White supremacist groups associated with the MAGA movement and the conspiracy cult QAnon are attacking cell phone towers and other critical infrastructure in order “to incite fear, disrupt essential services, and cause economic damage with the United States and abroad,” according to a new intelligence report released by the New York Police Department and obtained by The Intercept.
Amid a surge in hate crimes and white supremacist propaganda, “white supremacist extremists, neo-Nazis, far-right Telegram groups, and online conspiracy theorists have all emphasized attacking valuable critical infrastructure targets,” said The Intelligence Bureau report dated Jan. 20.
In more than one case, they’ve succeeded in interrupting resources for law enforcement and emergency services personnel, according to the report, which lists several recent cases. One involved a neo-Nazi chat group whose “members strongly supported exploiting civil unrest in the United States by attacking the country’s infrastructure,” The Intercept reported.
Another case was tied to the 5G conspiracy theory, which claims without evidence that the electromagnetic waves put out by 5G towers are harming peoples’ immune systems and are responsible for the coronavirus pandemic.
Efforts to spread white supremacist propaganda nearly doubled last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which tracked 5,125 cases of the distribution of racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ fliers, stickers, banners and posters. The surge in propaganda came alongside a spike in hate crimes last year, which hit the highest level in over a decade with racially motivated hate crimes topping the list.
The increase in hate-related crimes also coincides with former president Donald Trump’s derogatory attacks on the “China virus” (in reference to COVID-19) and his false claims of election fraud.
The Intercept also obtained a document from the Department of Homeland Security that revealed three intelligence reports about extremists targeting cell towers in New York, West Virginia and Tennessee on the day of and before the insurrection on the United States Capitol in January.