by Stephanie Downing

April 2019

Imagine that a vehicle deliberately rams into a crowd of peaceful protestors in a typical American city. The accident causes a fatality and leaves many others in critical condition. It is reasonable to assume that this may constitute as an act of terrorism. Within the last decade or so, vehicles have been weaponized by transnational terrorist groups in major cities around the world. In many cases however, attaching the terrorist label often depends on the ethnic and religious background of the perpetrator. 

In 2016, a van driven by an ISIS affiliate penetrated into a crowd in Nice, France – killing 85 people (Visser, 2016). Earlier this year, the Taliban hijacked an ambulance and also drove through a massive crowd in Kabul, Afghanistan – killing 95 civilians (Popalzai & Smith-Park, 2018). Both attacks were immediately labeled as acts of terrorism by leaders around the world and the mainstream media, as transnational extremists have continued to use vehicles as weapons of mass destruction. However, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not condemn the fatality caused by a vehicle driven by white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia as an act of domestic terrorism until two days afterward (Horwitz, 2017). 

Had the driver of the vehicle in Charlottesville been Muslim or Arab, like in the vehicle-led attacks in France and Afghanistan, the public would undoubtedly label him or her as a terrorist. This evidently showcases how 9/11 impacted the way the public defines actors of terrorism in modern society. While it is no question that ISIS and al Qaeda are among the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world, domestic terrorist groups within the U.S. have also executed attacks motivated by extremism. Domestic terrorists should therefore not be absent from the same attention that Islamic-extremist groups receive. When Americans fail to acknowledge the terrorist threat that brews within its own borders, domestic terrorist groups will continue to prosper. Homegrown radicalization in the U.S. poses a far greater threat to national security for this very reason – as research, policies, and investigative procedures do not examine terrorist threats abstaining from Islamic extremism with the same sense of urgency. 

Review of Literature Defining Terrorism 

From the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the attacks on September 11th, 2001, terrorism remains a recurrent threat to global security. The U.S. State Department defines a terrorist organization as one that seeks to “pursue a political or societal objective through a premeditated attack upon civilians, officials, or non-combatants” (Hoffman, 2017, p. 31). Even though the definition of terrorism does not state nor imply that Islamic extremism is the only terrorist ideology that motivates an attack, al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamic extremists are often credited as the pioneers of terrorism in the modern world. The prejudiced connections drawn between Islam, the Middle East, and terrorism have distorted the way that Americans define the issue. The “us vs. them” mentality has been a prominent aspect of U.S. society since the country was discovered by Christopher Columbus, which has historically marginalized minority or non-white communities. The misleading assumption that terrorism can only be motivated by Islamic extremism poses an equivalent threat to national security as al Qaeda and ISIS do. The limited awareness and acknowledgement of domestic terrorists allows these groups to prosper from the public’s ignorance about their existence. It is important to recognize that despite a group’s ideological basis, a terrorist’s ultimate goal is to express their extremist views at the expense of national security through violence and force (Smith et al., 1994, p. 46). 

Homegrown Radicalization 

Wright (2011) outlines the radicalization process that an individual embarks on in her article (p.10). Violent extremism is often embraced by those who have experienced personal and environmental challenges throughout their lives, which may foster feelings of social alienation, apathy, and a detachment from society (Wright, 2011, p. 11). Over time, these challenges develop an inherent desire to discover their own self-purpose and “become somebody” (Wright, 2011, p. 11). Terrorist groups feed into these feelings of insecurity to offer opportunities for self-discovery as a member of their organization. In the modern world, the internet is the primary platform for terrorist groups to broadcast their extremist agenda (Wright, 2011, p. 11). Online forums, video messages, and violent video games all contain the capacity to broadcast extremist views and motivate acts of violence on a global scale (Wright, 2011, p. 11). 

During the self-identification phase, individuals begin to align with extremist ideologies by making notable behavioral changes over time (Wright, 2011, p. 11). They may begin to associate with other radical individuals online to reinforce their extremist beliefs, or start to engage in paramilitary activities to imitate combative situations (Wright, 2011, p. 12-13, as cited in United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, 2008). Before long, these individuals retain enough motivation to eventually launch an attack while under the influence of an extremist ideology (Wright, 2011, p. 12, as cited in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, 2006). 

