for the U.S. Senate near on January 5.

The Georgia run-off elections feature the crucial contests between incumbent GOP senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and their Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. If the GOP retains either one of the seats, the party will maintain control of the Senate; if not, the Democrats will control the Senate, House of Representatives, and the White House as there would be a 50-50 tie in the Senate and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris’ vote would break the tie, thus giving president-elect Joe Biden a clear path to implement his agenda.

The report states:

We judge that Georgia faces a potentially heightened physical threat environment over the course of its U.S. Senate runoff election cycle, which may drive ideologically motivated violence or threats of violence similar to those seen nationwide during the 2020 presidential and state election season. We further judge that violent extremists or other actors could quickly mobilize to violence or generate violent disruptions or otherwise lawful protests in response to a range of issues, including possible disputes over the results of the U.S. presidential election.

The report cites several incidents in which threats of violence or actual violence occurred, mentioning “two separate July 2020 incidents, large groups of unidentified actors attacked state and law enforcement buildings” and July 25, 2020, when “approximately 100 people chanting ‘burn it down’ smashed windows and ignited fireworks embedded with nails in an attempt to set fire to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building on downtown Atlanta” as well as a November 21 incident in which “members of groups with opposing ideological views engaged in assaults and physical altercations in front of the Georgia State Capitola in Atlanta.”

The report cited cyber attempts to infiltrate state networks, including late June 2020, when “unidentified malicious cyber threat actors, using a possible foreign-based IP address, unsuccessfully attempted to connect to a Georgia state network associated with election systems” along with an October 2020 successful attempt: “unknown malicious cyber threat actors successfully infected a Georgia county network” which “rendered a local copy of voter signature files saved on a county server and a geographic information  system map of county polling locations temporarily inaccessible for several days during early voting …”

The report continued, “We assess that foreign threat actors view the national significance of Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff election as an opportunity to use social media and other influence tactics focused on the state.” The report mentions attempts by Iran and Russia media outlets to “amplify  … divisive narratives” regarding U.S. elections.

Yahoo News noted, “The agency based its judgments on a review of national and local media coverage, relevant social media postings, state law enforcement officials detailing ‘ideologically motivated violence or threats of violence’ and its other election violence assessments made over the past six months.”

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