Home News Stories 2009 September Domestic Terrorism Post-9/11

Domestic Terrorism Post-9/11

Domestic Terrorism
In the Post-9/11 Era

09/07/09

Members of our Evidence Response Team set up their crime scene equipment after the June 10 shootings at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.
Members of our Evidence Response Team set up their crime scene equipment after the June 10 shootings at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.

Nothing before or since has come close to the terror attacks of 9/11 in terms of lives lost, scope, and impact. And we know that al Qaeda led and inspired operatives still seek to strike our homeland—including with weapons of mass destruction. Which is why globally-fueled terrorism continues to occupy much of our time and attention these days.

And yet, as we were reminded by shootings in Kansas, Arkansas, and the nation’s capital over just 11 days this spring, the threat of domestic terror—Americans attacking Americans based on U.S.-based extremist ideologies—is alive and well.

Today’s domestic terror threats run the gamut, from hate-filled white supremacists…to highly destructive eco-terrorists…to violence-prone anti-government extremists…to radical separatist groups.

Combatting Domestic Terrorism

The FBI is the lead domestic terrorism agency in the U.S., working to identify and prevent domestic terrorism acts before they occur and investigate them when they do take place. We’re also the lead federal agency in responding to a domestic terrorism crisis situation, functioning as the on-scene manager for the U.S. government.

During our investigations, we get a great deal of investigative support from our state, local, and federal partners. An example of this collaboration is the recent Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force case that resulted in the arrest of four members of an anti-government group on federal money laundering, tax evasion, and weapons charges. Details

Sometimes, cases are prosecuted at the local level because the crime isn’t a violation of federal law. In those instances, we support our partners any way we can—sharing intelligence, offering forensic assistance, conducting behavioral analysis, etc.

One particularly insidious concern that touches all forms of domestic extremism is the lone offender—a single individual driven to hateful attacks based on a particular set of beliefs without a larger group’s knowledge or support. In some cases, these lone offenders may have tried to join a group but were kicked out for being too radical or simply left the group because they felt it wasn’t extreme or violent enough. We believe most domestic attacks are carried out by lone offenders to promote their own grievances and agendas.

Sometimes, cases are prosecuted at the local level because the crime isn’t a violation of federal law. In those instances, we support our partners any way we can—sharing intelligence, offering forensic assistance, conducting behavioral analysis, etc.

As with all forms of extremism, preventing homegrown attacks before they are hatched is our overriding goal. It’s an especially tall order given the civil liberties we all enjoy as American citizens, including the right to free speech. Hate and anger are not crimes; neither are hard-line and poisonous ideologies. It’s only when actions by groups or individuals cross the line into threats, the actual use of force or violence, or other law-breaking activities that we can investigate. That goes for lone offenders, whose high degrees of autonomy make them difficult to stop before they strike.

As a result, we’re not shy about applying our full suite of anti-terror tools and capabilities to threats of homegrown terrorism. That includes our time-tested investigative techniques such as the use of surveillance and informants as well as the new intelligence skills and information-sharing channels we’ve cultivated since 9/11.

A few other strategies we’re using:

  • Our 103 Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the nation bring together our law enforcement and intelligence partners into a single team dedicated to addressing terror threats of all kinds.
  • Beyond these task forces, we talk constantly with our local, state, and federal partners—those who have a finger on the pulse of their communities and can tell us about the individuals or groups on their radar.
  • We’re also beginning an extensive study on identified lone offenders to come up with indicators and behavior predictors that investigators can use to assess suspects.

Last year on this website, we talked about animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists and our intelligence-driven approaches to stopping them. In the coming months, we’ll spotlight other homegrown terror groups to raise awareness on who they are and the threats they pose.

You can help. Be alert to potential signs of domestic terror plots and planning and contact us immediately with any information or leads.

Other domestic terror threats:
- Eco-terrorists and animal rights extremists

- Sovereign citizens movement
- Anarchist Extremism
- Militia Extremism
- White Supremacy Extremism

Domestic terrorism cases past and present:
- Daniel San Diego
- Demetrius Van Crocker
- Gale Nettles
- Oklahoma City bombing
- The Unabomber
- Eric Rudolph: Part 1 | Part 2
- Matthew Hale