Lazy eyes listen
According to a report released in late February by the Government Accountability Office, the number of domestic terrorism cases open in the United States more than tripled between 2013 and 2021, increasing by 357% during that eight-year period (GAO). The watchdog agency urged the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to collaborate to prevent future attacks.
By 2021, the number of open cases classified by the FBI as “domestic terrorism” had soared to 9,049, up from just 1,981 in 2013, according to statistics the agency provided to the GAO. While the number of open cases decreased by 23% over the first three years of the period, it increased by more than 490% between 2016 and 2021.
The number of alleged terrorist plots foiled nearly tripled as well, rising from 81 in 2014 to 456 in 2021.
The DHS’s office of Intelligence and Analysis, meanwhile, counted just 231 domestic terrorism incidents between 2010 and 2021, with 35% of those considered “racially motivated,” and 32% stemming from “anti-government motivations,” the GAO report states. The incidents have also been increasing in body count, with zero deaths attributed to domestic terrorism in 2011 but 32 in 2019.
The report calls for greater cooperation between the two law enforcement agencies, noting that they use different definitions and metrics to track crimes that are classified as the same. It also requests that both agencies implement procedures to assess the effectiveness of their collaborative efforts.
Domestic terrorism in the United States is defined as “generally defined as involving criminal acts dangerous to human life occurring in the United States that appear to coerce a civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of government,” according to the GAO. However, the FBI tracks terror investigations and disruptions “consistent with its investigative mission,” while the DHS tracks “incidents which it defines attacks or plots, consistent with its definition.”
According to officials, one of the issues is that there is no separate criminal charge for “domestic terrorism.” There is also no definitive list of American groups known as “domestic terrorist organizations,” with one Justice Department official admitting that such a category would be constitutionally “problematic.” FBI whistleblowers have criticized the misclassification of nonviolent Americans as “domestic terrorists” in relation to their tangential involvement in the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.