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Is There an Active Insurrectionist Movement in the United States?

For decades, I have tracked political instability and insurgencies around the world. I always assumed that the indicators I developed and used to track these instabilities would never have relevance for the United States. The events of January 6, 2021, however, led me to question that key assumption. Using the same set of indicators that was developed to evaluate emerging insurgencies in foreign countries, we should be able to determine if we now face the possibility of a similar occurrence within our own borders.

The matrix below organizes the indicators of incipient insurgencies or insurrection into five categories. We have surveyed a dozen colleagues, asking them to rate the 19 indicators of incipient insurgency or insurrection based on the definitions provided. Their informal, consensus view is reflected in the chart. We encourage you to review the indicators and generate your own set of ratings.

Applying this time-proven “indicators yardstick” to current political dynamics in this country strongly suggests that an incipient insurgency—or in today’s parlance, an insurrectionist movement—is beginning to emerge in the United States. A key unknown is whether the number of active proponents of insurrection is limited to only hundreds or thousands of citizens.

Given these unknowns:

  • Scoping the size, motivations, and intentions of this movement is a critical challenge that merits further investigation by law enforcement and homeland security analysts.
  • Similarly, defining and, if necessary, further codifying what constitutes insurrectionist activity—which is clearly distinguishable from what is protected as political speech under the First Amendment—requires the attention of Congress and the Department of Justice.

Insight into how to use Indicators to track future insurrectionist behavior can be found in the Analyst’s Guide to Indicators, available at