From 2002 to 2011, the United States has experienced a noticeable decline in terrorism, and North America was the region least likely to suffer from terrorism: there were only twenty-three deaths as a result of terrorism in the United States from 2002 to 2011; the three most active perpetrators of terrorist acts in the United States have been the Earth Liberation Front, Animal Liberation Front, and various anti-abortion activists; al Qaeda and affiliates, the Taliban and affiliates, the KKK and affiliates – combined — accounted for less than 3 percent of terrorist attacks in the United States in the past decade.
The Institute of Economics and Peace has published its annual Global Terrorism Index. The Washington Post reports that the study highlights the following trends:
- The frequency and lethality of terrorism in Iraq is higher than in any other country.
- Terrorism is still high, but the trend lines shows that it is leveling off globally (see more figures in Measuring Systemic Peace from the Center for Systemic Peace).
- Most terrorist acts are motivated by religion, with political ideology coming second and nationalist-separatist motives third.
- Terrorism is on the rise in Africa – especially in Somalia and Kenya in east Africa, and in the Sahel region of west Africa – but vast regions of the continent are free of terrorism
- The United States has experienced the most noticeable decline in terrorism, and North America was the region least likely to suffer from terrorism from 2002 to 2011. The United States suffered only twenty-three deaths as a result of terrorism from 2002 to 2011. The three most active perpetrators of terrorist acts in the United States have been the Earth Liberation Front, Animal Liberation Front, and various anti-abortion activists. Al Qaeda and affiliates, the Taliban and affiliates, the KKK and affiliates – combined — accounted for less than 3 percent of terrorist attacks in the United States in the past decade.
Richard Legault, who earned his PH.D, in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Albany (New York) school of criminal justice.
His formal title at DHS is Program Manager for Social and Behavioral Science.
In a telephone chat with Cara Tabachnick, TCR Managing Editor, Legault discussed how research on the motivations of conventional criminals can be applied to the nation’s defenses against terrorism, and why he thinks the agency needs more criminal justice experts.
The Crime Report (TCR): What brought a criminologist to the Department of Homeland Security?
Richard Legault (RL): After (my Ph.D), I got a post-doctoral fellowship that was jointly sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation at the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). I didn’t know anything really about terrorism or responses to terrorism, but they were looking for a methodologist with a strong background in social science quantitative research methods. I had the experience of working peripherally with DHS people, and it made me a very good candidate for this job. I worked at START for about a year and half, and then stayed on as research faculty.
TCR: How could criminologists play a role in DHS terrorism-related activities?
RL: This depends on your opinion of what terrorism is. Criminologists (are divided). Some will say that terrorism is really unique and that terrorists are really not at all like the criminals that we study: they are rational actors; they are not really impulsive. On the other hand, (others) are finding a lot of similarities that would really go a long way towards producing better policies. Situational prevention people and place-prevention people are saying ’look, we are trying to make it harder for people to do some sort of bad act, whether it be terrorism or some other crime.’
Situational prevention will just make it harder for them to do bad things in particular areas. You start to see that, just like crime, and just like criminals, at least in the U.S., terrorism is local. Most terrorist acts and the preparation for them in the U.S. happen in a 30- mile radius. Now the reaction of the government and the country towards acts of terrorism is potentially very different. But the things we can do to prevent these things, (based on) what we already know about crime, give us a really good starting point.
The DHS-FBI SAR bulletin says if you possess blue prints or architectural diagrams you could be a terrorist.DHS-FBI Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR): Acquisition of expertise. October 2012
(U) Possible Indicators of Suspicious Attempts to Acquire Expertise. (stay dumb & uninformed)
(U//FOUO) The following activities can indicate efforts to acquire expertise for potentially illicit purposes. Depending upon the context of the situation–reason for seeking the information, personal behaviors, and other indicators–suspicious inquiries should be reported to the appropriate authorities.
(forget the Bill of Rights now our personal behaviors are being criminalized)
(U//FOUO) Inquiries by individuals with no apparent need for technical or scientific knowledge that may lead to exploitation of vulnerabilities. (what does that mean? If I'm not a scientist or a corporate shill I shouldn't attempt to acquire scientific documents or knowledge?)
(U//FOUO) Possession of blue prints, architectural diagrams, and facility information by individuals with no demonstrated need for the information. (unless you're an architect, possession of diagrams or blue prints is criminal)
(U//FOUO) Extensive research on a subject, such as explosive-making methodologies and guidance, which would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person. (so now researching 9/11 etc. could make you a terrorist?)
(U//FOUO) Seeking weapons training and conducting paramilitary exercises, particularly by individuals who are unwilling to provide an explanation for acquiring combat skills. (is self-defense training criminal now?)
(U//FOUO) First Amendment-protected activities should not be reported in a SAR or ISE-SAR absent articulable facts and circumstances that support the source agency’s suspicion that the behavior observed is not innocent, but rather reasonably indicative of criminal activity associated with terrorism, including evidence of pre-operational planning related to terrorism. Race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation should not be considered as factors that create suspicion (although these factors may be used in specific subject descriptions).
Can you say doublepeak anyone? The DHS-FBI say not to report protected 1st. Amend. activities but we want the police to do just that!