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Hate Crimes and Terrorism in the United States

Chapter 3
Hate Crimes and Terrorism in the United States

Hate crimes and terrorist incidents often have similar methods and effects. For example, a person committing a hate crime from a motive of religious bias might use an incendiary device (one that causes fire, such as a Molotov cocktail) to burn down a mosque, church, or synagogue. A terrorist group might use the same type of device to burn down a government building. In both cases the results are property damage, intimidation, and possibly even the deaths of or injuries to innocent people.

The primary difference between these types of crime is the motive behind the act. While no single, comprehensive definitions are available for hate crimes and terrorism, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uses these working definitions:

  • Hate crime (also known as bias crime) is a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.
  • Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, to further political or social objectives.


The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civilrights advocacy group based in Montgomery, Alabama, reports that 803 hate groups were active in the United States during 2005. This represented a 5% increase from 2004 and a 33% increase from 2000 (The Year in Hate, 2005, spring 2006, The SPLC categorizes these groups as Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi, Racist Skinhead, and Neo-Confederate. Klan groups include those that advocate white supremacy and are related to the Ku Klux Klan in ideology if not in organization; their number increased from 158 active groups in 2003 to 179 in 2005. Neo-Nazi groups, which numbered 157 in 2005, combine white-supremacist doctrines with anti-Semitism and militarism. Skinhead groups that espouse racial hatred are included in the SPLC list, and these numbered 56 in 2005; however, skinhead fashion and music encompass a wide range of political opinions, including anti-racists. Targets of hate groups in 2005 included African-Americans, Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, and others.

One reason hate groups are gaining momentum, according to the SPLC, is that these groups have benefited from media coverage of hate rallies. Among the most widely reported of these events was the riot sparked by a National Socialist Movement demonstration in Toledo, Ohio, in October 2005. In the aftermath of the march, police clashed with groups that had gathered to express their disapproval of the neo-Nazi organization, and more than 100 counter-protestors were arrested for looting, arson, and assaulting police officers. Hate groups also use radio, literature, music, and the Internet to publicize their point of view; the SPLC counted 524 hate Web sites in 2005, up 18% from 443 in 2002.


Federal Laws

In 1990 Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act (P.L. 101-275), which required the attorney general to "acquire data about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity" and to publish a summary of the data. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act was amended by the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322) to include bias-motivated acts against disabled persons. Further amendments in the Church Arsons Prevention Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-155) directed the FBI to track bias-related church arsons as a permanent part of its duties. In 1990 only 11 states reported information on hate crimes. By 2005, 12,417 law enforcement agencies reported their data.

State Laws

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that fights anti-Semitism and bigotry, forty-five states and the District of Columbia had adopted some form of penalty-enhancement hate crime statute as of January 2007; states that had not criminalized bias-motivated violence and intimidation included Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Wyoming. As of June 2006 race, religion, and ethnicity were included in the hate crime laws of all forty-five states; thirty-two state statutes included sexual orientation, twenty-eight states included gender, and thirty-two states included disability (

The constitutionality of these laws has been challenged on the grounds that they punish free thought. In 1992 the U.S. Supreme Court, in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (112 S.Ct. 2538), found a Minnesota law outlawing certain "fighting words" to be unconstitutional. In this case, the defendant had burned a cross "inside the fenced yard of a African-American family." The Court ruled that

Although there is an important governmental interest in protecting the exercise of the African-American resident's right to occupy a dwelling free from intimidation, we cannot say that, under the circumstances before us, the government interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression.

A law limiting pure speech or symbolic speech can only be upheld if it meets the "clear and present danger" standard of Brandenburg v. Ohio (395 U.S. 444, 1969). This standard means that speech may be outlawed if it incites or produces "imminent lawless action."

In June 1993, however, the Supreme Court, in Mitchell v. Wisconsin (113 S.Ct. 2194), upheld laws that impose harsher prison sentences and greater fines for criminals who are motivated by bigotry. The Court found that such statutes as the Wisconsin law do not illegally restrict free speech and are not so general as to restrict constitutional behavior.


Hate crimes are criminal offenses motivated by the offender's personal prejudice or bias. The FBI includes hate crimes in its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. The UCR Program's first publication on hate crimes was Hate Crime Statistics, 1990: A Resource Book, which compiled hate crime data from eleven states that had collected the information under state authority in 1990. The UCR Program continued to work with agencies that were already investigating hate crimes and collecting related information to develop a more uniform method of nationwide data collection. Hate Crime Statistics, 1992, offered the first data reported by law enforcement agencies across the country that participated in UCR hate crime data collection. In the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act, Congress added hate-motivated crimes against disabled persons to the list of bias crimes; the FBI began gathering data on hate crimes against this population on January 1, 1997.

Data on hate crimes are incomplete because many incidents are not reported or cannot be verified as hate crimes. Some victims do not report hate crimes due to fear that the criminal justice system is biased against the group to which the victim belongs and that law enforcement authorities will not be responsive. Many attacks against homosexuals are not reported because the victims do not want to reveal their sexual orientation to others. In addition, proving that an offender acted from bias can be a long, tedious process, requiring much investigation. Until a law enforcement investigator can find enough evidence in a particular case to be sure the offender's actions came, at least in part, from bias, the crime is not counted as a hate crime.

