domestic terrorism » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘domestic terrorism’
August 12, 2015 0

From Charleston to Chattanooga: The Face of Terror in America

By Oren Segal and Mark Pit­cav­age
Direc­tors of the Anti-Defamation League’s Cen­ter on Extremism

Ter­ror­ism is some­times referred to as the “face­less enemy,” but it has hardly been face­less in the United States this sum­mer.  Too many peo­ple have emerged from the shad­ows to inflict death and suffering.

The parade of vio­lence has seemed unend­ing, from Elton Simp­son and Nadir Soofi, who attacked police offi­cers pro­vid­ing secu­rity for the so-called “Muham­mad Art Exhibit” in Texas in May, to John Houser, the Hitler-admiring man obsessed with the moral decay of Amer­ica who recently opened fire at a Louisiana movie the­ater show­ing the movie Train­wreck.

Of the var­i­ous killers and would-be killers this sum­mer, two stand out.  The first is Dylann Storm Roof, the white suprema­cist who allegedly con­fessed to the June mas­sacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Car­olina, that left nine African-Americans dead.dylann-storm-roof-gun-confederate-flag-600

The sec­ond is Muham­mad Youssef Abdu­lazeez, who in July engaged in a shoot­ing spree tar­get­ing a Chat­tanooga mil­i­tary recruit­ing cen­ter and a nearby naval reserve cen­ter.  Abdu­lazeez, who may have been inspired by rad­i­cal Mus­lim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed five people—all mil­i­tary personnel—before being killed by police.

In many ways, Roof and Abdu­lazeez per­son­ify America’s ter­ror­ist threat; they are the faces of the “face­less enemy.”  Most obvi­ously, each rep­re­sents a major source of ter­ror­ism.  Roof was a white suprema­cist who allegedly hoped to start a “race war” in which whites would pre­vail.  White suprema­cists have for decades been the most pro­lific source of domes­tic extremist-related lethal vio­lence.  Along with the other main seg­ment of the extreme right, anti-government mili­tia groups and sov­er­eign cit­i­zens, they are respon­si­ble for the great major­ity of extremist-related deaths in the U.S.

Abdu­lazeez, on whom there is less infor­ma­tion regard­ing moti­va­tion, may well have latched onto the ideas of al-Awlaki—including his encour­age­ment of attacks on mil­i­tary targets—as a way to atone for some of his per­sonal demons, includ­ing drugs and alco­hol.  Domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists have in recent years attempted or con­ducted a large num­ber of ter­ror­ist plots, con­spir­a­cies and acts, despite being fewer in num­ber than right-wing extremists.

Both men also chose tar­gets typ­i­cal of their move­ments.  For Abdu­lazeez, it was the mil­i­tary; here he fol­lowed in the foot­steps of Abdul­hakim Mujahid Muham­mad, who killed a sol­dier at a recruit­ing cen­ter in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, in 2009, and Nidal Malik Has­san, who killed 13 peo­ple at Fort Hood, Texas, that same year.  Other Islamic extrem­ists have also recently plot­ted attacks against mil­i­tary tar­gets in the U.S., though with­out success.mohammad-youssef-abdulazeez

Roof went on a shoot­ing ram­page against African-Americans.  Sprees of vio­lence against racial, eth­nic, or reli­gious minori­ties are a com­mon type of white suprema­cist ter­ror­ism.  In recent years, there have been a num­ber of such episodes, includ­ing Fra­zier Glenn Miller’s attacks on Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in Over­land Park, Kansas, in 2014; Wade Michael Page’s ram­page at a Sikh tem­ple in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin, in 2012, and Keith Luke’s attacks on African immi­grants in Brock­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts, in 2009.

Both Roof and Abdu­lazeez used firearms for their attacks, which is also typ­i­cal of Amer­i­can ter­ror­ism.  Although the pub­lic usu­ally thinks of ter­ror­ism in terms of bombs, ter­ror­ists like Ted Kaczyn­ski and the Boston Marathon bombers are rare in Amer­ica.  The vast major­ity of extremist-related mur­ders involve guns—easy to acquire, sim­ple to use, and deadly.  This is why Charleston and Chat­tanooga num­ber among the 10 dead­liest extremist-related attacks of the past 50 years.  Indeed, with the excep­tion of the Okla­homa City bomb­ing, the “top 10” attacks all involved firearms.

Abdu­lazeez and Roof were both young men, dis­af­fected, fac­ing per­sonal stresses of dif­fer­ent kinds (Abdu­lazeez also suf­fered from men­tal ill­ness).  Although ter­ror­ism knows no age limits—Nidal Hasan was 39 at the time of his Fort Hood ram­page, while white suprema­cist James Von Brunn, who attacked the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­ial Museum in 2009, was in his late 80s—many of the attacks and plots in recent years by both Islamic and right-wing extrem­ists have been com­mit­ted by men in their mid-20s or younger.