Profilers identified key personality traits and factors that increase one’s likelihood to a violent extremist movement. Gebelhoff (2016) and Wright (2011) provide a socioeconomic insight to domestic radicalization in their respective works. Following the 2015 Paris attacks and the 2016 bombings in Belgium, it was revealed that the majority of the bombers originated from the poor, banlieue neighborhoods in France and in other parts of Europe (Gebelhoff, 2016). For years, these communities have been plagued with economic disparity, high unemployment rates, and limited job opportunities (Gebelhoff, 2016). As a result, Gebelhoff (2016) argues that the impoverished social and economic conditions of these communities instilled a desire to seek refuge from these injustices through violence against systems of governance. Wright (2011) also attests that for some of the banlieue residents, the social stigma of remaining poor was far worse than escaping it by causing harm unto others (p. 14, as cited in Donalds, 2007). Gebelhoff (2016) and Wright’s (2011) reasoning aligns with Robert Agnew’s strain theory in criminology. Agnew claims that individuals may participate in criminal activity to lessen the strains that arise when failing to achieve socially desired goals (i.e., a stable job, economic success, higher education, etc.) (Agnew, 2001, p. 319). With regards to terrorism, people living in oppressed banlieue communities may be motivated to enact violence as a way to seek revenge against those responsible for their impoverished conditions. 

In contrast, individualistic theories of domestic radicalization place more emphasis on an individual’s personal motivations rather than their environmental conditions. These theories are beneficial in depicting the types of risk factors that essentially create “lone-wolf” perpetrators (Gebelhoff, 2016). According to this perspective, terrorism becomes a viable option for those suffering from psychological illnesses or who fail to identify with their society (Wright, 2011, p. 14). Terrorist propaganda feeds into these insecurities to persuade these individuals that by joining their organization, they will acquire a platform to discover their divine purpose in life and end their psychological suffering (Wright, 2011, p. 14). 

While both theories addressed the reasons why people self-radicalized, a combination of both personal and environmental factors appears to be a more comprehensive analysis of predicting future terrorist behavior. Jasko, LaFree, and Kruglanski (2017) conducted a study on 1,500 self-claimed extremists to explore specific individual and socioeconomic factors that contributed to their alignment with extremist ideologies. Jasko and his colleagues (2017) found that violence fueled by ideological extremism is largely correlated with personal insignificance and one’s association with other extremists. Often, this is a consequence of persistent societal rejection, familial dishonor, abuse, or periodic unemployment (Jasko et al., 2017 as cited in Kruglanski et al., 2016).

The upbringing of KKK affiliate Dylann Roof, who murdered nine African American churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015, reaffirms the conclusions drawn from this study. Roof came from a broken household and had suffered from many psychological disorders (Stewart, 2015). Throughout his childhood, Roof attended seven different schools in a span of nine years, which may have prevented him from maintaining healthy relationships with his peers (Stewart, 2015). A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine affirms that frequent mobility during childhood and adolescence can increase one’s likelihood of experiencing adverse outcomes later in life (Webb, Penderson, & Mok, 2016). These consequences include but are not limited to: suicide, violent behavior, criminality, drug abuse, and psychiatric disorders (Webb et al., 2016, p. 291).

In addition, “relocated adolescents often face a double stress of adapting to an alien environment, a new school, and building new friendships and social networks, while simultaneously coping with the fundamental biological and developmental transitions that their peers also experience” (p. 298). When adolescents relocate frequently in short time spans, their likelihood of experiencing these outcomes are significantly heightened as they fail to maintain any consistency with their personal and environmental associations (Webb et al., 2016, p. 291). The adverse effects of frequent mobility throughout Roof’s childhood is clear. He failed the ninth grade twice and eventually dropped out of school altogether, choosing to spend most of his time in solitude (Stewart, 2015). Over time, Roof may have begun to seek acceptance from domestic terrorist groups like the KKK, who target his ongoing feelings of detachment from society and offer him false empowerment to launch an attack. 

It is important to acknowledge that not all individuals who conform to radicalism or who experience personal and environmental challenges become terrorists. “Terrorism is one of the most complex social problems of our time,” says Dr. John G. Horgan, a guest editor of an article published in the American Psychological Association (Mills, 2017). Sarma (2017) also asserts that developing a risk assessment in the behavioral profiling of terrorists is hindered by several ethical and empirical challenges. Despite this however, Sarma (2017) claims that researchers can still examine the role that decision-making plays in understanding who is more likely to launch a terrorist attack. He argues that a multi-faceted approach of examining both risk and behavioral factors will undoubtedly provide a more comprehensive analysis of the profile of a terrorist (Sarma, 2017). 