Hate Crime Statistics

Although the number of hate crimes reported to the authorities has fluctuated somewhat between 1993 and 2005, the overall trend has been a downward one. According to the FBI's UCR, 7,684 hate crimes were reported in 1993; this number fell to 7,163 in 2005. A majority of hate crimes (55.4%) that were reported in 2005 were motivated by racial bias. Other common reasons for hate crimes were association with people who have certain characteristics (30.7% of incidents), ethnicity (28.7%), and sexual orientation (18%). (See Table 3.1.) Among the specific bias types tracked in 2005, anti-African-American incidents accounted for the largest number of single-bias incidents (2,630), followed by anti-homosexual incidents (971 combined) and anti-Jewish incidents (848). (See Table 3.2.)

A hate crime incident can have more than one victim and several offenders. To tabulate hate-crime data the FBI counts one offense for each victim of a crime against persons and one offense for each distinct act of crime against property and crime against society. Therefore more offenses (8,380) and victims (8,804) were reported than incidents (7,163) in 2005. (See Table 3.2.)

In 2005, 7,160 incidents of single-bias hate crime were reported. A single-bias incident is a hate crime in which one type of offense (such as assault) is committed as a result of one bias-motivation (such as anti-African-American sentiment). The FBI reported 3,919 incidents due to racial bias, 1,227 incidents due to bias against a religion, and 1,017 incidents due to sexual-orientation bias. (See Table 3.3.)

Hate crime motivation as perceived by victims, 200003
Percent of hate crime
Incidents Victimizations
Note: Detail adds to more than 100% because some respondents included more than one motivation or evidence of motivation.
Source: Caroline Wolf Harlow, "Table 2. Motivation and Evidence in Hate Crime," in Hate Crime Reported by Victims and Police, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2005, (accessed January 15, 2007)
Race 55.4% 56.0%
Association 30.7 30.6
Ethnicity 28.7 27.9
Sexual orientation 18.0 17.9
Perceived characteristic 13.7 13.2
Religion 12.9 12.4
Disability 11.2 10.5
Evidence of motivation
Negative comments, hurtful words, abusive language 98.5% 98.5%
Confirmation by police investigation  7.9  8.4
Hate symbols  7.6  7.8
Hate crime incidents, offenses, victims, and known offenders, by bias motivation, 2005
Bias motivation Incidents Offenses Victims a Known offenders b
aThe term victim may refer to a person, business, institution, or society as a whole.
bThe term known offender does not imply that the identity of the suspect is known, but only that an attribute of the suspect has been identified, which distinguishes him/her from an unknown offender.
cIn a multiple-bias incident two conditions must be met: 1) more than one offense type must occur in the incident and 2) at least two offense types must be motivated by different biases.
Source: "Table 1. Incidents, Offenses, Victims, and Known Offenders, by Bias Motivation, 2005," in Hate Crime Statistics 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, October 2006, (accessed January 10, 2007)
    Total 7,163 8,380 8,804 6,804
Single-bias incidents 7,160 8,373 8,795 6,800
Race: 3,919 4,691 4,895 3,913
    Anti-white 828 935 975 963
    Anti-black 2,630 3,200 3,322 2,581
    Anti-American Indian/Alaskan Native 79 95 97 73
    Anti-Asian/Pacific Islander 199 231 240 163
    Anti-multiple races, group 183 230 261 133
Religion: 1,227 1,314 1,405 580
    Anti-Jewish 848 900 977 364
    Anti-Catholic 58 61 61 22
    Anti-Protestant 57 58 58 32
    Anti-Islamic 128 146 151 89
    Anti-other religion 93 102 106 54
    Anti-multiple religions, group 39 42 47 18
    Anti-atheism/agnosticism/etc. 4 5 5 1
Sexual orientation: 1,017 1,171 1,213 1,138
    Anti-male homosexual 621 713 743 715
    Anti-female homosexual 155 180 186 146
    Anti-homosexual 195 228 233 237
    Anti-heterosexual 21 23 23 18
    Anti-bisexual 25 27 28 22
Ethnicity/national origin: 944 1,144 1,228 1,115
    Anti-Hispanic 522 660 722 691
    Anti-other ethnicity/national origin 422 484 506 424
Disability: 53 53 54 54
    Anti-physical 21 21 21 21
    Anti-mental 32 32 33 33
Multiple-bias incidentsc 3 7 9 4

Kinds of Crime Motivated by Hate

The FBI categorizes hate crimes as crimes against persons, crimes against property, and crimes against society. In 2005 about 4,208 (58.7%) of hate offenses were crimes against persons. Of these crimes, almost half (2,044) were acts of intimidation and approximately one-quarter (1,324) were simple assaults. (See Table 3.4.) Property crimes, which are also represented in Table 3.4, accounted for 3,109 (43.4%) of all hate crime incidents in 2005. Most property crimes were acts of destruction (2,528 incidents), larceny-theft (221), or robbery (127).

