Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence officials released a bulletin Thursday raising the possibility of a terror attack against hotels or conference centers in Washington, D.C.
While nothing in the bulletin mentions specific intelligence or concerns of an imminent attack, it comes two days after the Islamic State posted a video online warning of a Paris-style attack somewhere in the U.S.
"Paris isn't far from you – we will by Allah's permission do to your country what we did to Paris. We will kill, slaughter and burn your people," the Islamic State video said. "Inshallah (God willing), we will attack you very soon with anything we lay our hands on."
The terror group also repeatedly threatened Washington in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. Jihadist terrorists previously have struck hotels in places such as Tunisia, Burkina Faso, India and Jordan.
The bulletin was prepared by the Washington Regional Threat Analysis Center (WRTAC), the National Counterterrorism Tracking Center, and the District of Columbia Hotel Security Director's Association, with FBI participation.
Terrorist organizations, homegrown terrorists and lone wolves view hotels as soft targets that offer them an increased potential to cause mass casualties or economic damage, the bulletin said. It also gives terrorists an opportunity to target high-profile individuals and organizations.
"Many hotels in the District of Columbia often host dignitaries, large numbers of people in enclosed space, and special events ... Nefarious actors can exploit the need to balance customer service and security at conference hotels, as found in an August 2014 exercise in which DHS-led teams successfully infiltrated a conference hotel by circumventing facility security measures," the bulletin said.
Terrorists can find open-source information to discover how to access restricted areas of a hotel with ease. The bulletin notes that terrorists could infiltrate an event by stealing a name badge off a registration table in the event. It suggests that events hosting public figures that are advertised in advance may particularly be vulnerable because they give the terrorists time to prepare.
DHS notes in the bulletin that the FBI previously disrupted a plot involving a threat against a Washington-area hotel in October 2010 when it arrested Ahmed Farooque of Ashburn, Va.
It suggests responses to attacks using small arms, improvised explosive devices (IEDS) and to car or truck bombs.
"Conference hotels in the District of Columbia are vulnerable to this type of attack; they often do not have an outside security perimeter or additional security in their parking facilities, potentially rendering them vulnerable to [car or truck bomb] placements," the bulletin said.
It suggests that hotel employees should be educated about the warning signs of possible terrorist activity in response.