U.S. Citizens Responsible for Vast Majority of Islamist Extremist Terror Plots

  • June 11, 2018

by Benjamin Remis

The ADL’s most recent report on Islamist extremism contradicts a January 2018 report by the Department of Homeland Security. ADL’ s key finding, that of the 98 Islamist extremist plots and attacks over the last 16 years, 90% have been carried out by US citizens or individuals living in the country with lawful permanent or temporary status.

Since 2002, in addition, of 127 plots and attacks, 72% of them have been committed by US citizens. In comparison, just 6% were by individuals in the US without documentation, and only 4% were foreign citizens. In addition, the number of deaths from Islamist extremist attacks in 2017 fell 82% from 2016, taking into consideration the 49 deaths from the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. Over this same time period since 2002, 161 individuals motivated by right-wing extremism were involved in 94 plots and attacks. In 2017, these accounted for 59% of extremist-related killings in the US.

As Oren Segal, director of ADL’s Center on Extremism, has written, “Violent extremism and radicalization is an American problem that is not limited to any one extremist movement or group.” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt further offers, “Counter to misguided reasoning of our federal government in defense of policies that discriminate against Muslims, refugees, and immigrants, but rather from our own citizens born here in the United States. The widespread availability of online terrorist propaganda poses a serious threat to America’s security.”

Terrorism perpetrated by foreign actors should always be a concern, one that is addressed through comprehensive and non-discriminatory measures. As ADL’s research shows, however, Islamist extremist terrorism is not the largest threat facing the US.  As methodology in the academic study of terrorism evolves to include social media and encrypted platforms, and as the number of attacks plotted out by individuals as opposed to groups has increased, how we approach the situation must evolve as well. More resources should be placed on encryption and understanding of social media platforms like Telegram, used by groups such as ISIS to disseminate violent propaganda. There must be more community outreach, especially involving the American Muslim community and no effort can succeed until the Administration improves relations with Muslim community leaders. We need to change the view supported by DHS that the current immigration system allows terrorists to attack the US. ADL suggests a whole-of-society approach. To counter extremist propaganda, we need to better provide support for those at risk of being radicalized; this requires broad community must be involvement and engagement. The ADL will continue to work at the local, state, and federal levels to counter extremism, and encourages and empowers others to do the same.

As a young person, I think the power that social media influence can have over people cannot be understated. Anyone with internet access can present their views to the world, and in this so-called “information age”, it becomes difficult to separate these views from the facts. When it comes to matters of terrorist plots and extremism, it is therefore realistic that this should be an area of concern — and we can work to fix this. It’s encouraging to me that the world, no matter how slowly, is becoming more aware of how this issue has evolved. It’s inspiring to see other young people speak out to affect change about issues they are passionate about. We still have a long way to go, but by looking at the facts and working together, I know that this country and our community will be stronger for the effort.

Ben Remis graduated with the John Burroughs High School Class of 2018.

The ADL’s full report: https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/us-citizens-responsible-for-vast-majority-of-islamist-extremist-terror-plots-in