In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, a surge in attacks against people of Arab descent and Muslims in general was reported, including fire bombings, shootings, and other acts of violence. The Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and United States Attorneys offices (all of the U.S. Department of Justice) have investigated more than 750 incidents since 9/11 involving violence, threats, vandalism, and arson against Arab-Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, South-Asian Americans, and other individuals thought to be of Middle Eastern origin (U.S. Department of Justice, FY 2008 Performance Budget, Federal charges had been brought against 35 defendants as of fiscal year (FY) 2006, with 32 convictions to date. State and local charges were pursued against more than 150 defendants.

Hate crime incidents by victim type and bias motivation, 2005
Bias motivation Total incidents Victim type
Individual Business/financial institution Government Religious organization Society/publica Other/unknown/multiple
aThe victim type society/public is collected only in the national incident-based reporting system.
bIn a multiple-bias incident two conditions must be met: 1) more than one offense type must occur in the incident and 2) at least two offense types must be motivated by different biases.
Source: "Table 8. Incidents: Victim Type, by Bias Motivation, 2005," in Hate Crime Statistics 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, October 2006, (accessed January 10, 2007)
    Total 7,163 5,662 295 270 202 67 667
Single-bias incidents 7,160 5,661 295 269 202 67 666
Race 3,919 3,199 180 168 19 51 302
Religion 1,227 639 74 63 174 5 272
Sexual orientation 1,017 935 16 19 5 4 38
Ethnicity/national origin 944 839 22 19 4 6 54
Disability 53 49 3 0 0 1 0
Multiple-bias incidentsb 3 1 0 1 0 0 1
Hate crime incidents, offenses, and known offenders, by type of offense, 2005
Offense type Incidentsa Offenses Victimsb Known offendersc
aThe actual number of incidents is 7,163. However, the column figures will not add to the total because incidents may include more than one offense type, and these are counted in each appropriate offense type category.
bThe term victim may refer to a person, business, institution, or society as a whole.
cThe term known offender does not imply that the identity of the suspect is known, but only that an attribute of the suspect has been identified, which distinguishes him/her from an unknown offender. The actual number of known offenders is 6,804. However, the column figures will not add to the total because some offenders are responsible for more than one offense type, and they are, therefore, counted more than once in this table.
dIncludes additional offenses collected in the national incident-based reporting system.
Source: "Table 2. Incidents, Offenses, Victims, and Known Offenders, by Offense Type, 2005," in Hate Crime Statistics 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, October 2006, (accessed January 10, 2007)
    Total 7,163 8,380 8,804 6,804
Crimes against persons: 4,208 5,190 5,190 5,357
Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter 6 6 6 17
Forcible rape 3 3 3 3
Aggravated assault 817 1,062 1,062 1,381
Simple assault 1,324 1,566 1,566 1,957
Intimidation 2,044 2,539 2,539 1,974
Otherd 14 14 14 25
Crimes against property: 3,109 3,109 3,530 1,680
Robbery 127 127 154 289
Burglary 136 136 165 88
Larceny-theft 221 221 232 146
Motor vehicle theft 18 18 19 14
Arson 39 39 48 32
Destruction/damage/vandalism 2,528 2,528 2,869 1,072
Otherd 40 40 43 39
Crimes against societyd 81 81 84 114

One of the people convicted for an anti-Muslim hate crime was Erik K. Nix. Nix was convicted on March 6, 2006, of planting an explosive device in a van owned by a Muslim family of Palestinian descent. The van was parked outside the family's home in Burbank, Illinois, at the time of the explosion in 2003. Although Nix had been tried by the state and sentenced to two years' probation and anger management classes in the same incident, the subsequent federal charges resulted in a sentence of fifteen months in prison for Nix.

Hate-Motivated Murders

The most extreme hate-motivated crime against a person is murder. In 2005, six bias-motivated murders were reported to the FBI, less than 1% of all hate offenses. By their very nature, however, murders motivated by hate or bias are the most horrible and unforgettable to society.

The nation was shocked and outraged by the brutal killing of an African-American man, James Byrd, Jr., near the small town of Jasper, Texas, in June 1998. Two white men convicted of the murder, John William King and Lawrence Russell Brewer, were suspected of ties to white supremacy organizations. A third man, Shawn Allen Berry, was also convicted. These men beat and kicked Byrd and then chained him to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him until his body was torn apart.

In the aftermath of the murder, members of the Ku Klux Klan gathered in Jasper, saying that they were there to protect whites from African-Americans. In response, Black activist groups, including the Black Muslims and the New Black Panthers, assembled in Jasper to protect African-Americans from whites. Fortunately law enforcement officers and the townspeople of Jasper were able to prevent further violence. Jasper residents repeatedly expressed their sorrow for the murder and begged outsiders to go away and let them try to cope with the crime and its consequences. The Byrd family issued a written statement asking the public not to use the murder as an excuse for further hatred and retribution. They asked that Americans view the incident as a wake-up call and expressed the hope that it would lead to self-examination and reflection. Eventually, the murder led to state legislation that intensifies penalties for crimes motivated by the victim's race, religion, sex, disability, sexual orientation, age, or national origin. The James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act was signed into law by Texas governor Rick Perry on May 11, 2001.