Domestic Terrorist Groups 

Domestic terrorist groups in America are conventionally classified as either right or left-winged. Right-wing domestic terrorist groups, such as the Army of God, Aryan Nations, and the KKK, are predominantly driven by religious extremism or racism (Fitzgerald, 2013). Their ideologies stem from white supremacy, the Christian Identity Movement, Islamophobia, anarchism, anti-immigration, nationalism, and neo-Nazism. In contrast, left-wing domestic terrorist groups hold extremist interpretations of Marxism and human nature, and typically 

oppose militarism and capitalism (Smith & Morgan, 1994, p. 44). The most prominent left-wing domestic terrorist groups in the U.S. are El Rukns, the Provisional Party of Communists, and M19CO. In America, right-wing terrorist groups have received more media coverage than left-wing terrorist groups, as they have been able to launch many high-profile attacks. Historically, right-wing terrorists were convicted for murdering a Jewish talk show host in 1984 and for executing a mass shooting of a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, among other attacks. Left-wing domestic terrorists on the other hand tend to target large corporations and government representatives. In 1986, left-wing terrorists bombed two Massachusetts courthouses and IBM, Honeywell, Mobil Oil, and Union Carbide. 

Regardless of their ideological differences, Smith and Morgan (1994) assert that right- and left-wing domestic terrorists share similar tactics and methods of execution. Unlike international actors, domestic terrorist groups have the advantage of recruiting and operating in the country they intend to attack. Furthermore, domestic terrorists are able to recruit and execute covert operations without the same media and political attention that other terrorist groups receive. 

Nonetheless, Smith and Morgan (1994) claim that these groups also face the ongoing conflict of requiring secrecy and also, publicity in broadcasting their extremist views to recruit new fighters (p. 47). Every terrorist attack executed showcases the fulfillment of a group’s radical ideologies. As a result, the intended targets of these groups and the amount of destruction their attacks cause allow them to leave a noteworthy impact on society (Smith et al., 1994, p. 48). In his expert testimony to Congress, Bjelopera (2017) corroborates the claims that Smith and Morgan (1994) make in the tactical and methodological similarities between right and left-wing terrorist groups in the United States. He asserts that the success of domestic terrorism is largely attributed to their ability to launch non-traditional attacks, which take both law enforcement and the general public by surprise (Bjelopera, 2017). Rather than hijacking an airline or disseminating a suicide bomber, domestic terrorists operate covertly through hate-speech, fraud, vandalism, and through online platforms (Bjelopera, 2017). However, the terrorist label is not always applied to these types of attacks in the same manner that suicide bombings and hijackings do, largely because 9/11 still serves as a dominant portrayal of what most Americans presume to be terrorism (Bjelopera, 2017). 

Profiling Domestic Terrorists 

Profiling domestic terrorists poses several challenges for national security officials. Generally, domestic terrorists are nomadic, as they frequently change jobs and locations to avoid their arrest or persecution (Smith et al., 1994, p. 55). Other demographic factors however vary extensively between right and left-wing domestic terrorists. Therefore, Smith and Morgan (1994) assert that it is essential for analysts to examine each group separately in developing an accurate profile of its members. 

For instance, right-wing terrorists in the U.S. are predominantly white, whereas left-wingers have a significantly large minority base (Smith et al., 1994, p. 51). Right-wing terrorists are also typically unemployed or impoverished (Smith et al., 1994, p. 51). As a result, only about 12% of right-wing terrorists possess a college degree (Smith et al., 1994, p. 51). On the contrary, left-wing terrorists often work as attorneys, scientists, social services, and other white-collar professions (Smith et al., 1994, p. 51). Therefore, it is not surprising that more than half of left-wingers do in fact have a college degree (Smith et al., 1994, p. 51). Right- and left-wing terrorists also live in different parts of the country, with right-wingers inhabiting rural areas and left-wingers in more urban settings. The one demographic factor that domestic terrorists do have in common regardless of their ideological base is their age, which averages from 18-35 years of age (Smith et al., 1994, p. 55). 

