Threat of Muslim-American Terrorism Remains Low

American flag waving in the wind, cherry blossoms can be seen in the foregroundThe Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy released the eleventh annual report on Muslim-American Involvement with Violent Extremism, 2001-2019. Each year, the reports cover data on Muslim-American terrorism suspects and perpetrators in relation to previous years.

In 2019, the report indicates 24 Muslim-Americans associated with violent extremism, including two people who engaged in violence resulting in no serious injuries. Twelve of the 24 cases represented individuals seeking to support extremism overseas and ten cases involved failed plots to target the United States. A significant proportion of plots was disrupted due to Muslim and non-Muslim community members’ alerts, as well as the suspects’ own statements on social media.

Significantly, the report underscores a number of points:

  • There has never been an attack in the U.S. by a Muslim extremist who crossed the border with Mexico illegally;
  • Muslim-American extremists caused no fatalities in 2019;
  • None of the perpetrators of the deadliest attacks in U.S. in 2019, including shootings in El Paso, Virginia Beach, and Dayton, were Muslim;
  • Muslim-Americans’ participation in violent extremism remain exceptionally low; and
  • Violent extremism is significantly less prevalent among Muslim-Americans than right-wing extremists.

Furthermore, the report does not support counterterrorism officials’ concerns about rapid radicalization. Instead, new data shows lengthening of time between radicalization and attempts at violence. As such, the report’s author, Prof. Charles Kurzman suggests, “[t]his evidence suggests that radicalization rarely leads to violence overnight.” Consequently, while the threat of homegrown violent extremism remains to be of concern, it is clearly a “low-volume, manageable threat.”

For more information on the topics addressed, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Domestic (U.S.) TerrorismSuicide Bombers, and Lone Wolf Terrorism. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

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DHS Releases Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a first-of-its-kind Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forces Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation. Having declared achieving the end of human trafficking a national priority, the United States seeks to “leverage all of [its] authorities in this fight.” In particular, DHS plays a vital role by overseeing trade, travel, and victim protection laws as part of the Department’s homeland security mission. Accordingly, this strategy represents the Department’s long-term approach and vision for combatting these criminal activities.

Specifically, the strategy identifies five key goals:

  • Prevention – to reduce the threat by providing information and resources to populations at risk;
  • Protection – to disrupt criminal activity by providing victims with recovery assistance;
  • Prosecution – to leverage DHS law enforcement and national security authorities to prosecute cases;
  • Partnership – to build strong partnership among relevant agencies nationwide; and
  • Enabling DHS – to streamline DHS programs for maximum efficiency and effectiveness in combatting these crimes.

Furthermore, in addition to these five goals, the strategy includes nine objectives along with a series of Priority Actions designed to guide the Department in its mission to bring an end to human trafficking and exploitation. Overall, the strategy outlines a holistic approach that combats all forms of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation by underscoring the importance of collaboration across national agencies, as well as local authorities and communities. Significantly, this document will “ensure that DHS law enforcement, our service providers, and our partners protect victims and build and maintain trust between victims and the communities supporting them and law enforcement and other criminal justice actors.”

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to human trafficking, national security, and interagency cooperation. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

Global Human Rights and The China Problem

Two women stand next to a brown wall with dozens of mounted black and white surveillance cameras mounted to it

The Human Rights Watch has released its World Report 2020, which is the organization’s annual review of global human rights practices.

The report opens with a keynote essay by Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, titled “China’s Global Threat to Human Rights.” Roth claims that “China’s government sees human rights as an existential threat,” and in an effort to suppress dissenters and protect its inhabitants from outside criticism regarding human rights, China has imposed a remarkably rigid system of oppressive (and impressive) technological barriers.

The country’s increased technological savvy and economic growth has led to unprecedented amounts of mass surveillance. Roth calls it “the most intrusive public monitoring system the world has ever known.”

While China remains the envy of many countries for its “seductive mix of successful economic development, rapid modernization, and a seemingly firm grip on political power,” Roth wonders if the use of surveillance technology and information doesn’t belie a fragile grasp on political rule based on popular consent, and more troublingly, “an existential threat to the rights of people worldwide.”

