Reality Check: Terrorism Cases Involving Muslim-Americans, 2014

Since the 2016 race for the presidency is already heating up at this early stage, I thought it might be a good idea to post the most recent report—published on February 9, 2015, by the University of North Carolina and the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security—regarding homegrown terrorism.

I’m sure there will be a disproportionate amount of attention focused on the “threat” posed by American Muslims in the coming months, accompanied by no small amount of scare mongering, so I’m leaving this here as a reality check to help keep things in perspective.

Added emphasis is mine. See the source PDF following the excerpt for charts & footnotes. If you prefer spreadsheet data, you can download it from this page:

Twenty-five Muslim-Americans were associated with violent terrorism in 2014, bringing the total since 9/11 to 250, or less than 20 per year (Figure 1). A large majority of the cases involved travel (5 individuals) or attempted travel (14 individuals) to join designated terrorist organizations in Syria or (in one case) Yemen.

Only six of the 25 individuals plotted or engaged in violence in the United States in 2014 (Figure 2), matching the lowest total since 2008. (Three of these individuals are included provisionally, as the evidence is unclear at present whether their plots ought to be characterized as terrorism.)

Over the 13 years since 9/11, the U.S. government’s counterterrorism efforts have identified 109 Muslim-Americans plotting against targets in the United States. (Another 33 individuals had no publicly-known targets.) Two thirds of the domestic plots were disrupted early, with weapons or explosives provided by undercover agents or informants. Three quarters of plots involving explosives were disrupted early, compared with one third of plots with other weapons.

Twenty Muslim-Americans have carried out attacks on targets in the United States since 9/11 — nine involving firearms, seven involving explosives, two involving knives or hatchets, one each involving a car or small aircraft (Figure 3). In 2014, four terrorism-related incidents involving Muslim-Americans — two using firearms, one a knife, and one a hatchet — killed seven people in 2014, bringing the total number of fatalities in the United States from terrorism by Muslim-Americans since 9/11 to 50.1

Meanwhile, the United States suffered approximately 14,000 murders in 2014 and more than 200,000 murders since 9/11.2 While the murder rate has declined in recent years, mass shootings and “active shooter” incidents have increased.3 In 2014, there were 30 mass shootings with four or more fatalities in the United States, killing 136 people,4 more than twice as many victims as from Muslim-American terrorism in the United States in more than 13 years since 9/11. As in previous years’ editions of this report, cases of terrorism involving Muslim-Americans were identified through monitoring of news media, social media, government agency statements, and other researchers’ work on the subject.5 […]

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