Monday, June 29, 2015

Homegrown Terrorism - Comparing Jihadist and Non-Jihadist Attacks in America

An analysis by International Security looks at the deadly attacks that have taken place in the United States since September 11, 2001, comparing the number of people that have been killed by both jihadists and those non-Jihadists that hold extreme right-wing, left-wing and other "idiosyncratic" beliefs and whether the NSA's bulk surveillance programs have actually been effective at stopping homegrown terror by jihadists.  Here is a summary of their findings.  As you will note, some of these attacks have been international headline makers while others are far less well-known because only one or two people were killed.  

Let's start with a screen capture showing the number of deadly attacks by both groups since September 11, 2001:

There have been nearly twice as many deadly attacks by homegrown, non-Jihadist extremists as there have been by jihadists over the past 14 years.  If you click on the link above, you can read details of each attack.  I'll provide you with this one for the June 8th, 2014 Las Vegas police ambush which ended up with the deaths of two police officers and a civilian :

"On June 8th, 2014 Jerad Miller and Amanda Miller, a married couple, allegedly killed two police officers in an ambush at a pizza restaurant in Las Vegas proceeding to kill another person in a Walmart parking lot as they left the scene before committing suicide.  Law enforcement are believed to have discovered a manifesto written by the shooters, though its content is unknown.  The shooters reportedly yelled revolution during the shooting and left a swastika on the body of one policeman.  They had also previously spoken of targeting law enforcement officers and expressed militant views according to their neighbours.  Second Assistant Sherriff Kevin McMahill stated, "We believe that they equate government and law enforcement ... with Nazis" as quoted by CNN.  The police are still investigating the incident."

Now, let's look at how many jihadist and non-jihadist extremists have been charged since 2001, noting that the data includes individuals that died without being charged but who were credibly reported as being engaged in violent extremist activities:

In total, between 2001 and June 2015, 460 extremists of both types were charged or killed.  A total of 277 individuals were charged with jihadist extremist activities and 183 individuals were charged with non-jihadist extremist activities.  Of the jihadists charged, 19 were female and 258 were male compared to 21 female and 162 male non-jihadists.  The average age of jihadists was 29 and the average age of non-jihadists was 34.  Of the 277 jihadists that were charged or killed, 53 were Arab or Middle Eastern, 45 were South Asian, 41 were Somali and 32 were Caucasian.  Of the 183 non-jihadists that were charged, 166 were Caucasian, 2 were African American and 1 was Hispanic. 

Now, let's look at how effective the National Security Agency has been at battling jihadist extremist activities with its bulk data gathering operations.  Of the 277 jihadist individuals that were charged or killed since 2001:

    162 were foiled by traditional investigative measures
    82 were prosecuted under circumstances that are unclear
    15 were implicated in plots that were not prevented
    4 were implicated by NSA bulk collection (Section 214)
    11 were implicated by NSA bulk collection (Section 702)
    3 were implicated by NSA bulk collection (unknown)

As you can see, analysis of the bulk data collected by the NSA was far outweighed by the use of traditional investigative methods as a means of charging individuals with extremist jihadist activities.

It is interesting to look at hard numbers, comparing both jihadist and non-jihadist homegrown terrorist activities.  While we have been thoroughly schooled on the dangers of the jihadist movement since September 11, 2001, we hear far less about homegrown, non-jihadist terrorists whose activities over the past 14 years have claimed far more victims than we might think.  It is also interesting to see how nearly 60 percent of jihadist plots were foiled using traditional investigative techniques and how few were foiled by the NSA's bulk invasion of our privacy.


  1. No doubt exist to the fact terrorists will kill innocent civilians in the years to come. This is not new, they did so more than 100 years ago, when they were called anarchists. And it is true a responsible nation-state must take reasonable measures to protect its citizens, but there is no way to completely eliminate terrorism.
    The challenge that confronts us is how we will live with that threat. We have created an economy of fear, an industry of fear, a national psychology of fear. Al Qaeda could never have achieved that on its own. We have inflicted it on ourselves. the article below delves deeper into how we have built a massive and expensive industry to strip us of our liberties because of fear.

  2. You have a much greater chance of being hit and killed in some type of car accident then you do by some act of terrorism regardless of which type. You are more likely to get killed in the crossfire of a drug dealer shootout or even shot by cop shooting at a suspect.

  3. This is a silly comparison. The 9-11 attacks, with at least 19 hijackers well-funded, trained, and organized, demonstrated how dangerous the Jihadist threat really was (and maybe still is). There is solid evidence they were also trying to obtain nuclear and biological weapons, and there is also evidence they had also investigated targeting sites such as nuclear power plants. It is unrealistic to expect our intelligence efforts to be effective at targeting lone wolves. But this is OK, because the worst-case danger of a lone wolf is so much less than that of a funded, organized, Jihadist terrorist group. I would argue that lone wolves are not a threat to National security, which is what the NSA (*National* Security Agency) is there for.

  4. Right wing extremist organizations in USA are far more dangerous than the jihadists, yet the "old white guys" won't let congress release reports done on those organizations, only Muslim ones. Funny about that. As to 9/11, I suppose someday we will find out what really happened.
    The NSA is really there to catalogue the American population in general so that when the backlash against the 0.01% begins, they can rapidly clean up the problem children or when the Bible thumpers take over they can rapidly "cleanse the earth of all unrighteousness". Jihadists are just a cover. As to the FBI "foiled plots", most of them were of FBI origin, targeting mentally disturbed Muslims with the intentions of "photo finishes" to make the FBI look like it was actually doing something.