The nature of the terrorist threat to the United States has changed for the last two decades. The most urgent terrorist threats the United States face are domestic terrorism from across the political spectrum, white supremacy, and lone offender extremism. Terrorism is a “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by groups or covert agents”(US State Dept.). Both domestic and international terrorists fulfil the description of terrorism regardless of their specific secular, religious or political objectives, through motivations and attempts to influence through violence. Regardless of their diversity in motive, complexity, and strength, terrorism pose a major threat to the United States’ national security. The rise of home-grown terrorism, lone offender extremists raises the stakes in getting counter-terrorism policy and its implementations.
Violent white supremacists and neo-Nazis are the most clear and present danger. The right-wing extremist violence in the United States has increased and highlighted the disparities in handling of “international” as opposed to “domestic” terrorism. The number of deaths in the United States by foreign terrorist organizations is outnumbered the numbers of deaths by far-right extremists. Far right extremism is becoming a new international terrorism that the United States is facing and have yet to recognize it as such. Hence, home-grown terrorism disconnects our understanding of traditional terrorist organizations and those carry out the attacks. Foreign terrorist organizations and domestic terrorists share the misguided belief that violence, coercion, and causing havoc to terrorize people are legitimate means to achieve a political goal. Recent study by New America revealed that domestic terrorism in the United States is twice as likely to be committed by right-wing American-born extremist. This reality complicates sometimes political leaders, law enforcement and national security apparatus on the “Islamic threat” and the media. Violent attacks directed against Latinos in El Paso, Jews in Pittsburgh, and African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina; and among others are an indication of urgent threat to our national security. The Base is a neo-Nazi group that maintains linkages to Canada, Australia, and South Africa, and promotes the idea of accelerationism, or destroying “the system” in a quest to eradicate governments and nation-states ideals. For instance, an Australian who killed 51 worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand mosque in March, 2019, cited in that he is inspired by an American who killed nine black people at the black church in 2015, and a Norwegian who killed 77 people in 2011. All these attacks have not been terrorism by Al-Qaeda or ISIS that has been known targeting American since the 9/11 attacks, but far-right racially motivated violent extremists (domestic terrorists). The pattern shows that the United States is not the only country facing right-wing extremism, but a global challenge of racially motivated terrorism. The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Terrorism Threat Assessment of 2020 shows that, the threat level from home grown extremism is the highest category of the threat compare to threats from ISIS and Al-Qaeda, which marked the low. According to the 2019 FBI testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the majority domestic terrorism investigations involve white-supremacist ideology. According to 2020-first annual homeland threat assessment of Department of Homeland Security, white supremacist extremists is the deadliest domestic terror threat to the United States. Two days ago, the FBI foiled a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor and violently overthrow the state government by white extremists. The seven men charged for the plot are members of Michigan white-supremacist militia group. The threats the United States face from traditional terrorism and targeted violence are rapidly evolving as we have seen increase the number of attacks by domestic extremism in the United States.
Finally, domestic terrorism, lone offender extremism are the top major threats to the United States’ national security. Despite the diversity of these terrorist threats in motive, sophistication, and strength, they have the same characteristics of harming human life, destruction of critical infrastructure and the intention to intimidate and coerce civilian population and the government policies. U.S. Department of Homeland Security must understand terrorism and targeted violence as they stand today how they are likely to evolve. The law enforcement community and national security apparatus must bring tools and in the fight against these terrorist threats in the United States’ cities and suburbs. The Homeland Security must reevaluate its counterterrorism policies that focused more foreign terrorist organizations, hence largely discounts the complexity of terrorist threats that pose bigger threats than traditional foreign terrorism.
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