In the 14 years since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, nearly twice as many people have been killed in the United States by white supremacists and anti-government radicals than by Muslim jihadis, according to a new study.
White supremacists and anti-government radicals have killed 48 Americans, including last week’s deadly attack in South Carolina, versus 26 killings by Muslim radicals, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.
New America program associate David Sterman said the study shows that white supremacy and anti-government idealists are a major problem, that their growth rate needs to be addressed and that there is an “ignored threat” woven in the fabric of American society.
“Each time it [right-wing, radical violence] comes up, there’s a tendency to dismiss it as lone actor, mental health issues,” he said. “So it’s important to not ignore threats,”
The suspect in last week’s slaughter of nine people inside a Charleston church, Dylann Roof, 21, had posted a manifesto that lays out a racist worldview, posted pictures online featuring white supremacist imagery and a T-shirt featuring the number “88,” which is often used as a symbol for “Heil Hitler.” He faces federal hate crime charges.
Attacks by Muslim extremists appear to center around military targets, such as Fort Hood, a U.S. military post in Killeen, Texas, and areas where the possibility of mass casualties is high, such as the Boston Marathon, New America says. Meanwhile, the killing sprees of right-wing extremists lean more toward police ambushes and were rooted in anti-government sentiment, according to data compiled by the research center.
Experts say the research findings could be an indicator the nation’s intelligence collectors have been paying more attention to thwarting potential terror plots against the homeland concocted by Islamic extremists and less attention to the anti-government attacks of right-wing extremists.
“There has certainly been a tremendous concentration — not just by FBI and law enforcement, but intelligence community intelligence — focused on both the foreign born and the homegrown Islamic extremist terrorist threats,” said Ron Hosko, president of Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI. “And you’re talking about people in the military, intelligence, all the alphabet soup agencies as well as local law enforcement.”
There is also the possibility that the U.S. government has better information on Islamic extremist attacks because its surveillance techniques and information data collection techniques, said John Malcolm, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation. As a result, government agencies may be able to thwart those plans before they come to fruition, which might account for the low number of Islamic extremist attacks.
Mr. Sterman agrees. He said the data does show a potential imbalance in the type and amount of intelligence gathering that the government’s various agencies are doing. It also shows that there is another “ignored threat” woven in the fabric of American society, he said.
Terrorism should not be measured by whether the perpetrator is Muslim, he said. Additionally, indicators of a pending plot should not slide under the radar simply because the plot is not tied to the Islamic State or some other foreign terrorist organization, he said.
“For example, in the Dylann Roof case, in the Charleston attack, you do see that he is leaking quite a bit of information to people around him about his view point and his desire to commit violence,” Mr. Sterman said.
If an Islamic extremist were to do something similar, he or she would attract the attention of federal authorities and keep their attention until they no longer posed a threat, he said.
• Maggie Ybarra can be reached at email@example.com.
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