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As the novel coronavirus has disturbed our way of life, it has also been weaponized in new ways by an established and expanding set of adversaries. Domestic extremists have proved resilient, energized, enterprising, and opportunistic amidst this crisis environment. Capitalizing on conspiracy theories and adapting to public closures, United States-based racially and ethnically motivated extremists and anti-government accelerationists have identified a new range of targets against which to direct their animus and potential violence: Asian Americans, medical facilities, and 5G infrastructure. Protecting these new targets provides an enormous challenge for law enforcement agencies, which, while contending with a reduced and sometimes virtual workforce, must uphold social distancing orders, reaffirm public confidence in government capabilities, and prepare for and protect against non-public health related threats.
Samantha Stern, Jacob Ware, and Nicholas Harrington are research associates studying counterterrorism and transnational threats at three leading Washington D.C. foreign policy think tanks. Samantha Stern is a Research Assistant and the Koret Young Scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Jacob Ware is a Research Associate at the Council on Foreign Relations. Nicholas Harrington is a Research Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.