Despite the publicity the Byrd case received, the pleas of his family seem to have had little effect on national hate crime murder statistics. Each year, equally shocking cases of hate-motivated murders occur. In March 2000 in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, Ronald Taylor, an African-American, shot five white men, killing three of them. One month later, five people, including a Jewish woman, an Indian, two Asians, and one African-American, were killed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when Richard Scott Baumhammers, an immigration lawyer, went on a shooting rampage. In 2006 four members of a Latino gang-Porfirio Avila, Gilbert Saldana, Alejandro Martinez, and Fernando Cazareswere convicted of the racially motivated assaults and murders of two African-Americans in Los Angeles.

Another famous case of racially motivated murder came to a close in 2005 after more than forty years. Edgar Ray Killen, a former Ku Klux Klan organizer, was convicted in June 2005 of three counts of manslaughter for his role in the deaths of civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, 20, Michael Schwerner, 24, and James Chaney, 21, in June 1964. The three young volunteers were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi, as they participated in the "Freedom Summer" campaign, an effort to register southern blacks to vote. The shocking disappearance and murder of these civil rights workers later became the subject of several books, movies, and criminal investigations, including the one by high school students in Illinois in 2004 that included an interview with Killen and ultimately led to his conviction. The eighty-year-old Killen was sentenced to the maximum sentence of sixty years in prison, twenty years for each manslaughter conviction, to be served consecutively.

In an incident that mayor Greg Nickels described as "a crime of hate," one woman was killed and five others were wounded in an assault on the Jewish Federation building in Seattle, Washington, on July 28, 2006 ( In the attack Naveed Afzal Haq, a thirty-year-old U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, fired randomly on employees before surrendering to police. He had held a thirteen-year-old girl at gunpoint in order to pass through the building's rigid security. Once inside he told his hostages that he was "a Muslim-American" who was "angry at Israel."

Where Do Hate Crimes Occur?

In its annual report on hate crimes, the FBI assembles statistics on hate crime victims, perpetrators, motivation, and location. According to this data, bias incidents reported during 2005 were more likely to occur at the victim's home than at any other location, representing 2,148 of the 7,163 total incidents. The remainder occurred on highways, roads, alleys, and streets (1,314); in schools and colleges (967); in parking lots and garages (471); and in places of worship (310). (See Table 3.5.)

Who Commits Hate Crimes?

Hate crimes are committed by individuals, groups of individuals, and organizations with a bias against certain races, religions, or societal groups. In "Hate Crimes" (2005,, Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt of Northeastern University describe three types of hate crimes based on the offender's motivation.

  • Thrill-seeking crimes: Thrill crimes are committed by individuals who are out looking for excitement and who act out this desire in a violent or destructive way. According to Levin and McDevitt, "In the same way that some young men get together on a Saturday night to play a game of cards, youthful hatemongers gather to destroy property or to bash minorities." Importantly, this type of hate crime is not triggered by a particular incident, usually is not directed at a particular individual (but at anyone who fits the target profile), and often occurs in a place frequented by the victim or victims rather than by the perpetrators.
  • Reactive crimes: Reactive hate crimes are those that can typically be traced to a particular incident in which the perpetrators perceive a threat from an outsider. As examples of such triggering events Levin and McDevitt suggest a person of a different race moving into a racially segregated neighborhood or being promoted at work. In these cases, the victim is chosen specifically in response to this attempt to "invade" a specific area or assume a privileged position in the community. These hate crimes are the most common form.
  • Mission-oriented crimes: The least common type of hate crime is the mission-oriented incident, according to Levin and McDevitt. Perpetrators of these crimes act on the basis of what they believe to be a moral mission. They often organize with others who share their beliefs in such organizations as the Ku Klux Klan and aim their crimes at a class of people rather than at a particular individual.
Hate crime incidents by bias motivation and location, 2005
Location Total incidents Bias motivation Multiple-bias incidents*
Race Religion Sexual orientation Ethnicity/national origin Disability
*In a multiple-bias incident two conditions must be met: 1) more than one offense type must occur in the incident and 2) at least two offense types must be motivated by different biases.
Source: "Table 10. Incidents: Bias Motivation, by Location, 2005," in Hate Crime Statistics 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, October 2006, (accessed January 10, 2007)
    Total 7,163 3,919 1,227 1,017 944 53 3
Air/bus/train terminal 55 34 3 5 12 1 0
Bank/savings and loan 23 16 6 0 1 0 0
Bar/nightclub 138 76 7 31 23 1 0
Church/synagogue/temple 310 61 223 11 14 1 0
Commercial office building 152 86 29 11 25 1 0
Construction site 17 12 1 1 3 0 0
Convenience store 101 53 11 11 25 1 0
Department/discount store 45 30 8 2 5 0 0
Drug store/doctor's office/hospital 52 28 13 7 4 0 0
Field/woods 72 48 6 7 11 0 0
Government/public building 129 70 20 18 21 0 0
Grocery/supermarket 62 40 4 6 12 0 0
Highway/road/alley/street 1,314 778 93 254 183 6 0
Hotel/motel/etc. 45 28 5 5 5 2 0
Jail/prison 48 27 3 9 9 0 0
Lake/waterway 21 8 0 8 5 0 0
Liquor store 18 6 2 3 7 0 0
Parking lot/garage 471 264 46 69 89 3 0
Rental storage facility 7 5 1 1 0 0 0
Residence/home 2,148 1,216 313 328 270 21 0
Restaurant 110 59 15 14 19 3 0
School/college 967 519 208 123 113 3 1
Service/gas station 67 39 7 5 14 2 0
Specialty store (tv, fur, etc.) 78 45 10 11 11 1 0
Other/unknown 699 365 191 75 61 7 0
Multiple locations 14 6 2 2 2 0 2

