News3 News Now Investigators

Actions

Counterterrorism center, watchdog group discuss local extremist threats

"Removed from reality"
Posted at 6:38 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 19:44:11-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The FBI is warning of armed protests at capitols in all 50 states, perhaps as early as this weekend and through inauguration day.

Dr. Gina Ligon, director of UNO's National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology and Education Center, said Nebraska is not known to be a hot bed of extremism. A similar state, Kansas, has seen "far more" extremist plots and arrests, she said.

The center, also known as NCITE, describes itself as "America’s latest terrorism and targeted violence-fighting tool." It was launched on July 1 last year, and is funded by a $36.5-million federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

Learn more: University of Nebraska-Omaha new home of National Counterterrorism Center

"When you believe it's the end of the world, you’re more likely to engage in what we would call mass casualty violence," Ligon said, "because you feel like you have nothing to lose."

Ligon said QAnon and platforms like the now-offline Parler fuel extremism. She mentioned the surge of millions of new users for the encrypted messaging apps like Telegram and Signal, possibly driven in part by Parler's shutdown. About 1.3 million people download Signal on Monday. The surge is also motivated by Elon Musk's criticism of Whats App.

"When you take away their ability to communicate openly, they’re more likely to go into encrypted platforms," Ligon said. "It's very difficult to study them, and from a law enforcement perspective it's very difficult to see those threats."

Murphy Wulgar of the Anti-Defamation League spends hours online monitoring extremist groups.

“The biggest takeaway is the complete disconnect from reality, aside from the hate," Wulfgar said. "The viewpoints are so far removed from reality that it exists within its own bubble."

Wulgar and Ligon said the 'Proud Boys' are the largest group in the state. Another is 'Patriot Front,' an anti-immigrant and anti-semitic group. Both are considered dangerous.

Download our apps today for all of our latest coverage.

Get the latest news and weather delivered straight to your inbox

Contact our investigative team