Decline in Prosecutions for
National Internal Security and Terrorism

Table 1. Criminal Prosecutions for
National Internal Security/Terrorism
Number Year-to-date 128
Percent Change from previous year -28.6
Percent Change from 5 years ago -33.1
Percent Change from 10 years ago -74.8
Percent Change from 20 years ago 237

Criminal prosecutions in the area of national internal security and terrorism have declined steadily since FY 2002, but are still significantly higher than pre-9/11 levels. The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during the first eight months of FY 2014 the government reported 128 new national internal security/terrorism prosecutions. If this activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 192 for this fiscal year. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this estimate is down 28.6 percent over the past fiscal year when the number of prosecutions totaled 269, and has fallen 84.1 percent since the peak of 1,208 reached in FY 2002.

The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with national internal se offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (see Table 1).

Compared to five years ago when there were 287, the estimate of FY 2014 prosecutions of this type is down 33.1 percent. Prosecutions over the past year are much lower than they were ten years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are down 74.8 percent from the level of 762 reported in 2004 but up 237 percent from the level of 57 reported in 1994.

The long term trend in national internal security/terrorism prosecutions going back to FY 1994 is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of national internal security/terrorism prosecutions of this type recorded each fiscal year. Projected figures for the current fiscal year are shown. Each presidential administration is distinguished by the color of the bars. To view trends month-by-month rather than year-by-year, see TRAC's monthly report series for the latest data.

Bar chart of shortyear

Figure 1. Criminal National Internal Security/Terrorism Prosecutions over the Last 20 Years

Leading Program Categories

Within the broad category of national internal security/terrorism, cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.

Case types within national internal security/terrorism are

  • Internal Security Offenses

  • Terrorism (Anti)-All Others

  • Terrorism (Anti)-Environmental

  • Terrorism (Anti)-Identity Theft

  • Terrorism (Anti)-Immigration

  • Terrorism (Anti)-Non-OCTETF Drugs

  • Terrorism (Anti)-OCDETF Drugs

  • Terrorism (Anti)-Violent Crimes

  • Terrorism-Critical Infrastructure Protection/National Security

  • Terrorism-Domestic

  • Terrorism-International

  • Terrorism-Related Export Enforcement

  • Terrorism-Related Financing

  • Terrorism-Related Hoaxes

The single largest number of prosecutions of these matters through May 2014 was for "Terrorism-Domestic", accounting for 39.8 percent of prosecutions.

As shown in Figure 2, the second largest number of matters were prosecutions filed under the program area of "Terrorism-Related Hoaxes " (16.4%) . The "Other" category in Figure 2 is comprised of a diverse group of programs. The largest specific programs within the "Other" category were: Internal Security Offenses" (11.7%), "Terrorism-Critical Infrastructure Protection/National Security" (11.7%), "Terrorism-Related Export Enforcement" (8.6%), "Terrorism-International" (7.8%), "Terrorism-Related Financing" (3.9%). See Figure 2.

Leading Investigative Agencies

The lead investigative agency for national internal security/terrorism prosecutions through May 2014 was "Justice - Federal Bureau of Investigation" accounting for 69.5 percent of prosecutions referred.

As shown in Figure 3, additional agencies with substantial numbers of national internal security/terrorism referrals were: Homeland Security - Immigration and Customs Enforcement (7.8%), "Homeland Security - Secret Service" (7%), "Homeland Security - Other" (3.9%), "Postal Service" (2.3%).

Pie chart of progsortlabel

Figure 2. Specific Types of Prosecution
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Figure 3. Prosecutions by Investigative Agency

Top Ranked Lead Charges

Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of national internal security/terrorism matters filed in U.S. District Court during the first eight months of FY 2014.

Note: There were 136 other lead charges which were not individually ranked. See TRAC's latest monthly report if you want all lead charges included in rankings for the latest month, or use TRACFed's criminal analyzer tool to generate a complete listing for any year (subscription required).

Table 2. Top Charges Filed
Lead Charge Count Rank
18 USC 844 - Explosives - Importation and storage of explosives 19 1
18 USC 1038 - False Information and Hoaxes 10 2
Other US Code Section 9 3
18 USC 871 - Threats against President and successors 7 4
18 USC 2339B - Provide material support to foreign terrorist orgs 7 4
18 USC 876 - Mailing threatening communications 5 6
18 USC 1001 - Fraud/false statements or entries generally 5 6
26 USC 5861 - Tax on Making Firearms - Prohibited acts 5 6
50 USC 1702 - War and National Defense - Presidential Authorities 5 6
18 USC 2339 - Harboring or Concealing Terrorists 4 10
18 USC 2339A - Providing material support to terrorists 4 10
22 USC 2778 - Control of arms exports and imports 4 10
50 USC 1705 - International Emergency Economic Powers 4 10
  • "Explosives - Importation and storage of explosives" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 844) was the most frequent recorded lead charge.

  • Ranked 2nd in frequency was the lead charge "False Information and Hoaxes" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1038.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

Table 3. Top Districts
Judicial District Count Rank
D. C. 7 1
Penn, E 6 2
Tenn, W 6 2
Arizona 5 4
Cal, C 5 4
Cal, S 5 4
Mich, E 5 4
Fla, M 4 8
Fla, S 4 8
N Mexico 4 8
Oregon 4 8
Texas, W 4 8
Virg, E 4 8

Understandably, there is great variation in the number of national internal security/terrorism prosecutions in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts. The districts registering the largest number of prosecutions of this type during the first eight months of FY 2014 are shown in Table 3.

  • The District of Washington, D.C. (Washington) — with 7 prosecutions — was the most active through May 2014.

  • The Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) and Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) ranked 2nd.

Report Date: September 2, 2014
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Copyright 2014, TRAC Reports, Inc.