Domestic Terrorism

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Domestic terrorism involves violence against the civilian population or infrastructure of a nation—often but not always by citizens of that nation and often with the intent to intimidate, coerce, or influence national policy. RAND addresses national security and critical infrastructure needs through objective research that helps government agencies prevent and mitigate terrorist activities and improves disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

  • Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando police chief John Mina, and FBI agent Ron Hopper at a news conference after the attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, June 12, 2016, photo by Kevin Kolczynski/Reuters

    Commentary

    Domestic Terrorism: Weighing the Challenges

    Apr 13, 2017

    The U.S. is struggling to find an effective way to counter violent extremism at home and counteract the presence of terrorist groups on social media. Policymakers are tasked with managing a military defeat of IS in the Middle East while lowering the risk of blowback in the U.S. at the same time.

  • A girl dances while women pray at a protest against the Trump administration's travel restriction at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Texas, January 29, 2017, photo by Laura Buckman/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why a Travel Restriction Won't Stop Terrorism at Home

    Feb 10, 2017

    It's not unreasonable to seek a review of immigration, and refugee-vetting procedures make sense. But America's jihadist terrorists are not imported from abroad. They are mostly homegrown.

Explore Domestic Terrorism

  • French Muslims hold an Islamic flag and a banner reading "Do not touch my prophet, anything but the Messenger of Allah" as they gather in central Paris January 18, 2015

    Commentary

    Eight Lessons from the Charlie Hebdo Attack

    Among the lessons to be learned from the attacks in Paris are that terrorism has many audiences, Al-Qaida remains a threat, would-be warriors are unconcerned with the schisms among jihadist camps, Europe has a more serious problem, such an attack could happen in the U.S., and intelligence is crucial.

    Jan 23, 2015

  • Protesters set fire to U.S. and Israeli flags to protest the Israeli offensive in Lebanon in front of Istanbul University after Friday prayers in Beyazit Mosque in Istanbul, August 4, 2006

    Blog

    Dialogue on Asymmetric Threats Concludes Two-Day Workshop on U.S. and Israeli Security Challenges

    Few nations have more experience with asymmetric conflicts than Israel and the United States. At the National Press Club in Washington, Brian Michael Jenkins of RAND and Admiral Amichay Ayalon, former director of Shin Bet, Israel's security agency, discussed the dynamics of the changing security environment.

    Jan 16, 2015

  • A hostage runs toward a police officer outside Lindt cafe, where other hostages are being held, in Martin Place, Sydney, December 15, 2014

    Blog

    Could the Sydney Café Siege Happen Elsewhere?

    As the world mourns those lost in the Sydney café siege, investigations have begun examining the efficacy of Australia's anti-terrorism measures and details about the background and motives of the gunman. At the same time, terrorism experts are reflecting on where else such an attack could emerge.

    Dec 17, 2014

  • Militant Islamist fighters parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province

    Commentary

    When Jihadis Come Marching Home

    The existing pool of determined jihadists in America is very small and lacks training and experience, which fighting in Syria and Iraq would provide. Returning jihadi veterans would be more formidable adversaries. Still, the threat appears manageable using current U.S. laws and existing resources.

    Nov 19, 2014

  • road and horizon

    Infographic

    Road to Resilience: Building Stronger, More Sustainable Communities

    This infographic illustrates how communities can become more resilient as they plan ahead for potential disasters.

    May 23, 2014

  • Runners continue to run towards the finish line of the Boston Marathon as an explosion erupts on April 15, 2013

    Commentary

    After Boston, Beware DIY Attacks: Front & Center

    Orlando Sentinel editorial writer Darryl E. Owens interviewed Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the president of RAND. They discussed last year's Boston Marathon bombing and the current threat of terrorist acts in the United States.

    Apr 16, 2014

  • Masked Sunni gunmen chant slogans during a protest against Iraq's Shiite-led government

    Commentary

    Fight Today's Terrorist Threat, Not Yesterday's

    Counterterrorism is not just about daring raids and drone strikes. It is about the hard work of collecting and sifting through vast amounts of information and managing relationships among organizations that often regard sharing information as an unnatural act.

