Terrorism in the USA since September 11, 2001

Terrorismthe systematic use or threatened use of violence in order to intimidate a population or government and thereby affect political, religious, or ideological change.

Since the coordinated attack on America by radical Islamist terrorists on September 11, 2001, the country has been vigilant about preventing another such event.   While our counter-terrorism initiatives and forces have undoubtedly foiled other similar attacks, they have not been able to anticipate or curtail all attacks – particularly when they are undertaken by “lone wolves” – people who act independently of and with minimal guidance, training or financial resources from our enemies – and who have been living and working in the USA for many years.

Since 9/11 there have been 23 mass shootings/attacks (where 3 or more people were killed) which have been deemed “terrorist attacks”. Some of these attacks were carried out by radicalized followers of Islam – and are classified as “Islamic terrorism”. Other attacks, while just as horrible, are classified as “domestic terrorism”.


Here’s a list of what are commonly believed to be the Islamic terrorist attacks on US domestic soil since 2011:

Beltway Sniper, DC                          October 2002             10 killed         3 injured

Perpetrators:   John Allen Muhammad, born Baton Rouge, ex-Army (17 years), motive unknown

Fort Hood                                          November 2009         13 killed         44 injured

Perpetrator:     Nidal Malik Hasan, a US Army Major, born in Arlington VA, decorated Army veteran for 21 years,

Boston, Mass                                     April 2014                  6 killed         270 injured

Perpetrator:     Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, born in Chechnya, US citizens since 2012

Chattanooga, TN                               July 2015                    6 killed            2 injured

Perpetrator:     Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, born in Kuwait, US citizen since 2003, killed US military personnel at recruiting station

Orlando, Florida                               June 2015                   49 killed         53 injured           

Perpetrator:     Omar Mateen, born in NY, shot patrons at an Orlando night club

San Bernadino, California               Dec 2015                     16 killed         23 injured

Perpetrator:     Syed Rizwan Farook, born in the United States, killed people at a holiday party.


Here’s what’s interesting about the perpetrators of these crimes:

  • Four of the seven were born and educated in the USA.
  • Six of the seven were US citizens for several years before they became radicalized.
  • For whatever reason, they became disenchanted with America. Our Constitution, system of government, freedom of religion and freedom of speech was not enough to maintain their loyalty to the USA.
  • They appear to have been self-radicalized as there was minimal contact with foreign terrorists.
  • Although we don’t have psychological profiles for all of them, they were probably mentally disturbed (how else could one justify such mass-murder).


What about Domestic Terrorism?

Under current United States law, set forth in the USA PATRIOT Act, acts of domestic terrorism are those which: “(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended – (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

During the same period (post Sept 11, 2001), the following events have been deemed to be acts of “domestic terrorism”.

Capital Hill Massacre, Seattle        March 2006               7 killed         2 injured

Perpetrator:     Kyle Aaron Huff, born in Montana, shot people at a rave after-party


Knoxville Unitarian Church           July 2008                    2 killed         6 injured

Perpetrator:     Jim David Adkisson, born in Tenn, ex-Army, did not like Democrats, Liberals, and homosexuals; shot church goers with shotgun


West Memphis Shooting                  May 2010                   4 killed         2 injured

Perpetrators:   Jerry and Joseph Kane, born in Arkansas, disliked federal government, shot cops


Tucson, AZ                                        Jan 2011                     6 killed         13 injured           

Perpetrator:     Jared Lee Loughner, born in Tucson, US House Rep Gabrielle Giffords and a US Judge were among the victims


Aurora, Colorado                             July 2012                    12 killed         70 injured                       

Perpetrator:     James Eagan Holmes, born in San Diego, shot people in a cinema


Wisconsin Sikh Temple                   Aug 2012                    7 killed         4 injured

Perpetrator:     Wade Page, born in Colorado, ex-Army, white supremacist


Sandy Hook, Conneticut                  December 2012          28 killed        3 injured

Perpetrator:     Adam Lanza, born in New Hampshire, killed children at middle school


Christopher Dorner shootings        (LA)    Feb 2013            5 killed        6 injured

Prepetrator:     Christopher Dorner, born in NY, ex-Navy, ex-LA police officer, shot police because they committed “brutality”


Washington Naval Yard                  September 2013        12 killed        3 injured

Perpetrator:     Aaron Alexis, born in NYC, ex-Navy, shot military personnel


Overland Park, Kansas                    April 2014                  3 killed

Perpetrator:     Frazer Miller Jr, born in North Carolina, white supremacist, killed Jews


Las Vegas, Nevada                            June    2014                5 killed

Perpetrator:     Jared & Amanda Miller, born in Washington State, killed police and shoppers


Charleston, SC                                  June 2015                   9 killed         1 injured

Perpetrator:     Dylann Roof, born in South Carolina, white supremacist, killed blacks who were attending church service


Roseburg, Oregon                             October 2015             10 killed         9 injured

Perpetrator:     Chris Harper-Mercer, born in Los Angeles, ex-Army, killed college kids who were attending class, claimed sexual frustration


New York City                                  November 2015         3 killed

Perpetrator:     Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, born Brooklyn, NY. Killed police as revenge for police killing of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.


Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood      Nov 2015        3 killed           9 injured

Perpetrator      Robert Dear, born in South Carolina, claimed to be an “extreme evangelist” and a “warrior of unborn babies”, shot police, nurses & patients


Baton Rouge, LU                               July 2016                    4 killed          3 injured           

Perpetrator:     Gavin Eugene Long, born in Kansas City, ex-Marine, shot police officers


Fort Lauderdale, FL                         Jan 2017                     5 killed           36 injured

Perpetrator:     Esteban Santiago-Ruiz, born in Alaska, ex-military, shot people in baggage claim at airport



Here are some interesting observations about the perpetrators of these domestic terrorism crimes:

  • In all case they were American-born citizens.
  • Seven (43%) were ex-military
  • All but 1 were “Christians”.
  • All had some kind of hate / revenge motive
  • Clearly they all had some kind of mental health issues (just like the Islamists)
  • Despite their mental health issues, these people were able to obtain military weapons
  • Since September 2001, the total number of people killed in domestic terrorist attacks (125) is greater than the number (100) killed by the Islamic terrorists.


We have only been confronting “Islamic terrorists” since 2001, but we have been dealing with domestic terrorists since the early 1900’s. The most egregious events were:

  • Wall Street bombing in 1920 when 33 people were killed and 143 were injured
  • Tulsa race riot in 1921 when 300 people were killed and 800 were injured
  • Bath Michigan bombing in 1927 when 45 people were killed and 58 were injured
  • Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 when Timothy McVey used a truck bomb to kill 168 and injure 680
  • Atlanta Olympic park bombing in 1996 when 1 person was killed and 111 were injured

In all of these cases, the perpetrators were American citizens. None were Muslims.


The fear of terror is an emotion that cannot always be rationalized with data, but this analysis shows that some of our fear of foreign terrorists is overblown. I’m not suggesting that Islamist terrorists don’t pose a threat or that we should stop being vigilant. The data however tells us that the greater threat does not come from foreign nations, but from our own citizens.