News You Really Need To See: “Most U.S. Attacks Are Homegrown and Not Jihadist”

“Most U.S. Attacks Are Homegrown and Not Jihadist”

The New York Times, June 25, 2015, p.A1

In the 14 years since Al Qaeda carried out attacks on New York and the Pentagon, extremists have regularly executed smaller lethal assaults in the United States, explaining their motives in online manifestoes or social media rants.  But the breakdown of extremist ideologies behind those attacks may come as a surprise.  Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center. … If such numbers are new to the public, they are familiar to police officers. A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction. About 74 percent listed antigovernment violence, while 39 percent listed ‘Al Qaeda-inspired’ violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University. … Some killings by non-Muslims that most experts would categorize as terrorism have drawn only fleeting news media coverage, never jelling in the public memory.  But to revisit some of the episodes is to wonder why. … On several occasions since President Obama took office, efforts by government agencies to conduct research on right-wing extremism have run into resistance from Republicans, who suspected an attempt to smear conservatives.  A 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security, which warned that an ailing economy and the election of the first black president might prompt a violent reaction from white supremacists, was withdrawn in the face of conservative criticism.  Its main author, Daryl Johnson, later accused the department of ‘gutting’ its staffing for such research.”

Quickie analysis: Obviously, law enforcement agencies should not ignore the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, but fundamentally, it’s not about the last terrorist attack.  It’s about the next one, even if that attack is likely to come from  a direction that is politically inconvenient for some.

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