    Feb 7, 2014

  • Report

    Identifying Enemies Among Us: Evolving Terrorist Threats and the Continuing Challenges of Domestic Intelligence Collection and Information Sharing

    Officials, practitioners, and counterterrorism experts gathered this year to examine domestic intelligence and information sharing as they relate to terrorist threats.

    Jan 13, 2014

  • Testimony

    The Terrorist Threat from Al Shabaab

    At the moment, al Shabaab does not appear to be plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland but there are several reasons why America should still be concerned. Its terrorist attack at Westgate Mall in Kenya and its follow-up attacks are a stark reminder that the Somalia-based group remains lethal.

    Oct 3, 2013

  • Iraqi Army Commandos hone skills

    Testimony

    Re-Examining the Al Qa'ida Threat to the United States

    The United States needs to adopt an increasingly nuanced — but long-term — approach to countering the al Qa'ida movement, says Seth Jones. U.S. policymakers should view the al Qa'ida threat as a decades-long struggle like the Cold War.

    Jul 29, 2013

  • Boston Marathon bombing

    Testimony

    What Should We Learn from Boston?

    We cannot assume, based on Boston's response to the marathon bombings, that other U.S. cities are as prepared. Emergency managers and public safety agencies remain focused on disaster preparedness, but some hospitals have lapsed into thinking that it is a costly distraction from daily business.

    Jul 10, 2013

  • Mumbai at night

    Commentary

    Could Terrorists Pull Off a Mumbai-Style Attack in the U.S.?

    There is, at present, no known terrorist group in the United States that has the organization and human resources to assemble an operation of the complexity and scale of the Mumbai attack, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Jul 10, 2013

  • Ceremony for the martyrs of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack

    Testimony

    Lashkar-e Taiba and the Threat to the United States of a Mumbai-Style Attack

    Lashkar-e Taiba poses a grave danger to U.S. interests and citizens in South Asia, but is less of an immediate risk to the American homeland than a Mumbai-style attack — one dramatic and shocking enough to inspire widespread terror even without the use of weapons of mass destruction or a casualty-count in the thousands.

    Jun 12, 2013

  • Muslims protest terror attack on Mumbai

    Testimony

    The Threat of a Mumbai-Style Terrorist Attack in the United States

    A Mumbai-style attack is conceivable in the United States, although probably not one at anywhere near the scale of the 2008 assault in India, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Jun 12, 2013

  • police officers gathered after the Boston Marathon bombings

    Commentary

    Searching for Clues on the Brothers Tsarnaev

    One doesn't need a clear link to a global terror group to carry out an attack; one needs only the resources, the means and an Internet connection. But the global nature of these communities and their online links also create openings police can exploit.

    May 6, 2013

  • Boston Marathon bombings

    Commentary

    Forget What You Think You Know

    What's the difference if they ascribe this atrocity to a neo-Nazi, radical Islamist, or separatist anti-government ideology? Whatever their motive, they're cowardly murderers who need to be brought to justice, writes Andrew Liepman.

    Apr 19, 2013

  • two CCTV cameras and American flag illustration

    Journal Article

    State Terrorism and Human Rights: An Incremental Tyranny

    Perceived threats to liberty by the military-industrial complex that gave great cause for concern in the past have given way to fears of a security state, which has fueled perception of a perpetual danger requiring endless war.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • Two clips from an assault weapon lie upon a table

    Commentary

    Latest Alleged Homegrown 'Terrorists' Fit the Mold

    For many U.S.-born terror recruits, the prospect of blowing things up is a solution to an unsatisfactory life. Terrorism does not attract the well-adjusted, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Nov 20, 2012

  • A traveler walks through a metal detector at a security check point in John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, February, 29, 2012

    Report

    After Four Decades, It's Time for a Fundamental Review of Aviation Security

    Budgetary constraints, heavy passenger loads, and popular hostility toward screening procedures are all challenges to securing commercial aviation. After 40 years of focus on tactical measures, it is time for a sweeping review of aviation security.

    Aug 29, 2012

  • Commentary

    Getting the Threat Right

    Would-be jihadist warriors are angry, eager for adventure, out to assuage personal humiliation and demonstrate their manhood. Many appear to be motivated by personal crises—terrorism does not attract the well adjusted, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Jun 15, 2012