Here’s the Data: Terrorist Attacks since 9/11
Many people have been citing statistics around terrorist attacks, their origins, motivations, timing, impact etc… The oft-cited “odds of getting killed in a terrorist attack” and the pushback provide a very interesting discussion.
Here are the numbers on post 9/11 terrorist attacks.
My position is this: terrorist attacks are political and war-related events and have no comparison to the many other ways that Americans die each year (DUI, gun violence, domestic incidents, accidents).
Incidents of war are things you could usually avoid unless you are conscripted to fight overseas. 9/11 changed all of that. Freelance jihad is a very real and very dangerous thing.
(I had a personal experience with this in 2010: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RxDim3RFO0)
The risk grows even more dangerous if you extrapolate out on demographic trends but more on that later.
The related questions at hand:
What is the history of terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11? Do the data points on these attacks indicated that there a risk when it comes to immigrations and refugees and non-citizens entering the United States?
Let’s go to the data:
The Heritage foundation counts almost 100 plots (thwarted or executed) on American soil or by Americans that are jihadists related. Another database pegs it at about 150. A third database (which actually has the data in downloadable format puts it at 196). I’m going to use the 196 source from the Cato Institute (since it us much more easily parsable):
- There have been 196 jihadist attacks (successful and thwarted) on American soil since 9/11. (There have been hundreds more worldwide).
- 29 of these attacks were not prevented (an incident occurred) and resulted in 260 deaths and 368 victims being wounded.
- 9 of the 29 attacks resulted in no deaths or woundings
- 4 of the 196 attacks occurred on American lands overseas. (Note: the 195 attacks do not include war-related attacks on combat).
- Nearly 400 individuals have been charged with terrorist-related crimes or died in these incidents (that is the qualifying element of these being included).
- 30 of these individuals are deceased from the attack or related to the attack they planned.
Here are the citizenship statuses for the 396 terrorists who planned or executed the 196 attacks:
- U.S. Born Citizen: 190
- Naturalized Citizen: 82
- Permanent Resident: 43
- Unknown: 39
- Refugee: 12
- Citizen of Unknown Status: 11
- Nonimmigrant Visa: 11
- Illegal Immigrant: 8
Some stats on terrorists who are Citizens or Naturalized Citizens (note: Permanent Residents are “green card” holders, they have many privileges but are not citizens)
- 272 (or 68%) of the terrorists were citizens of the the United States (born or naturalized).
- 50% of these “home grown” terrorists had contact with a foreign militant or had foreign military training.
- 60% of U.S. Citizen terrorists were involved in plots that involved non-citizens.
- 85% of these citizens have (upon my subjective review) foreign names.
- 366 people were injured in attacks by Citizens and 272 killed in those attacks
Some notes on the other categories:
- Many of the 400 individuals worked on plots together.
- 40% of the 196 terrorist plots involved non-citizens.
- 184 killed in attacks involving non-citizens and 216 injured.
So, from the data I see, the majority of attacks are indeed perpetrated by U.S. Citizens. However, these citizens have foreign backgrounds, significant contact with non-citizen terrorists and foreign militant training. 30% of the U.S. citizens had actual terrorist training oversees. 50% of attacks by U.S. citizens were by lone wolves which means that 50% of their attacks also involved non-citizens.
Overall, 40% of the attacks in the United States since 9/11 have had a non-citizen actor involved.
My conclusion: 25% of attacks have happened in the last 2 years showing an escalation of events. Foreign elements involved in terrorist attacks are a prominent component — whether involving a non-citizen, foreign contact or foreign military training — the risk that comes from our generosity of allowing people to enter the United States is not insignificant. It seems very reasonable and logical that insisting on better vetting from specific countries who cannot provide documentation for applicants to visas or refugee status is a completely valid response to protect against future attacks.