Domestic terrorism has greatly influenced the social and political structure of the United Statessince the country’s inception. Most terrorist and extremist groups were instigated by non-violent protest or discussion movements with great ideologies and evolved into dangerous threats and acts with time.


Domestic terrorism can be categorized into Post-Civil war terrorism, the Vietnam War terrorism and the Modern Period terrorism. During the Post-Civil war period, an atmosphere of corruption and anarchy was experienced following the disorientation of the country (Presley, 1996). The Ku Klux Klan was formed with the idea of restoring its political agenda and guarding the white southerners from possible ill-treatment by revolutionary ex-slaves and prowling criminals. The formation of the Federal Force Act led to the decline of the Klan (Presley, 1996). The nineteenth century domestic terrorism was majorly dominated by anarchist attacks with much influence from the Russian communist dogma and labor struggles. The Ku Klux Klan re-emerged later in the 1950s.

The Vietnam War period was characterized by discontent among a large section of the U.S population, especially the radical college youth.  The war had destabilized the government thus opening an avenue for many violent terrorist actions, riots and demonstrations by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the May 19th Communist Organization and Black Liberation Army. Racial ideologies spread among the American peopleand heightened the situation despite President Truman’s declaration of the Executive Order Number 9981 in 1948 which was aimed at establishing equal opportunity and treatment in the military. The prevailing ideologies in the civilian society greatly influenced the military world and are still evident in the current U.S.

Contemporary domestic terrorism has beleaguered private and public institutions and the U.S governments, especially due to the great technological advances (Presley, 1996). President Clinton launched a counterterrorism bill in February 1995 which stated that the Department of Defense was to be allocated further responsibility in helping in the examination of domestic terrorism events which involved biological and chemical tools (Presley, 1996). The law enforcement officials, some military advisers and the Congressmen were opposed to the bill as it was perceived to be a very dangerous approach to fighting domestic terrorism because the military was supposed to defend the country but not engage in internal affairs (Presley, 1996). The period between 1977 and 1994 saw to a decline in the volume of domestic terrorism incidences (Presley, 1996). In delineating the declining trend during this period, the average number of terrorist events per year was compared in relation to each of three six year period. From 1977 to 1982, 59.0 terrorist incidences per year were recorded. From 1983 to 1988, 15.7 terrorist incidences per year were recorded; and an average of 5.3 from 1989 to 1994 (see Table 1).

TABLE 1: Suspected, prevented and actual terrorist incidences between from 1977 to 1994

Year Suspected Prevented Total
1977 No data No data 111
1978 No data No data 69
1979 No data No data 52
1980 No data No data 29
1981 No data No data 42
1982 0 3 51
1983 2 6 31
1984 3 9 13
1985 6 23 7
1986 2 9 25
1987 8 5 9
1988 5 3 9
1989 16 7 4
1990 1 5 7
1991 1 4 5
1992 0 0 4
1993 2 7 12
1994 1 0 0


Domestic terrorism in the U.S. is based on extremist political, economical, religious, cultural and social ideologies. Terrorists aim at instilling fear, undermining the government power and probably provoking the government into react excessively to the threat or act. Contemporary domestic terrorist incidences are majorly characterized by supremacist objectives and racial prejudice, religious convictions, pursuit of unique special interests and anarchistic drives. These extremist groups are raising great concern in the U.S.Domestic and foreign terrorist attacks against the U.S. personnel and interests highlight the dire need for effective efforts by the U.S to combat terrorism.

TABLE 2: Analytical ranking of recognized threat resulting from various terrorist and/or extremist groups as per the 1996 reports (n=103 overall responses of an overall of 175 analysis forms issued; 58.86% respondents).

Terrorist/Extremist   Group

Index   Value* of Perceived Threat

Standard   Deviation

Median   Response

Drug / Crime Gangs


(+/-)   0.98


Nation of Islam




Moslem Extremists








Aryan Nations   (Skinheads)




Common-Law Courts




Ku Klux Klan




Other Religious   Extremists




Jewish Extremists




Christian Extremists





* Index values for ranking from 1 to 5 and 1 balancing the measure of the risk perceived to be principally media-“hype”, with 5 as an impending and instant danger caused by the group.

Christian terrorism involves violence which is manifested through destruction of property and crimes against people such as murder, attempted murder, assault, stalking, and kidnapping. This terrorism is associated with the Army of God, The Sword, the Covenant and the Arm of the Lord.