The actual report highlights human rights abuses in over 100 countries and territories from November 2018 to November 2019. Each country’s analysis uniquely focuses on the severity of the problems faced by the people who live there. Common topics include prison conditions, international actors, freedom of expression and information, refugees, torture, and the rights of women and children, elderly, disabled, indigenous, and LGBTQ people.

For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics or our In Focus topic on Electronic Surveillance and Immigration. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Emily Bruza

In Focus: Iran

New In Focus now available on Iran.

A short collection of reports from the Congressional Research Service and other organizations providing overviews of escalating tensions, implications, and U.S. policies pertaining to Iran.

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Author: Jenna Hillhouse

Domestic Terrorism and Mass Attack Threat Assessments for Texas

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has released reports assessing domestic terrorism and mass attack threats as they relate to the state of Texas. While there is overlap between domestic terrorism and mass attacks, it is important to note that not all mass attacks are considered acts of domestic terrorism. The “Texas Domestic Terrorism Threat Assessment” defines domestic terrorism as “the furtherance of political or social goals by U.S.-based individuals or groups through acts or threats of force or violence, and in violation of criminal law.” Under this definition, there are three types of domestic terrorism: racially motivated, anti-government, and single issue. Though each of these has affected Texas, White Racially Motivated (WRM) attacks are “currently the most violently active domestic terrorism type.”

This photo shows part of a rife can be seen in dramatic lighting. Individual bullets are placed near the trigger.

According to “Assessing the Mass Attacks Threat to Texas,”  firearms are the primary weapon of choice for Domestic Terrorists, as well as Homegrown Violent Extremists and Non-Ideologically Motivated Violent Criminals, when perpetrating a mass attack. While the methods used for these mass attacks are similar, there are still many factors that make combating these activities very challenging. The main issues involve mass attackers being diverse in terms of motivation and influencing factors, as well as technological advancements that allow for vast, hard to trace communication. In conjunction with the release of these reports, the Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw released the following statement, as reported by Front Porch Rockwall,-

“Evaluating our state’s public safety vulnerabilities in today’s threat environment is critical to keeping Texas safe from the most unthinkable tragedies.”

For more information on the topics addressed, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Domestic (U.S.) TerrorismSuicide Bombers, and Lone Wolf Terrorism. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Victoria Vanderzielfultz

2019 National Preparedness Report Released

FEMA LogoFEMA has released its 2019 National Preparedness Report for calendar year 2018, which “summarizes the progress made and challenges that remain in building and sustaining the capabilities needed to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats, hazards and incidents that pose the greatest risk to the Nation.” The report looks to address the underlying question: “As a Nation, how prepared are we to face the threats, hazards and incidents of greatest concern?”

The report identifies five “preparedness mission areas” that are the main focus, and provides an overview and major findings within each one. These five “preparedness mission areas” are Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery.

Though the nation overall has made great advances related to preparedness, the National Preparedness Report still seeks ways to evolve for next year, including using more comprehensive data across the mission areas, and addressing newer challenges like cybersecurity.

More resources on National Preparedness and Disaster Mitigation can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

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Author: Vincent Milano

In Focus: Impeachment Part II

New In Focus now available on Impeachment Part II. The first list can be found here.

A second short collection of reports from the Congressional Research Service and other organizations providing overviews and history of the impeachment process in the US government.

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Author: Jenna Hillhouse

Cyberdefense: A New Frontier of Public-Private Cooperation

social media on smartphonesThe threat of advanced cyberattacks on the United States is reshaping the role of cyberdefense cooperation between the public and private sectors. According to a new report, published by the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity and Technology for Global Security, the U.S. government does not own or operate “most of the technological infrastructure of cyberspace.” As such, both sectors must collaborate in order enhance the U.S. capacity “to counter incoming cyberattacks on the nation.”