The FBI's UCR shows that in 2005 white people were the known perpetrators in 42.8% of all hate crimes (3,585 incidents), and African-Americans were the known offenders in 11.1% of cases (933 incidents). The offender's race was not reported in 751 cases (9%), and the offender was unknown in 2,784 cases (33.2%). The largest number of racially motivated crimes involved anti-African-American incidents committed by whites (1,803 hate crimes). Of the 484 racially motivated attacks by African-Americans, 368 were directed at whites. (See Table 3.6.)


The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was established by President George W. Bush in 2004 to serve as the primary U.S. government organization for integrating and analyzing intelligence on terrorism and counterterrorism. The NCTC defines terrorism as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience" (Title 22 of the U.S. Code, Section 2656f[d]). Terrorism is domestic when it involves the citizens or residents of the country where the terrorist incident takes place. For example, a terrorist attack carried out on U.S. soil by Americans. Terrorism is international when it involves the citizens or territory of more than one country.

Hate crime offenses by known offender's race and bias motivation, 2005
Bias motivation Total offenses Known offender's race
White Black American Indian/Alaskan Native Asian/Pacific Islander Multiple races, group Unknown race Unknown offender
*In a multiple-bias incident two conditions must be met: 1) more than one offense type must occur in the incident and 2) at least two offense types must be motivated by different biases.
Source: "Table 5. Offenses: Known Offender's Race, by Bias Motivation, 2005," in Hate Crime Statistics 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, October 2006, (accessed January 10, 2007)
    Total 8,380 3,585 933 68 44 215 751 2,784
Single-bias incidents 8,373 3,585 933 68 44 212 749 2,782
Race: 4,691 2,205 484 45 22 128 387 1,420
    Anti-white 935 204 368 19 4 22 85 233
    Anti-black 3,200 1,803 87 13 6 84 239 968
    Anti-American Indian/Alaskan Native 95 40 6 12 0 1 11 25
    Anti-Asian/Pacific Islander 231 88 11 1 8 11 29 83
    Anti-multiple races, group 230 70 12 0 4 10 23 111
Religion: 1,314 306 42 6 5 11 132 812
    Anti-Jewish 900 198 9 4 2 6 86 595
    Anti-Catholic 61 8 4 0 0 0 5 44
    Anti-Protestant 58 14 0 1 0 1 7 35
    Anti-Islamic 146 52 20 1 1 2 14 56
    Anti-other religion 102 25 5 0 2 2 16 52
    Anti-multiple religions, group 42 9 4 0 0 0 3 26
    Anti-atheism/agnosticism/etc. 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 4
Sexual Orientation: 1,171 502 220 6 11 35 108 289
    Anti-male homosexual 713 303 141 4 8 22 72 163
    Anti-female homosexual 180 67 33 0 2 7 11 60
    Anti-homosexual 228 113 33 2 1 6 19 54
    Anti-heterosexual 23 9 6 0 0 0 4 4
    Anti-bisexual 27 10 7 0 0 0 2 8
Ethnicity/national origin: 1,144 548 179 9 5 35 116 252
    Anti-Hispanic 660 340 115 3 1 18 50 133
    Anti-other ethnicity/national origin 484 208 64 6 4 17 66 119
Disability: 53 24 8 2 1 3 6 9
    Anti-physical 21 9 4 1 1 2 1 3
    Anti-mental 32 15 4 1 0 1 5 6
Multiple-bias incidents* 7 0 0 0 0 3 2 2

According to the NCTC, approximately 11,000 terrorist attacks occurred around the world and resulted in 14,600 deaths in 2005 ( Slightly more than 30% of the attacks and 55% of the fatalities (approximately 8,300) occurred in Iraq. About 6,000 attacks (54% of all attacks) were against facilities and/or resulted in no deaths.

Between 2004 and 2005, the NCTC made significant changes to its methods for counting terrorist attacks. At the same time the level of effort to collect data on terrorist incidents increased. As a result the 2005 data cannot be directly compared with the 2004 data. However, the NCTC reported that attacks on noncombatants increased significantly in Iraq during 2005. Outside of Iraq, the total number of terrorist incidents with ten or more fatalities remained steady at seventy incidents in 2004 and 2005.


In 1993 the World Trade Center in New York City, a symbol of American financial wealth and power, was the target of international terrorists, who detonated a bomb in an underground parking garage, killing six people and injuring 1,000. On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center's two 110-story office towers were once again the target of a Muslim terrorist group. At 7:59 a.m. on that day, American Airlines Flight 11 departed Logan International Airport in Boston bound for Los Angeles. Forty-six minutes later, at 8:45 a.m., the aircraft, diverted by hijackers, crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. At 9:02 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175, also bound for Los Angeles from Boston and also diverted by hijackers, crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Both towers collapsed shortly thereafter, killing not only thousands of office workers and facility personnel trapped inside, but also more than 300 firefighters and rescue workers helping to evacuate them.

By 9:45 a.m., two more domestic airlines had been commandeered by hijackers and crashed. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. military, killing over 100 people who were in that section of the building at the time. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the result of an attempt by some passengers to wrest control of the aircraft from the hijackers. No one survived any of the flights. The 19 hijackers were associated with the al-Qaeda group. Al-Qaeda's leader, Osama Bin Laden, went into hiding after the United States launched attacks on al-Qaeda's bases in Afghanistan in October 2001.

The September 11th attacks were the worst acts of international terrorism on U.S. soil in the country's history. When the official cleanup and recovery efforts ended with a final ceremony on May 30, 2002, the New York City Office of Emergency Management gave the final tolls for the destruction caused by the attacks in that city. Of the 2,823 people killed in the World Trade Center, only 1,102 victims had been identified. An estimated 3.1 million hours of labor were spent on cleanup and 108,342 truckloads, over 1.8 million tons, of debris had been removed.

In addition to all those killed in New York, 64 passengers and crew from Flight 77 and 125 military and civilian personnel from the Pentagon were killed. All 44 passengers and crew on Flight 93 also died in the crash. The total death toll from the September 11th attacks was 3,056 people, including citizens of 78 different countries.

One of the most widely reported murders of a U.S. citizen by international terrorists happened early in 2002. On January 23, 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was abducted in Pakistan while on his way to interview a Muslim fundamentalist leader. A month later the FBI confirmed that it had received a videotape containing "indisputable" confirmation that Pearl, 38, had been killed by his captors. Pearl's killing resulted in the arrest of several people believed to have been involved with the crime, including the alleged ringleader of the group, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who had ties to radical Muslim extremist groups in the region.

The State Department confirmed in Report on Incidents of Terrorism 2005 that 56 Americans were killed in international terrorist attacks in 2005 compared with 1,456 non-U.S. fatalities; 83% of the American victims were killed in Iraq (National Counterterrorism Center, April 11, 2006, (See Figure 3.1.) In addition to those who were killed in 2005, twenty-eight U.S. citizens were injured or kidnapped as a result of international terrorism, including eleven in Iraq, six in Indonesia, and three in both Egypt and Jordan. (See Figure 3.2.)

The incidents involving U.S. citizens included three bombings at different points along the London, England, subway system and one explosive device detonated on a double-decker bus in that city on July 7, 2005. These attacks killed 52 people, including 1 U.S. citizen, and wounded another 700 people. The attacks occurred on the day the G8 Summit was scheduled to begin in Scotland. Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades and the Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe both claimed responsibility.

Coordinating National Security after 9/11

As a result of the September 11th attacks, the Department of Homeland Security was established to coordinate federal, state, and local anti-terrorism efforts. The department focuses on detecting and preventing future terrorist attacks, as well as incident management and response and recovery in the event of an attack. In addition, the Homeland Security Council was established to advise the President on all aspects of homeland security. Council members include the Vice President and Attorney General of the United States as well as the Secretaries of Defense, Health and Human Services, Transportation, and the Treasury.

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission), chaired by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, was an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation in late 2002. The commission's charge was to prepare a complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission released its public report on July 22, 2004. The report concluded that although the attacks were shocking, they should not have been a surprise. The authors argued that the 9/11 plot could have been stopped if security services had done their work more thoroughly. They praised the responses of first responders immediately after the attacks but found institutional weaknesses that made it easier for terrorists to attack and harder for authorities to respond adequately. The report includes several recommendations, including the creation of a national counterterrorism center, strengthened congressional oversight, and improved dialog between the West and the Islamic world.

On March 12, 2002, the Department of Homeland Security implemented a system of Threat Conditions as a way of providing uniform advisories of possible terrorist threats. The five threat-conditions range from Low (a low risk of terrorist attack) to Severe (a severe risk of terrorist attacks that may necessitate the closing of government offices and the deployment of emergency personnel). Intermediate threat conditions are Guarded (general risk of terrorist attacks), Elevated (significant risk of terrorist attacks), and High (high risk of terrorist attacks).

Treatment of Terror Suspects

The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a military prison located at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Since 2002 the camp has been used to confine people captured fighting against the United States military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Because the detainees were not members of a recognized military force, the United States did not provide them the protections afforded prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. These guidelines, according to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent organization, stipulate that prisoners of war "are entitled to respect for their lives, their dignity, their personal rights and their political, religious and other convictions. They must be protected against all acts of violence or reprisal. They are entitled to exchange news with their families and receive aid. They must enjoy basic judicial guarantees" ( 0.nsf/html/5ZMEEM).

It was not until February 2004 that the first Guantanamo detainees were charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes. They were to be tried by a military tribunal, but the tribunals were suspended when a U.S. court ruled them unconstitutional in November 2004, and the Supreme Court later declared them illegal.

In March 2004, the U.S. military released five British prisoners from Guantanamo and sent them back to the United Kingdom without charges. Three of the men later said that they had been abused while at Guantanamo; specifically, they said that they had been beaten, injected with drugs, deprived of sleep, hooded, and subject to sexual and religious humiliations. According to the U.S. State Department, about 520 detainees from more than 40 countries were at Guantanamo in April 2005. In May 2005, Newsweek magazine reported that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Qur'an to get inmates to talk by placing the holy book on a toilet and even flushing the book down the toilet. The report led to anti-American riots in Afghanistan in which seventeen people died. The magazine later retracted the story. Although the Pentagon confirmed abuses to the Qur'an in June 2005, it referred to them as relatively minor.

In February 2006 a United Nations investigation concluded that the United States committed acts amounting to torture at Guantanamo Bay, including force-feeding detainees and subjecting them to prolonged solitary confinement. The investigators accused the United States of violating the detainees' rights to a fair trial, freedom of religion, and health. The report recommended that the United States close the facility. This recommendation was reiterated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on January 8, 2007.

As of January 2007, the United States had released more than 300 inmates from Guantanamo but still held nearly 400 there. Charges were expected to be laid against 60 to 80 inmates and others were expected to be released. However, lawyers and activists were concerned about the fate of the remaining 200 to 300 detainees.

In another case that followed 9/11, Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria in 1970, was detained by U.S. immigration officials during a stopover in New York as he was returning to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia in September 2002. Because he was on a terror watch list created by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the U.S. officials suspected that Arar had links to terrorists and deported him to Syria, even though he was carrying a Canadian passport. When Arar returned to Canada the following year, he reported that the Syrian government had chained him, beaten him, and confined him to a small cell. As a result of pressure from Canadian human rights organizations and private citizens, the Canadian government established a commission of inquiry into the case. In his final report in September 2006 the Commissioner of the Inquiry, Justice Dennis O'Connor, cleared Arar of all terrorism allegations. Arar filed suit against U.S. officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, but a judge in the United States dismissed the case, invoking the "state secrets privilege." On September 19, 2006, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales denied wrongdoing on the part of the United States in Arar's transportation to Syria. Arar's case continued on appeal in 2007.


Several major U.S. domestic terrorism incidents occurred during the 1990s. On April 19, 1995, one of the most deadly acts of domestic terrorism occurred in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, when a two-ton truck bomb exploded just outside the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, killing 168 people and injuring more than 800. The attack was perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh, a twenty-seven-year-old military veteran with ties to anti-government militia groups. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection in June 2001; Terry Nichols, an accomplice who helped McVeigh plan the attack and construct the bomb, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In July 1996, during the Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia, a nail-packed pipe bomb exploded in a large common area. One person was killed, and more than 100 were injured. Although authorities had no leads at the time, similar explosive devices were later used in bomb attacks on a nightclub favored by homosexuals and two abortion clinics. These incidents led investigators to Eric Robert Rudolph, a Christian extremist whose views combined anti-government political sentiments with opposition to abortion and anti-homosexual bigotry. Rudolph eluded capture for five years before he surrendered to authorities in May 2003. Confessing to the Olympic bombing, he said he was motivated by anti-government and anti-socialist beliefs. He is serving life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

In January 1998 Theodore Kaczynski was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for his actions as the "Unabomber." Over a seventeen-year period Kaczynski committed sixteen bombings in several states. Three people were killed and twenty-three persons were injured in the attacks.

On September 25, 2001, a letter postmarked September 20 from St. Petersburg, Florida, containing a white powdery substance, was handled by an assistant to NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw. After complaining of a rash, the assistant consulted a physician and tested positive for exposure to the anthrax bacterium (bacillus anthracis ), an infectious agent that, if inhaled into the lungs, can lead to death. Over the next two months, envelopes testing positive for anthrax were received by various news organizations in the United States and by government offices, including the offices of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and of New York Governor George Pataki. As a result of exposure to anthrax sent via the U.S. mail, five people died, including two postal workers who handled letters carrying the anthrax spores. Hundreds more who were exposed were placed on antibiotics as a preventive measure. Despite an intensive investigation by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, no arrests in the case had been made as of May 2007.

In a spree that began on May 3, 2002, eighteen pipe bombs were found in rural mailboxes in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas, injuring five people. Four days after the first bomb exploded, the FBI arrested twenty-one-year-old college student Luke J. Helder in connection with the bombings. Helder was charged by federal prosecutors in Iowa with using an explosive device to maliciously destroy property affecting interstate commerce and with using a destructive device to commit a crime of violence, punishable by up to life imprisonment. The pipe bombs, some of which did not detonate, were accompanied by letters warning of excessive government control over individual behavior.

Between February 2004 and September 2006, the NCTC recorded sixteen domestic terrorism incidents in the United States. (See Table 3.7.) None of these incidents resulted in fatalities or involved hostages. Most of these events did not result in any injuries, but nine people were injured when a man drove a sport utility vehicle through a crowd of students at the University of North CarolinaChapel Hill. Other domestic terrorism incidents included arson attacks on several residences and bomb attacks on schools and the British consulate in New York City.

Incidents of domestic terrorism, January 1, 2004September 30, 2006
Date Subject Fatalities Injuries Hostages Total victims
Source: Adapted from "United States," in Worldwide Incidents Tracking System, National Counterterrorism Center, 2007, (accessed January 16, 2007)
2/2/2004 U.S. Senate office attacked with the chemical/biological agent ricin in Washington, DC 0 0 0 0
2/7/2004 Construction site set ablaze by Earth Liberation Front (ELF) in Charlottesville, VA 0 0 0 0
6/9/2004 High school damaged by pipe bomb in Taconic, MA 0 0 0 0
7/8/2004 Animal Liberation Front (ALF) set fire to property belonging to Brigham Young University in Provo, UT 0 0 0 0
2/7/2005 Apartment complex damaged in arson attack by ELF arsonists in Sutter Creek, CA 0 0 0 0
3/14/2005 Trace amounts of potential anthrax found at Department of Defense mail facility in Washington, DC 0 0 0 0
4/13/2005 Elementary school targeted by detonation of an improvised explosive device (IED) in New Bedford, MA 0 0 0 0
5/5/2005 United Kingdom Consulate damaged in bomb attacks in New York, NY 0 0 0 0
5/18/2005 ELF suspected of burning 2 residences in Oyster Bay, NY 0 0 0 0
11/21/2005 4 residences damaged in arson by ELF in Hagerstown, MD 0 0 0 0
11/29/2005 2 vehicles damaged in incendiary attack by suspected ELF in San Diego, CA 0 0 0 0
11/29/2005 7 vehicles damaged in incendiary attack by suspected ELF in San Diego, CA 0 0 0 0
1/17/2006 1 residence destroyed in arson attack by suspected ELF in Coupeville, WA 0 0 0 0
3/3/2006 9 civilians wounded in attack by lone wolf in Chapel Hill, NC 0 9 0 9
5/26/2006 Police disabled a bomb in St. Johns County, FL 0 0 0 0
9/11/2006 Health center damaged in incendiary attack by lone wolf in Davenport, IA 0 0 0 0
   Grand total 0 9 0 9


Since the late 1970s some extremist environmental and animal rights groups have turned increasingly to criminal violence to promote their ideas and attack their perceived enemies. Eco-terrorism is the name given to these fringe actions. The FBI has defined eco-terrorism as "the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature" ( Corporate and university research laboratories, clothing companies, fast food restaurants, real estate developers, automobile dealers, logging companies, and medical-supply firms have been some of their most frequent targets. Prominent eco-terrorist groups include the underground Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the related Animal Liberation Front (ALF), and the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign. According to the FBI, between 1990 and 2005 animal and environmental rights extremists claimed credit for more than 1,200 criminal incidents that resulted in millions of dollars of damage and monetary loss (

The FBI reported in 2005 that although most animal rights and eco-extremists do not engage in violence aimed at killing people, this appears to be changing. Furthermore, the number and size of their attacks are growing. In addition to the harassing phone calls, e-mail campaigns, and acts of vandalism that eco-terrorists have carried on for several years, these groups now use improved explosive devices and make personal threats to employees of targeted companies.

The Animal Liberation Front is among the most notorious animal rights groups operating in the United States. In North America, cells operate independently and under the following guidelines published on the Web site of the North American ALF (

  • "To liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e., laboratories, factory farms, fur farms, etc., and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives, free from suffering
  • "To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals
  • "To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors, by performing direct actions and liberations
  • "To take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and non-human"

At various university laboratories in the United States ALF operatives have broken into research facilities to release animals, destroy computers and documents, and paint slogans on walls. In addition to research facilities, ALF has targeted businesses in the meat industry. For example, ALF has taken responsibility for firebombing a McDonald's restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, on September 11, 2001, causing some $500,000 in damages.

ALF activists are allied with SHAC. In 1998 a television documentary aired in the United Kingdom alleging mistreatment of animals by Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a British-based research company. Outraged animal activists began pressuring financial institutions associated with HLS to stop supporting the company, thus forcing HLS to stop testing animals. The campaign was called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). SHAC now has chapters in several countries, including the United States. After a U.S.-based company bought HLS, SHAC activists began targeting U.S. companies that did business with HLS. In 2002 SHAC members sent threatening letters to employees of Marsh, Inc., which insured HLS at the time. They also released smoke bombs in two Seattle buildings that housed Marsh offices. At the end of 2002, Marsh announced that it would stop insuring HLS.

The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is ALF's environmental counterpart. The ELF has described its aim as inflicting "economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment." The group also aspires "to reveal and educate the public on the atrocities committed against the earth and all species that populate it." The ELF considers property destruction to be non-violent because no human beings or animals are targeted. Arsons and property destruction attributed to ELF include Two Elk Lodge in Vail, Colorado, in 1998; the destruction of the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington in Seattle on May 21, 2001; and burning a U.S. Forest Service Station in Irvine, Pennsylvania, in August 2002. In the most destructive act of eco-terrorism in U.S. history, ELF burned down a newly built San Diego, California, five-story apartment complex in August 2003, causing some $50 million in damage. The following month, group members burned four San Diego homes under construction, resulting in an estimated $1 million in damages. The group has vandalized sport utility vehicle (SUV) dealerships in Pennsylvania, California, and New Mexico, resulting in over $2.5 million in damages.

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