How Serious is the Threat of Terrorism in the United States?

Sunday, May 09, 2010
Adam Gadahn, wanted for treason

Is anti-U.S. terrorism on the rise among Muslim Americans? That depends on how you look at the findings of a new RAND report.

On the one hand, there have been at least 46 cases of plots by “homegrown terrorists” broken up in the United States since September 11, 2001, including 13 in 2009 alone. These cases involved:
  • individuals living in the U.S. and plotting to carry out terrorist attacks at home
  • others supporting foreign terrorist organizations
  • still others who left the country to join jihadist organizations overseas.
But these 46 cases, between 2001 and the end of 2009, consisted of a total of only 125 people—in a nation where there are more than three million Muslims. That comes out to one out of every 30,000, “suggesting an American Muslim population that remains hostile to jihadist ideology and its exhortations to violence,” reads the report. “A mistrust of American Muslims by other Americans seems misplaced.”
Of the 106 individuals whose national origin or ethnicity is known, 16 come from Pakistani families, 16 from Somali families, 8 are of Yemeni origin and 7 have Jordanian roots.
According to the RAND report, there are three native-born Americans who are currently serving as spokesmen or “motivators” for Jihadist causes. They are “Adam Gadahn, a Californian who speaks on behalf of al Qaeda; Omar Hammami, who makes jihadist recruiting videos in Somalia; and Yemen-based Anwar al-Awlaki, who communicated with Nidal Hasan [the Fort Hood killer] and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [the Christmas Day bomber] and who also inspired Michael Finton,” who is accused of plotting to blow up a federal courthouse in Springfield, Illinois. In 2006, Gadahn became the first American to be indicted for treason in more than 50 years.
As alarming as these cases are, they don’t compare to the number of terrorist attacks that were actually carried out in the 1970s. Among the terrorist groups that flourished during that period were:
  • Anti-Castro Cuban exile groups—almost 100 bombings
  • The New World Liberation Front, a Marxist-Leninist group in Northern California—about 95 bombings
  • The Puerto Rican separatist Armed Front for National Liberation (FALN)—more than 60 bombings
  • The Jewish Defense League and similar groups protesting the Soviet treatment of Jews—more than 50 bombings
  • The leftist, anti-imperialist Weather Underground—45 bombings.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
Since September 11, 2001 (by Brian Michael Jenkins, RAND Corporation) (pdf)


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