By The Heritage Foundation – (July 29, 2013)
By Jessica Zuckerman, Steven P. Bucci, Ph.D. and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
At 2:50 p.m. on April 15, 2013, two explosions went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The brazen terrorist attack killed three people, injured and maimed hundreds more, and shocked the nation. Despite being long recognized as a potential threat by law enforcement and intelligence, few Americans had considered the use of an improvised explosive device (IED) on American soil. And, due to only a few, and relatively small, attacks since 9/11, the public was not in a state of awareness.
Yet, the fact remains that there have been at least 60 Islamist-inspired terrorist plots against the homeland since 9/11, illustrating the continued threat of terrorism against the United States. Fifty-three of these plots were thwarted long before the public was ever in danger, due in large part to the concerted efforts of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence.
The Heritage Foundation has tracked the foiled terrorist plots against the United States since 9/11 in an effort to study the evolving nature of the threat and garner lessons learned. The best way to protect the United States from the continued threat of terrorism is to ensure a strong and capable domestic counterterrorism enterprise—and to understand the continuing nature of the terror threat.
The bombings in Boston are not likely to be the last such attempt to attack the U.S. as a whole. Now is not the time for the U.S. to stand still. Congress and the Administration should:
- Ensure a proactive approach to halting terrorism,
- Maintain essential counterterrorism tools,
- Break down silos of information,
- Streamline the domestic counterterrorism system, and
- Fully implement a strategy to counter violent extremism
60 Terrorist Plots Since 9/11
In 2007, The Heritage Foundation began tracking post-9/11 terrorist plots against the United States. Heritage continuously refines and updates the available information, and in light of the Boston Marathon bombing, is now including not only thwarted plots, but those that have been successful.
In 2012, Heritage reported that at least 50 publicly known, Islamist-inspired terrorist plots against the homeland had been thwarted since September 11, 2001. The reality, of course, is that no matter how good a nation’s security and intelligence agencies are, they cannot prevent 100 percent of planned attacks. While there has not been a catastrophe on the scale of 9/11 in the past 12 years, terrorists have succeeded in attacking the homeland four times: (1) the intentional driving of an SUV into a crowd of students at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill in 2006; (2) the shooting at an army recruitment office in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2009; (3) the shooting by U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, also in 2009; and (4) the bombings in Boston.
Of the 60 plots, 49 could be considered homegrown terror plots. This means that one or more of the actors were American citizens, legal permanent residents, or visitors radicalized predominately in the United States.
In each of these plots, the number one target was military facilities, followed closely by targets in New York City. The third most common target was mass gatherings, like the Boston Marathon, nightclubs and bars, and shopping malls.
While four plots were successful, and three foiled merely by luck or the swift action of private citizens, the rest were thwarted in their early stages by U.S., and sometimes international, law enforcement.
Read more – A summary account of each of the 60 domestic Islamic terror incidents is given followed by recommendations for strengthening domestic counterterrorism efforts.