If you believed President Trump, you’d think America’s chief national security threat is Islamic terrorism. But you’d be wrong.
“According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country,” Trump said during his joint address to Congress on Tuesday night while making the case for his executive order banning immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. “We have seen the attacks at home, from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.”
Trump mentions Boston, San Bernardino, the Pentagon & the World Trade Center. None of those attackers were from countries in his travel ban. pic.twitter.com/cgkcB8YQQc
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 1, 2017
However, Trump’s data is inaccurate. In 2015, Professors Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer — of the University of North Carolina and Duke University, respectively — published the results of a survey they conducted in tandem with the Police Executive Research Forum in the New York Times. 74 percent of the 382 law enforcement agencies that took part in the survey listed anti-government extremism as one of the top three terror threats in their jurisdictions, compared to just 39 percent of agencies who listed al-Qaeda-linked terrorism as a top three threat.
One officer from a large metropolitan area told Kurzman and Schanzer that “militias, neo-Nazis and sovereign citizens” were the biggest extremist threat their agency had to contend with. Another said that there was a severe lack of intelligence about the inner workings of right-wing domestic extremist groups compared to the vast intelligence gathered on groups like al-Qaeda. And a West Coast-based officer said that terrorism from American Muslims was something they “just haven’t experienced yet.”
Kurzman and Schanzer also did a side-by-side comparison of terrorist attacks committed by right-wing anti-government extremists and Muslims in the years since 9/11:
Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalitiesover the past 13 and a half years.
In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.
If Trump is serious about stopping terrorism, he should look more closely at right-wing anti-government militia groups than an almost nonexistent threat from Muslims.
Tom Cahill is a writer for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook.