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U.S. Citizens Responsible for Rise in Terrorist Activities at Home

Release Date:
7/25/2011 10:58 AM
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ISVG, Alana Penza study

July 25, 2011

WEST HAVEN, CONN. – Norway is not the only country with home-grown terrorists. Terrorist activity in the United States has been growing in the last two years, and most of it has been plotted by U.S. citizens.

So says a new study published by Alana Penza, an analyst at the University of New Haven’s Institute for the Study of Violent Groups (ISVG).  Her study analyzed the activities of 162 individuals in the United States who were charged with attempting to commit a terrorist act or supporting a terrorist group during the nine-year period after Sept. 11, 2001.  The study shows that terrorist activity in this country grew steadily from 2001 to 2006, dropped, and then spiked in both 2009 and 2010. Click here to view Penza's analysis.

University of New Haven: Alana Penza Alana Penza

“Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, there has been a substantial increase in the number of homegrown terrorist threats,” Penza says.

The study, done using open source material and specialized software, shows that of the 162 individuals studied, 86 were born in the United States.  Fifty-eight were naturalized citizens, and eighteen were permanent residents. 

All of them were Islamic extremists, says Penza, who last year received a master’s degree in national security from UNH.  She says one of the criteria for the study was looking at people who were charged with working on behalf of terrorists, including sending money to support them, training with them, recruiting others for training, or actually attempting to commit an act of terrorism.

“Though the ability of individuals or groups to carry out large-scale attacks on the United States has decreased since 9/11, there has been a substantial increase in the number of homegrown terrorist threats,” she says.

The majority of the people, all of whom have been charged with a crime, originated from Pakistan, Somalia, or Jordan and had ties to organized terrorist groups such as Al Shabaab.  

 “These people were in the country legally,” she says. “Though the ability of individuals or groups to carry out large-scale attacks in the United States has decreased, the threat to the United States homeland still remains.”

The terrorists were not part of one large group but rather a number of small groups that are not connected to each other. “They may be inspired by other terrorists, but they have been thwarted before they got too far,” Penza says.

ISVG, the world’s largest database of open-source material on violent groups, not only aggregates material but also analyzes it.  Penza’s study is one of a number of studies looking at terrorism throughout the world.

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