While such cooperation is desirable in theory, there are many challenges that prevent effective public-private joint cyberdefense activities in practice. Of particular importance is the case of intelligence disclosures by Edward J. Snowden, whose actions severely compromised cooperation between the U.S. government and technology companies. Additionally, the backlash resulting from publicized cooperation of Google and Microsoft with the Defense Department led to further deterioration of trust between the public and private sectors. Both cases emphasize the role of public opinions in creating narratives surrounding corporate involvement in public-private cooperation against advanced cyber threats. Similarly, corporate leaders play a significant role in “navigating security policy issues, setting narratives, and shaping perceptions regarding cooperation, violence, and the use of force.”

In addressing these issues, the report provides the following recommendations:

  • Both sectors should prioritize security planning and develop a shared understanding of the cyberthreat;
  • Technology companies should identify clear terms of service for cyberdefense operations;
  • Companies should design public strategies for cyberdefence cooperation with governments;
  • U.S. government should nominate a leader of the Enduring Security Framework (ESF) to further public-private cyberdefense planning and cooperation; and
  • The government must accept legal responsibility to defend national interests without placing unnecessary risks on the private sector.

Given the existing obstacles in public-private cooperation, this report aims to provide meaningful pathways to enhance the United States’ collective cyberdefence. Significantly, the recent impacts of foreign interference, including the 2016 Russian cyberspace influence operations, emphasize the critical need for collective action to protect the U.S. national interests.

For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Cyber Infrastructure Protection and Cyber Crime & National Security. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

House Judiciary Committee Releases Report on Impeachment of Donald Trump

Man in a crowded city street at night holds sign with the top part of Trump's face with a red banner across his mouth that says impeach.The House of Representatives’ Committee on the Judiciary  has released its report on the “Impeachment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States.” In the 600 pages of the report, the Judiciary Committee expounds upon the decision to charge President Trump with two articles of impeachment: abuse of power, and obstruction of Congress. The report also contains the dissenting views of Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, as well as previously-issued reports from the House Intelligence Committee.

With regard to the charge of abuse of power, the report argues that, “[u]sing the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election. […] President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit. In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process. […] In all of this, President Trump abused the powers of the Presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit. He has also betrayed the Nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections.”

On the charge of obstruction of Congress, the Judiciary Committee asserts that, “[a]s part of this impeachment inquiry, the Committees undertaking the investigation served subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the inquiry from various Executive Branch agencies and offices, and current and former officials. In response, without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas. President Trump thus interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, and assumed to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the ‘sole Power of Impeachment’ vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.”

Based on the evidence presented after each of the charges, the Judiciary Committee clearly states that President Trump “has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”

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Author: Kendall Scherr

FBI Releases 2018 Hate Crime Statistics

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program has released the annual Hate Crime Statistics report for 2018. Highlighting a slight decline in hate crime incidents, the report identifies 7,120 crimes in 2018, as opposed to 7,175 reported crimes last year. The majority of crimes are single-bias (7,036), involving 8,646 victims. The largest proportion of hate crimes stems from race, ethnicity, or ancestry biases, followed by biases against religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and gender.

Of the 5,566 hate crimes against persons, the majority were for intimidation, simple assault, and aggravated assault, followed by a small percentage of murders, rapes, and unclassified types. The remaining hate crimes represent offenses against property with the majority of acts being destruction/damage/vandalism. Overall, the percentage of hate crimes went down, however, violence against disability and gender categories increased significantly since the last year.

The report represents data from more than 16,000 law enforcement agencies that provide their statistics to the FBI. The goal of this data collection is to help the public and researchers to “gain a more accurate picture of hate crimes.” Furthermore, as hate crimes represent the highest investigative priority of the FBI’s civil rights program, this data facilitates the development of more nuanced approaches for hate crime prevention strategies.

In addition to data separated by incident type, victims, offenders, location, and jurisdiction, the UCR website provides information on Federal Crime data, human trafficking, and cargo theft. The website also includes Additional Publications, such as Crime in the United States, data regarding felonious and accidental in-the-line-of-duty deaths and assaults on officers (LEOKA), as well as the National Incident-Based Reporting System for incidents, offenses, victims, offenders, and arrestees (NIBRS).

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to the issue of Law Enforcement and Statistics. Visit the Featured Topics for more on information. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West