Domestic terrorism has greatly advanced with regards to the technological developments especially in the weaponry, communication and transport sectors. For instance, the recent form of terrorism which involved attempts by Bernard von NotHause to market fake coins called Liberty Dollars in Asheville. The U.S. attorney Anne Tompkins viewed this as an indication of the prevailing hazard to the country’s economic stability.

The U.S government, police departments, corporations and militaries have formulated and enforced strategies, techniques, tactics and practices in relation to countering domestic violence (American Liberties Union).

Currently, reports indicate that eco-terrorists and animal rights extremists are the highest perpetrators of domestic terrorism (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2009) with regards to the huge economic impact[1], massive volumes of their crimes[2], their increasingly violent tactics and rhetoric[3], and the broad range of victims. The most prominent terrorist groups with regards to eco-terrorism and animal rights extremism are the Animal Liberation front and the earth Liberation Front. These movements are loosely organized and their adherents commit crimes such as stalking, fire bombing, assaults, intimidation and vandalism. The FBI has mapped the eco-terrorist and animal rights extremist cases with the aim of giving their nationwide investigators and executive a clear outlook of the occurrences in the different locales. The FBI analyzes and regulates information retrieved from sources such as mail, phone records and financial records in order to advance their human source reporting. Additionally, the FBI shares intelligence with their partners through their Joint Terrorism task Forces and other investigative ventures, especially at the local level. Lastly, the FBI exploits the 2006 revision to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act that created additional protection for people[4] and provided for stiffer penalties which are broad enough to encompass secondary targets. There was remarkable prosecution of domestic terrorism perpetrators in 2005[5] following the FBI investigations.

The US federal agencies have carried out several interagency operations overseas which include sending orders for the purported terrorists to be returned to the U.S for trial. Additionally, federal agencies have attempted to deploy equipment and personnel in preparation for many special events such as the Atlanta Olympic Games. Despite all these, the federal agencies have not completed interagency guidance and resolved command control issues.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the lead domestic terrorism agency in the U.S. According to the agency, domestic violence is perpetrated by groups with extremist ideologies such as the eco-terrorists and animal rights extremists, anarchist extremists and sovereign citizen movements.

Since the 9/11 bombing, the agency has greatly strengthened their ability to analyze, collect, identify and share intelligence across the national criminal and security priorities. Thus they have attempted to locate the extremist terrorists who have caused untold damage to life and property in the name of environmental protection.


The CRS report defines ‘jihadist’ as fundamentalist individuals who use Islam as religious rationalization for their conviction in the creation of ‘a global caliphate’ (Charity and Security Network). The CRS report provides for development of partnerships and engagement between the Muslim American communities and law enforcement. Programs by American Muslim communities to combat terrorism have been combined with the federal, local and state authorities’ efforts. The report gives a description of the attempts by the Muslim American programs such as the straight Path Initiative to create awareness and reject extremism.

The agency has formulated tactics and strategies to combat violence by the sovereign citizen movements. Application of anti-terror tools and capabilities is the FBI priority. The 106 Joint terrorism Task Forces around the state coordinate all intelligence and law enforcement partners in order to address all forms of terrorist threats. The FBI associate with the local, federal and state partners to locate terrorist individuals and groups.

The U.S response policy is enclosed in the presidential directives which are aimed at addressing the National Security Council structure and federal crisis response roles in the event of a domestic terrorist attack. The Federal Bureau of Investigations is assisted by many federal agencies in handling terrorist threats and actual terrorist events. The Department of Defense is instrumental in enforcing counter-terrorism operations; it has developed and maintained capabilities and plans for countering terrorist threats and actions especially those that employ chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The Department of Defense ensures interdiction of terrorists and provides specialized equipment to be used by law enforcement agencies.

The U.S policy has been criticized by many people who are of the idea that there is need for a complete national strategy for domestic terrorism. According to some critics, it would be better if a new agency was established to specifically deal with ‘homeland defense’ issues. Effective employment of the Department of Defense’s capabilities in the event of domestic terrorist response operations and enforcement of the congressional oversight roles would ensure successful domestic counter-terrorism.