Finally, the ideological profile of right and left-wing terrorists differs respectively. Unlike right-wing terrorist groups, the ideologies of left-wing groups are not comprised of an extremist interpretation of a certain religion (Smith et al., 1994). Right-winged and Islamic extremism both express radical views of Christianity and Islam respectively, whereas left-wing extremism tends to gravitate towards societal and political issues. 

Reporting Acts of Domestic Terrorism 

While both the Unite the Right rally in Charleston, Virginia and the attack in Nice, France by ISIS used a vehicle to slaughter civilians, only one incident was immediately labeled as an act of terrorism. The media’s overwhelming coverage of Islamic extremism has blanketed over the growing threat of domestic terrorist actors in America. 

Many tragedies received little to no coverage by the media based on the context and magnitude of the attack. In the last twenty-five years, the most covered terrorist-related events were the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, the Oklahoma City Bombing, and 9/11 – which have all been by far the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil. However, the FBI’s “Terrorism in the United States” article reported that 450 additional acts of terrorism occurred during this same time span, but never received as extensive news coverage. Therefore, it is evident that the mainstream media has continuously disregarded the social, historical, and cultural complexities of terrorism to instead broadcast a sensationalized account of certain attacks that are likely to gain more publicity over others (Chermak & Gruenewald, 2006, p. 436).

There are certain characteristics about a tragedy that determine the amount of news coverage it receives. Chermak and Gruenewald (2006) discovered several determining factors in their own study. They found that attacks involving the hijacking of airlines or airports, were or caused a large number of casualties have significantly “more articles and words written about them” (Chermak et al., 2006, p. 428). In particular, some of the media’s “favorite” issues feature hostage cases, hijackings, bombings, or kidnappings that are executed by Islamic extremists (Chermak et al., 2006, p. 436). A study conducted by Beuts, Lemieux, and Kearns (2017) from the Washington Post corroborates Chermak and Gruenewald’s (2006) claims. They analyzed more roughly 2,000 news articles about 89 different terrorist attacks to determine how frequently Muslims were covered in the media in connection to terrorism (2017). While only 12% of attacks were executed by a Muslim individual, they received 44% of all the news coverage (Betus, Lemieux, & Keaerns, 2017). In addition, attacks committed by a Muslim individual who was not a U.S. citizen received an average of 193 articles, whereas other attacks only had about 18 articles written about the attack (Betus et al., 2017). 

The media’s ongoing illustration of Muslims as terrorists is problematic since the media does significantly impact public opinion. In a democratic nation like the U.S., the people have the right to elect their representatives in the federal government and vote on legislation to resolve societal issues. When the public is consistently misinformed about a particular issue, it directly affects the types of policies that are created and implemented into law in response to these matters. Since law enforcement agencies and policy-makers are so concentrated on solely combating Islamic extremism, domestic terrorists have thrived while undetected by the media and the greater public. 

The Criminal Justice System’s Response to Domestic Terrorism 

At a joint session of Congress following 9/11, President George W. Bush promised to “defend freedom against terrorism” (2001). Al Qaeda was able to successfully attack the U.S. on a 9/11 as a result of the disorganization and miscommunication between the CIA, FBI, and the State Department (Field, 2017, p. 472). At the time, these agencies did not have a protocol for sharing classified information with each other, which may have prevented the attack all together (Stein, 2015). 

In acknowledging this gap, the Bush Administration introduced a new member to his Cabinet to serve as the premier agency in protecting national security. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) strives to protect Americans by sharing resources and intel with state and local governments and the private sector. Additionally, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Muller vowed to fully cooperate with local law enforcement departments to share information, resources, and intelligence pertaining to terrorism (Daniels, 2002). 

As the premier law enforcement agency in the country, the FBI’s renowned focus on counterterrorism also shifted the priorities of state and local agencies nationwide. Many officers across the country were recruited immediately after 9/11 to serve in the military, federal law enforcement, or in active duty and airport security (Daniels, 2002). The federal government has also made considerable efforts to allow to share resources and information pertaining to terrorism with state and local agencies. The FBI’s Regional Information Sharing System for instance has been expanded to foster a secure intelligence-sharing portal among all levels of law enforcement (Daniels, 2002). In addition, the Office for Domestic Preparedness has funded emergency response equipment for local agencies in responding to acts of terrorism (Daniels, 2002). Many agencies have since been able to equip first responders with radiological detection and decontamination equipment, advanced technology, pharmaceuticals, and other forms of rescue equipment (Daniels, 2002). 

