Are the FBI and Congress Politicizing Terrorism Intelligence? by Laura Murphy


Are the FBI and Congress Politicizing Terrorism Intelligence?

By Laura W. Murphy, Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Mike German, ACLU, Washington Legislative Office at 11:18am

Since 1990, 670 people have been killed and 3,053 injured in attacks by far-right extremists in the United States, according to a new study by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point.  Perhaps more frightening, the CTC says its data shows the number of violent attacks has increased precipitously since the late 1990s, and especially since 2006.  The report has generated a predictable (and frankly deserved)backlash against it, highlighting the difficulty government agencies have had in analyzing politically-motivated violence in an objective manner.

Figure 1 - Attacks Initiated by Far-Right Groups/Individuals per Year

Chart courtesy of Arie Perliger, USMA West Point, Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America's Violent Far-Right

The CTC report is extremely valuable in that it highlights the relatively high level of violence coming from far-right extremists that the FBI and certain members of Congress have failed to acknowledge, and even downplayed in comparison to threats from other groups. In 2010, for instance, the FBI issued an intelligence reportsuggesting white supremacist violence dropped from 2007 to 2009, when the CTC shows a sharp increase in attacks from the far right over that time. And from 2001 through 2008 the FBI called environmental terrorists the number one domestic threat, even though attacks from such groups resulted in no deaths over this period. An FBI report on terrorism from 2002 to 2005 shows relatively few instances of right-wing violence, whereas the CTC report suggests there were hundreds of attacks the FBI apparently ignored.


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