As the intel community stitches together the identity of Times Square terrorist wannabe, Faisal Shahzad, who increasingly looks to have had some affiliation with the Pakistani Taliban, RAND’s Brian Michael Jenkins provides some useful context and analysis of domestic jihadi cases since 9-11 in a new paper (.pdf).
Homegrown terrorism in American consists of “tiny conspiracies, lone gunmen and one-off attacks,” Jenkins writes. In the eight years between September 11, 2001 and the end of 2009, there have been a total of 46 cases of domestic radicalization and recruitment of jihadist terrorists, involving 125 people. Some of these “homegrown terrorists” plotted terrorist attacks in the U.S., others left to join jihadist organizations abroad.
Most are U.S. citizens. While the Arab and South Asian immigrant communities are “statistically overrepresented,” there are more than 3 million Muslims in the U.S.; a few more than 100 have joined jihad. That suggests an American Muslim population that “remains hostile to jihadist ideology,” Jenkins writes. Many began their jihadist journey on the internet, some on the streets; at least 23 have criminal records.
Putting some context on things, the data shows that domestic terrorist attacks during the 1970s ran 15 to 20 times higher than today – there were 60 to 70 terrorist incidents, mostly bombings, on U.S. soil every year. From 1970 to 1978, 72 people were killed in terrorist incidents, more than five times the number killed by jihadists since 9-11. Of course its fear of an attack on the scale of 9-11 that drives public perceptions of jihadist terrorism, says Jenkins.
-- Greg Grant