Furthermore, Americans have become united in patriotic solidarity following 9/11 by voting for stricter security measures, vetting, sanctions against terrorist-sponsored nations (Field, 2017, p. 472). A month after 9/11, the Bush Administration signed the Patriot Act into law, which has been paramount in reshaping global surveillance and investigative procedures with regards to terrorism. The Patriot Act also expanded the rights of law enforcement officials to search and seize individuals or information relating to terrorist activity (Justice.gov). The National Security Agency (NSA) for instance has infamously conducted electronic surveillance on Americans in investigating a variety of terrorist-related issues. 

The Patriot Act also imposes harsh penalties for individuals who aid in the execution of a terrorist attack and has eliminated the statute of limitations for prosecuting crimes that threaten national security (Justice.gov). With regards to domestic terrorism, Section 806 the Patriot Act grants investigators with the right to seize assets from Americans suspected of conducting a domestic terror attack without probable cause. 

At the turn of the 21st century, domestic terrorists have excelled at recruiting and launching attacks online. While federal law enforcement agencies are best equipped to prosecute these crimes, they typically divert their focus to major cyber-crime cases that occur transnationally (Aguilar, 2015). Unfortunately, however, many local agencies lack the funding, expertise, and resources to investigate domestic cyber-terrorism. This leaves local communities throughout the nation vulnerable to the expertise of increasingly adept terrorists that operate within national borders. 

Furthermore, law enforcement agencies along with the greater public continue to heavily profile Muslims or Arabs in investigating terrorism cases. A study conducted by the Public Research Institute in 2010 found that 45% of Americans believed that American values were incompatible with Islam (Selod, 2014). In addition, President Trump’s common-sense rhetoric in profiling Muslims as terrorists has also disregarded the presence of other extremist ideologies fostered by domestic terrorist organizations. (Phillips, 2016). Overlooking the threat of domestic terrorism beyond Islamic extremism will inevitably pose a far greater threat to national security than transnational terrorism ever will. 

Discussion Causation

Despite being a pertinent threat to national security, domestic terrorism remains one of the least discussed crimes in the United States. The attacks on September 11th, 2001 completely redefined terrorism in a way that excludes this label from being attached to an American who conducts acts of a similar nature within national borders. The media has greatly influenced how the public perceives terrorism after 9/11. Americans rely on news outlets to stay informed about current events and then shape their own opinions about them (Chermak et al., 2006, p. 430). The opinions that Americans hold about societal issues are instrumental in supporting policies that address them. When the public is misguided about pertinent issues like terrorism, they will likely support policies that do not address the entirety of this threat. It is fairly easy for the public to connect terrorism to an entire ethnic or religious group due to the magnitude of the 9/11 attacks. However, this does not evade the ongoing threat that domestic terrorists also pose to national security. 

In 2015, researchers Charles Kruzman from the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer from Duke University surveyed 382 law enforcement agencies about the kinds of terroristic threats made in their jurisdiction (Shane, 2015). They found that 74% of these threats were fueled by anti-governmental violence by domestic terrorists, and only 39% of these threats were motivated by Islamic extremism. The media’s failure to broadcast these findings to as sensationalized of a level as it does when a Muslim man executes an attack adds to the one-sided perspective that Islamic extremism is the only ideology that can motivate a terrorist attack.

Solutions

In their journal article, “Civic Approaches to Confronting Violent Extremism. Institute for Strategic Dialogue” researchers Barzegar, Powers, and Karhili (2016) make recommendations to several agencies to counter domestic terrorist threats. They recommend social services to continue providing opportunities to engage and offer support to all members of the community to evade prejudice and discrimination against certain groups (Barzegar et al., 2016, p. 7). 

In addition, law enforcement must remain focused on investigating terrorist behavior, not physical traits (such as one’s religious or ethnic background) (Barzegar et al., 2016, p. 7). The terrorist label must strictly be used in accordance to its legal connotations, and not by prejudiced assumptions (Byman, 2017). Charging a domestic terrorist like James Alex Fields Jr. with a hate crime instead of an act of domestic terrorism fails to acknowledge the seriousness of his actions and the possibility of individuals that are not affiliated with Islamic extremism to launch a terrorist attack upon Americans (Byman, 2017). 

