Terrorism – the 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.