Like Abdu­lazeez and Roof, a num­ber of these extrem­ists com­mit­ted their attacks as lone wolves, unat­tached to any par­tic­u­lar group.  Over­all, the num­ber of lethal lone wolf attacks in the past two decades has been fairly low, num­ber­ing only a few dozen, but in recent years, lone wolves seem to have been emerg­ing at a faster rate.  One rea­son may be the increas­ing role played by the Inter­net in facil­i­tat­ing self-radicalization.  It was through the Inter­net that Roof edu­cated him­self in white supremacy; it was via the Inter­net that Abdu­lazeez down­loaded record­ings of al-Awlaki.

Here one can see a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between right-wing extrem­ists and domes­tic Islamic rad­i­cals.  While they can both eas­ily immerse them­selves in a sea of on-line pro­pa­ganda designed to instill and rein­force extreme views, right-wing extrem­ist Inter­net sources are pri­mar­ily based in the United States and, there­fore, must watch what they say.  White suprema­cists who openly use the Inter­net to encour­age vio­lence and ter­ror­ism open them­selves up to crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion and, if vio­lence occurs, pos­si­ble civil lia­bil­ity; as a result, their encour­age­ment of vio­lence is often more implicit than explicit.

Domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists, in con­trast, receive most of their rad­i­cal­iz­ing mes­sages from abroad, from ter­ror­ist groups and like-minded sup­port­ers who are freer to use the Inter­net to call for vio­lence and ter­ror­ism within the U.S.  Pro­pa­ganda from Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, for exam­ple, was an inspi­ra­tion for the Boston Marathon bomb­ing.  In the past two years, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken such tac­tics to a new level alto­gether, employ­ing a vir­tual army of on-line recruiters who use social media plat­forms to reach and rad­i­cal­ize sus­cep­ti­ble indi­vid­u­als across the globe.  Seek­ing to instill a deep sense of com­mu­nity and pur­pose, ISIS sup­port­ers encour­age Amer­i­cans to come to the Mid­dle East to help it fight its wars—many of the 80+ U.S. res­i­dents linked to Islamic extrem­ist activ­ity since 2014 have made such attempts. But ISIS also urges peo­ple to launch attacks in the U.S.

Roof and Abdu­lazeez were both cold-blooded killers.  Their attacks deeply affected the cit­i­zens of Charleston and Chat­tanooga and, indeed, the whole coun­try, though not always in the same ways.  In par­tic­u­lar, the Chat­tanooga shoot­ings, like some sim­i­lar attacks before them, stirred anti-Muslim sen­ti­ments directed at America’s entire Mus­lim com­mu­nity, a dis­turb­ing phe­nom­e­non for which there is no par­al­lel with regard to white suprema­cist attacks.

But their attacks were sim­i­lar in that they were both essen­tially futile, able to achieve lit­tle but death and mis­ery.  Indeed, the reac­tions to the attacks illus­trate just how inef­fec­tive they actu­ally were.  The Chat­tanooga attack, for exam­ple, inspired an out­pour­ing of sup­port for the U.S. mil­i­tary. The Charleston response was even more pow­er­ful.  Far from start­ing a “race war,” Roof’s slaugh­ter not only brought Charlesto­ni­ans of all races together but also resulted in a bipar­ti­san effort to remove the Con­fed­er­ate flag from the South Car­olina capitol.

Amer­i­can extrem­ists, of what­ever stripe, can hurt and even kill, but the one thing they can’t do is win.

Mr. Segal is an author­ity on Islamic extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism in the United States; Dr. Pit­cav­age is an expert on right-wing extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism in the United States.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

June 10, 2015 0

ADL Submits Testimony to House Committee on Homeland Security

The House Com­mit­tee on Home­land Secu­rity held a hear­ing on June 3, 2015, on the increas­ing efforts by extrem­ists, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to use sophis­ti­cated social media and other Inter­net plat­forms to recruit mem­bers, share pro­pa­ganda and inspire attacks.Terrorism Gone Viral The Attack in Garland, Texas and Beyond

ADL, which tracks how ter­ror­ist groups exploit new tech­nol­ogy, works closely with the Inter­net indus­try and trains law enforce­ment around the coun­try, sub­mit­ted com­pre­hen­sive tes­ti­mony for the hear­ing record high­light­ing the exten­sive efforts of ter­ror­ists to har­ness new tech­nol­ogy for recruit­ment and radicalization.

The League’s state­ment included details on the unprece­dented num­ber of indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in the United States linked to plots, con­spir­a­cies, and other activ­ity on behalf of for­eign ter­ror­ist groups thus far in 2015.

The hear­ing, titled “Ter­ror­ism Gone Viral The Attack in Gar­land, Texas and Beyond,” focused on the attempted vio­lent attack at a Gar­land, Texas, com­mu­nity cen­ter last month. One of the appar­ent shoot­ers, Elton Simp­son, main­tained an active pres­ence on Twit­ter, with at least eight accounts that he used to net­work with ISIS sup­port­ers prior to the attack. Simp­son is believed to have inter­acted with Mohamed Abdul­lahi Has­san, a per­ma­nent U.S. res­i­dent that may have inspired as many as 11 peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S. to take action in the last two years.

Led by Com­mit­tee Chair­man Michael McCaul (R-TX), Mem­bers heard from three sub­ject mat­ter experts: John Mul­li­gan, Deputy Direc­tor of the National Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter, Fran­cis X. Tay­lor, Under Sec­re­tary in the DHS Office of Intel­li­gence and Analy­sis and Michael B. Stein­bach,  Assis­tant Direc­tor of the FBI, on these issues.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

April 7, 2015 115

Right-wing Terror Attacks in U.S. Approach 1990s Levels

Recent ter­ror­ist attacks, plots and con­spir­a­cies by right-wing extrem­ists in the United States are approach­ing the level of attacks in the mid-1990s when the Okla­homa City bomb­ing occurred, based on a chronol­ogy of such attacks com­piled by the Anti-Defamation League.  The chronol­ogy was released as part of ADL’s com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 20th anniver­sary of the April 19, 1995 Okla­homa City bombing.right-wing_plots_attacks_1995-2014

The list of right-wing attacks and attempted attacks chron­i­cles 120 dif­fer­ent inci­dents between Jan­u­ary 1995 and Decem­ber 2014, illus­trat­ing a steady stream of domes­tic ter­ror inci­dents in the United States stem­ming from extreme-right move­ments over the past two decades.  Tar­gets included eth­nic and reli­gious minori­ties, gov­ern­ment offi­cials and build­ings, law enforce­ment offi­cers, abor­tion clin­ics and their staff, and others.

Exam­ined over time, the attacks illus­trate the two major surges of right-wing extrem­ism that the United States has expe­ri­enced in the past 20 years.  The first began in the mid-1990s and lasted until the end of the decade.  The sec­ond surge began in the late 2000s and has not yet died down.

Dur­ing both surges, the num­ber of right-wing ter­ror attacks and con­spir­a­cies out­num­bered those in the inter­ven­ing period.  From 1995 through 2000, 47 inci­dents occurred, while from 2009 through 2014, 42 inci­dents took place.  The eight-year inter­ven­ing period of 2001-08 pro­duced 31 attacks.  The surge of recent years has not pro­duced a two-year period with as many inci­dents as the years 1995–1996, which had a high of 18 attacks, but it has come close, with 16 attacks for the years 2011-12.

When ana­lyzed on the basis of per­pe­tra­tor ide­ol­ogy, the list shows that the var­i­ous white suprema­cist and anti-government extrem­ist move­ments have pro­duced the vast major­ity of the right-wing ter­ror­ist inci­dents over the past 20 years, with 50 each.  Anti-abortion extrem­ists come in third place with 13 incidents.right-wing_terrorism_by_movement_1995-2014

Inci­dents on the list include ter­ror­ist acts and plots by white suprema­cists, anti-government extrem­ists, anti-abortion extrem­ists, anti-immigration extrem­ists, anti-Muslim extrem­ists, and oth­ers.  The list does not include spon­ta­neous acts of vio­lence by right-wing extrem­ists, such as killings com­mit­ted dur­ing traf­fic stops, nor does it include lesser inci­dents of extrem­ist vio­lence or non-ideological vio­lence com­mit­ted by extremists.

Some inci­dents had per­pe­tra­tors who adhered to more than one ide­o­log­i­cal move­ment; in such cases, the move­ment that seemed most impor­tant to the per­pe­tra­tor was used for cat­e­go­riza­tion.  Cat­e­go­riza­tion was by per­pe­tra­tor ide­ol­ogy rather than type of tar­get, a fact impor­tant to note, as dif­fer­ent move­ments some­times chose the same type of tar­get (white suprema­cists and anti-abortion extrem­ists both tar­geted abor­tion clin­ics, for exam­ple), while some per­pe­tra­tors chose tar­gets that did not closely tie in with their main ide­ol­ogy (such as anti-abortion extrem­ist Eric Rudolph tar­get­ing the 1996 Atlanta Olympics).  The 2001 plot by the Jew­ish Defense League to attack Muslim-related tar­gets in Cal­i­for­nia is not listed, as ADL includes such inci­dents under Jew­ish nation­al­ist extrem­ism rather than right-wing extremism.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,