Furthermore, the government at large should abstain from surveilling entire ethnic or religious groups to identify terrorist suspects. Despite all the data on terrorist profiling, no researcher has come to an agreement on a set of qualities of characteristics that describe terrorists universally. Discriminatory enforcement of laws and security procedures will broaden tensions between “suspect communities” and government agencies and make it less likely for these groups to feel comfortable reporting crimes or assisting in the enforcement of such laws (Barzegar et al., 2016, p. 8). 

Technology must also ensure that the personal information of their users is protected from terrorists. These groups could potentially use personal information to compose fraudulent documents or fund their operations (Barzegar et al., 2016, p. 8). Major tech companies should work along law enforcement agencies to reach the shared objective of protecting individuals from the detrimental effects of terrorism (Barzegar et al., 2016, p. 8). 

Obstacles

The Trump Administration greatly contributes to the tensions between the Muslim community and national security. President Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric throughout the course of his presidential campaign and his presidency have furthered discriminatory 

practices against Muslim Americans in the name of national security. This has also motivated domestic terrorists who target minorities to launch attacks. 

Following Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed that 37% of the 1,094 attacks against minority groups were motivated by Donald Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims in America and campaign slogans (Byman, 2017). In addition, one of President Trump’s first executive orders was to issue a temporary ban of immigrants and refugees that originated from seven predominantly Muslim countries. President Trump also recently retweeted an anti-Muslim propaganda video posted by the leader of a far-right group in the U.K., and has repeatedly called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” (Krieg, 2017). This commentary and the President’s subsequent actions has continued to ingrain the assumption that all Muslims are terrorists in America while concurrently, downplaying the potential of domestic terrorists to also conduct attacks in the name of violent extremism.

Arguably the most significant barrier to adhering to the solutions listed above is ensuring that stricter policies on domestic terrorism do not infringe on the First Amendment right to the freedom of speech and assembly. One of the reasons why the U.S. government does not respond to domestic terrorist groups like the KKK or Neo Nazis in the same manner as it responds to al Qaeda and ISIS is because American citizens do have the right to hold beliefs that may differ from the majority (McCord, 2017). Americans are entitled to hold extremist views so long as they do not inflict harm against others. Therefore, laws that operate under the assumption that all extremist groups will launch a violent attack infringes on the rights that the First Amendment guarantees. 

Byman (2017) provides a realistic example of the implications of treating domestic terrorism in the same manner as international terrorism. He explains that a corporation’s reputation could be significantly destroyed if they do business with a non-violent radical group that is legally labeled as a terrorist group (Byman, 2017). For example, an American bank chose not to support a charity organization to fund resources in Syrian hospitals due to the fear that the money could end up in the possession of terrorist in the region (Byman, 2017). This same scenario could easily occur in the U.S. as well. Banks and other financial institutions may be wary of funding organizations located in rural areas that occupy a large right or left-wing terrorist presence out of fear that their funds could somehow be passed onto such organizations (Byman, 2017). As a country with the largest economy in the world, the dismantlement of major financial institutions in the U.S. can lead to grave repercussions both domestically and around the world. 

Conclusion 

Seventeen years after the dreadful morning of September 11th, 2001, the U.S. has become the global pioneer in the fight against terrorism. The U.S. government enacted astronomical changes in national security policy, global surveillance, military funding, 

intelligence sharing, investigative measures, and airport security to preserve the safety of all citizens. In the midst of these changes, the U.S. seems to have forgotten the presence of terrorism within its own borders. Since 2011, research think tank New America reported that white supremacists, anti-government radical groups, and other extremists without ties to Islamic extremism have killed twice as many people in the U.S. than Islamic extremists have (Shane, 2015). Right- and left-wing terrorist groups in the U.S. have executed 19 terrorist attacks since 9/11, whereas Islamic extremists have only executed seven attacks in the same time frame (Shane, 2015). America’s underscoring of domestic terrorism fueled by the media’s one-sided portrayal terrorism is more harrowing to national security than Islamic-extremist terrorist groups. 

In a post 9/11 America, images of the crashing twin towers continue to foreshadow the perceptions that Americans have of terrorism. While this attack remains the bloodiest terrorist attack in world history, it by no means serves as a comprehensive portrayal of terrorism. Therefore, it is crucial for leaders in national security to be reminded of societal and security implications on profiling that is solely limited to race, religion, or some other collective factor, and acknowledge the prevailing threat that also exists within national borders. 

 

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