How Domestic Terrorism Is Unfolding in the United States (Intern Edition).

AuthorKopp, Evan

The concept of terrorism has defined United States' policy for the last two decades and has triggered foreign conflicts and a massive global response. Yet, in recent years, the continued threat of terrorism has taken the shape of domestic attacks rather than foreign ones. Domestic terrorism is on an upward trend, and it poses a bigger threat to Americans than ever before. With the most recent visible act of terror on January 6th, 2021, the world saw a pure manifestation of this dark trend in our country. Now, law enforcement agencies across America must continue their fight against terrorism from not just foreign and economic forces but increasingly from U.S. citizens. It is important to explore all aspects of this problem and in a clear manner show the dangers of failed prevention of future attacks.


Data shows that the number of domestic terrorism acts have increased over previous decades before peaking most recently in 2020 at approximately 110 incidents. (1) These attacks take the form of mass shootings, bombings, car attacks, knife attacks, and other violent actions. Famous and recent examples include the 2017 Charlottesville car attack, 2019 Walmart El Paso shooting, the 2017 Virginia attack on Republican Congressional members and staff and the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting in 2018.

The current Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) definition of domestic terrorism includes three possible classifications: coercing a civilian population, influencing government policy through intimidation, or affecting the conduct of a government through mass destruction, assassinations, or kidnapping. Common motivations also pointed out by the FBI are racial, ethnic, anti-government, animal rights, environmental or abortion-related extremism. (2)

In response to these incidents, the Federal Government and its prosecutors have several legal tools available to target and prevent domestic terrorism. The first tool involves the use of sweeping investigations and surveillance. This tactic allows for the review of any accusations or possible threats of domestic terrorism through resources provided to them through these investigations. The second tool is to deploy confidential informants and undercover officers. These informants infiltrate possible groups planning violent actions and stop them before they are carried out. An example of this was an infiltration of the neo-fascist group Proud Boys using the leader of the group, Enrique Tarrio, as a police informant. Another action used by prosecutors is to delay Miranda Warning and the Quarles Public Safety Exception. (3) This exception allows law enforcement to not administer Miranda Warnings...

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