International, Domestic and Financial
Here are the trends:
A series of short reports detailing the month-to-month trends for both the prosecutions and convictions that have occurred within these three focused categories during the past five years are now available on the Bulletins section of TRAC's public website (http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/bulletins). These monthly reports will be regularly updated as new government data become available.
In addition to the new and extremely timely data about the three most serious kinds of terrorism matters, TRAC's Bulletins section provides monthly information covering the wider range of cases where the government includes "terrorism-related" counts. These include the prosecutions of individuals who the government says have no connection to terrorism but have been charged as a result of what it calls "terrorism enforcement initiatives."
The surprising new findings about the government's current enforcement priorities in this important area have emerged from an examination of case-by-case data obtained from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys under the Freedom of Information Act by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
As suggested above, since 9/11/2001 the terrorism enforcement trends for these focused categories present quite different patterns:
Expressed in a different way, the government in that year recorded prosecuting 194 individuals for international, domestic, or terrorism financing. Domestic terrorism cases made up over half, or 104 of the total (see Table 1). In the same year, 133 defendants were convicted for the most serious terrorism crimes — international, domestic, or financing. Again, the majority (70) were for domestic terrorism (see Table 2).
The finding that there currently are many more prosecutions and convictions involving domestic and financial terrorism than those aimed at international terrorists presents a picture of the government's overall terrorism enforcement campaign that appears somewhat in variance with that emerging from the government's official statements, Congressional testimony and the resulting newspaper reports where the battle against international terrorism appears to dominate the effort.
How Are They Classified?
For more than 30 years the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), a branch in the Justice Department, has operated a complex system to keep track of the government's criminal enforcement efforts. This system is the basis for numerous official reports, regular statistical studies, Congressional testimony and speeches to the public. Under this system U.S. Attorneys around the country submit monthly data to Washington — all the referrals from the investigative agencies, the subjects they concern, the laws that appear to have been violated, etc. For those matters that result in a prosecution, the U.S. Attorneys submit additional information.
The data show that individuals categorized as domestic terrorists have been charged under more than 100 different laws. The charges include the importation and storage of explosives, threatening the president, firearm violations, mailing threatening communications and, occasionally, civil rights conspiracies and other specific violations.
The definition of international terrorism is similar to domestic except that (1) the acts occur primarily outside the United States, (2) transcend national borders or (3) involve a foreign terrorist organization. In recent years, specific charges have included kidnapping or hostage taking, fraud and misuse of visas, and conspiracy to commit an offense or fraud against the United States.
The third grouping, terrorist financing, was established more recently in FY 2002. According to the manual, individuals included in this category are believed to have knowingly provided material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization or to have funneled support to the carrying out of a terrorist act. The specific charges brought against those classified this way have included the transportation of stolen goods, bank fraud, money laundering, and credit card fraud.
(In February 2007, the Justice Department Inspector General issued this report which questioned one aspect of how the EOUSA has been classifying terrorism. The report, however, focused its criticism on a broader grouping labeled "anti-terrorism" which extends the official government total counts beyond individuals prosecuted for international, domestic, and terrorism financing offenses.)
As noted above, by breaking down the EOUSA data into the three most serious kinds of terrorist activities, TRAC is able to provide new and authoritative information about the federal government's actual enforcement policies. First, international terrorism enforcement is dramatically lower than at any time since 9/11. Second, while domestic and financial terrorism enforcement efforts have declined since their peaks, they together dominate the government's terrorism enforcement activities and in the last few years have either increased or only modestly declined.
TRAC's new terrorism report series was developed in part with a grant of the Rockefeller Family Fund. Other support was provided by Syracuse University and the Knight Foundation.