The September2010 Congressional Research Service report examined approximately 40 suspected extremist terrorist targets since the 9/11 bombing, the possible driving forces towards the plots and policy recommendations for Congress. The definitions of ‘radicalization’[6] and ‘violent extremism’[7] are deemed faulty because their distinction is not clear. The wording of the report has been criticized to be too broad. For instance, the Attorney General Guidelines for Domestic Federal Bureau of Investigation Operations are widespread in the sense that there are no requirements for reasonable suspicion of misconduct before the investigation agents can carry out surveillance procedures.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s National security Preparedness Group during the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 stated that the U.S was delaying to recognize and combat the developed homegrown terrorism. The group further asserted that the booming diversification of inexpensive attacks was a major contributory factor to al-Qaeda attacks. The report indicated that the weakness of America’s domestic defense plans might be the base for international terrorist group attacks (Charity and Security Network).

There is a notion that the cohesiveness and morale of individual military units and personnel have been contaminated by the extremist and prospective terrorist groups (Presley, 1996; Charity and Security Network). Some military staff members are influenced by political, religious and racial ideological disparities which instigate extremist feelings and ideas in them. Presley (2010) recommends effective and efficient education and training of the military staff at all levels, especially the new recruits, in order to provide just and effective restrictions of the participation of active-duty staff in extremist terrorism. Defective military personnel are usually induced by hate-motivated groups and right-wing extremists to join their movements. The military personnel are instrumental in training group members on how to use tactics and weapons, stealing ammunitions and developing military objectives in the mindset of the group (Presley, 2010). There must be clearly defined regulations on the conduct of the military personnel in relation to their freedom of expression and association with groups that are considered dangerous (Presley, 2010).According to CSR, appropriate resolution on the agencies to deal with identification of fundamentalism and attempting prosecutions during the time of recruitment is an essential requirement in the bid to combat domestic terrorism (2010).

The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice was opposed to the government’s excessive assumptions and target of Muslims as the greatest terrorist threat. The CHRGJ stated that the government was misguided in their unsubstantiated assumptions that counterterrorism policies should focus on identification of individuals with particular belief and certain behaviors which indicated ‘radicalization’. The convention advocated for rejection of radicalization theories because they violated the human rights to freedom of expression, religion, and expression. Moreover, the convention recommended for the passing of the End racial Profiling Act which banned racial profiling by law enforcers. The convention advocated for the replacement of the Mukasey Guidelines for domestic agency operations with advanced guidelines with regards to using subjectivity test in investigations.

Domestic intelligence should be improved. Absurdity was felt in the ninth 9/11 anniversary that the law enforcers and the former and current intelligence officials did not produce the national domestic terrorist threat estimates. Additionally, the national domestic intelligence plan, collection requirements, coordination and priorities were not highlighted on time. The Congress should regard the need for a Director of National Intelligence to investigate about the development of a national domestic intelligence sketch as a component of a cohesive approach to fight violent extremist within the U.S (Charity and Security Network).

The Terror Threat Assessment has called for collective responsiveness in the fight against domestic terrorism. The report pointed the importance of every American to support the law enforcement officials and participate in locating and preventing terrorist attacks (Charity and Security Network).


Despite the efforts by U.S government, police departments, corporations and militaries in formulating and enforcing strategies, techniques, tactics and practices in relation to countering domestic violence, they been criticized by many people who are of the idea that there is need for a complete national strategy for domestic terrorism.There is need for appropriate resolution on the agencies to deal with identification of fundamentalism and attempting prosecutions during the time of recruitment in the bid to combat domestic terrorism.





Presley S. (1996). Rise of domestic terrorism and its relation to United States Armed Forces. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from

Morriso C. (March 21, 2011). Federal government: ‘Unique form of domestic terrorism’. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from

Charity & Security Network (2010). Bipartisan Policy Center’s Terror Threat report: U.S slow to counter domestic recruitment by terrorists. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from

Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. (2011). Targeted and Entrapped: manufacturing the “homegrown threat” in the United states. New York: NYU School of Law.

American Civil Liberties Union. (2009). How the USA Patriot Act redefines ‘Domestic Violence’. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from

[1] The terror acts caused damage more than $100 between 1979 and 2009

[2]  Crimes committed between 1979 and 2009 were over 2000


[3] The victims targeted by these terrorists are broad enough to encompass genetic research firms, animal testing facilities, lumber companies and international corporations

[4] The former statute was limited to protection of property

[5] Thirty individuals were indicted

[6] Radicalization is defined as adoption, expression, or dissemination of ideas including extremist and hateful ones, which could have been a ‘right under the First Amendment’.

[7] Violent extremism is defined as the act of executing or backing terrorist activity.

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