Homegrown Terrorism Tallies
Last updated January 2014
The purpose of this database is to provide as much information as possible about American citizens and permanent residents engaged in violent extremist activity as well as individuals, regardless of their citizenship status, living within the United States who have engaged in violent extremist activity. We examine both those individuals motivated by Jihadist ideology, understood as those who worked with or were inspired by al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, as well as those motivated by other ideologies that are non-Jihadist in character, for example right wing, left wing, or idiosyncratic beliefs. Here we provide some of the core findings including the number of extremists indicted or killed by year, the overall number of extremists indicted or killed since 2001, and the number of people killed by extremists since 2001. This data was last updated in December 2013.
The New America Foundation National Security Studies Program dataset of homegrown extremists seeks to provide as much information as possible about American citizens and permanent residents engaged in violent extremist activity as well as individuals, regardless of their citizenship status, living within the United States who have engaged in violent extremist activity.
The dataset has been widely cited. Most recently it formed the basis for the Bipartisan Policy Center’s 2013 report Jihadist Terrorism: A Threat Assesment‘s examination of homegrown extremism, a follow up to a 2010 assessment that used an earlier version of the dataset.
The dataset was originally a collaboration between the New America Foundation’s National Security Studies Program and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. It underwent a full review, update, and expansion in 2013. The review was undertaken by Jennifer Rowland, a Program Associate with the New America Foundation, and David Sterman, a Master’s Candidate at Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies, working together with Peter Bergen.
The dataset seeks to include all American citizens and residents indicted or convicted for terrorism crimes who were inspired by or associated with Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups as well as those citizens and residents who were killed before they could be indicted but have been widely reported to have worked with or been inspired by al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups. The dataset does not include extremists tied to violent Islamist groups that do not target the United States as part of al-Qaeda’s war, for example Hamas and Hezbollah, nor does it include individuals who were acquitted or charged with lesser crimes, for example immigration violations, that cannot be shown to involve some kind of terrorism-related crime.
The dataset also includes individuals inspired by right wing, left wing, and other non-Jihadist political ideologies, who have been indicted for terrorism related crimes. The data on non-Jihadist extremists is less developed than the data on Jihadist extremists but where available it is included to provide a comparison across ideologies. The dataset relies mainly upon court documents, wire service reports, and local news reports as sources.
We recognize that extremism is a subjective term and that the First Amendment protects the right to hold extreme political views. Our dataset takes no stance on whether particular ideologies are extreme but focuses on violent extremism understood as the use of violence in pursuit of any political ideology whether that ideology is considered mainstream in the United States or not.
We will endeavor to further expand the information available on the cases in our dataset and apply it to new questions regarding the character of homegrown extremism in the United States and government responses to it. In the coming months we will also be expanding the website to include searchable profiles of the extremists and terrorist plots in our dataset in addition to the summary charts.
Homegrown Jihadist extremists present a diverse profile that resists simple categorization. The charts and statistics in this section present the demographic breakdown of extremists by ethnicity, age, gender, and citizenship.
The charts and statistics on this page seek to illustrate the legal status of the homegrown extremists in the dataset and the sentences that those who have been convicted have received. We will make an effort to keep this data up to date. However, the legal status of extremists can change rapidly as trials end and sentences are handed down.
The United States has used a number of methods to find and arrest homegrown extremists, including informants, undercover agents, tips from local communities, tips from suspicious individuals with no personal or communal connection to the extremist in question, and surveillance by the National Security Agency. The charts and statistics in this section provide information on the relative role of these investigative methods in investigations into homegrown violent extremism since 2001.
Homegrown extremists have sought to use a variety of weapons to conduct attacks within the United States. In some cases, the government has provided fake weapons to homegrown extremists they have been monitoring through an undercover agent or informant. At other times extremists have acquired weapons individually without them being provided by the government. The charts in this section show how many extremists have possessed weapons within the United States, whether they acquired them from government agents or individually, and the type of weapons they acquired.
Type of Activity
Homegrown extremists have been engaged in a variety of forms of terrorism related activity and not all extremists have been engaged in plotting attacks within the United States. The charts in this section show the breakdown among these different activities including incidents where violence was used, activity that were prevented before it could be implemented, defection to fight abroad, and provision of funding to terrorist organizations, or production of terrorist propaganda. The charts in this section also show the number of extremists involved in plots to conduct attacks inside the United States or showing a pattern of activity that would suggest such an intent and the number who plotted to conduct attacks on military targets within the United States.
An important question regarding Jihadist homegrown extremists is how they are radicalized and to what extent homegrown extremists are connected to a global Jihadist movement through military training or the Internet. The charts in this section provide information on the number of extremists found to have had contact with Anwar Awlaki, possessed his propaganda, or cited his work. They also provide information on the number of extremists using the Internet in an operational manner or to maintain social media accounts with Jihadist content. Finally, the charts in this section show how many extremists received militant training or fought overseas.