Terrorism Prosecutions Continue To Decline

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during October 2014 the government reported 21 new prosecutions in the area of national internal security/terrorism. As shown in Figure 1, while there is some month-to-month variation in the number of this type of prosecution over the last decade, the trend is one of decline since reaching a peak just after 9/11. In the 12 months following 9/11, there were on average 101 prosecutions of this type each month. In comparison, during the most recent 12 month period the number of average monthly prosecutions had fallen to 18.

Bar and line plot of FYMON

Figure 1. Monthly Trends in National Internal Security/Terrorism Prosecutions

The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of national internal security/terrorism prosecutions recorded on a month-to-month basis. Where a prosecution was initially filed in U.S. Magistrate Court and then transferred to the U.S. District Court, the magistrate filing date was used since this provides an earlier indicator of actual trends. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out.

These figures are based on case-by-case information obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys.

Types of Prosecutions and Their Location

The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in October 2014 was for "Terrorism-Critical Infrastructure Protection", accounting for 42.9 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Terrorism-Domestic" (19%), "Terrorism-Related Hoaxes" (19%), "Internal Security Offenses" (9.5%), "Terrorism-Related Export Enforcement" (4.8%) and "Terrorism-Related Financing" (4.8%). See Figure 2.

There were no prosecutions recorded that involved international terrorism.

The lead investigative agency for national internal security/terrorism prosecutions in October 2014 was the FBI, which accounted for 57 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of such referrals were: DHS (24%), the U.S. Marshals Service (10%), the DEA (5%) and the State Department (5%). See Figure 3.

Pie chart of progcatlabel
Figure 2. Specific Types of Prosecutions
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Figure 3. Prosecutions by Investigative Agency

Few of the lead charges that were recorded are those that would normally be associated with terrorism cases. One case out of the 21 total involved a charge of providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations (18 USC 2339B). That prosecution took place in the Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro) where the individual was specifically charged with harboring or concealing terrorists.

A second case involving the control of arms exports and imports (22 USC 2778) was filed in the Middle District of Florida (Tampa). The actual offense involved the claim of uttering counterfeit obligations or securities.

A prosecution for interstate communications (18 USC 875) was classified as domestic terrorism involving threats. Filed in the Northern District of Mississippi (Oxford), that case was flagged as a civil rights - racial violence case.

With a total of 4 defendants, the most common charge listed was providing or possessing contraband in prison. Each of these four cases was filed in the Western District of Tennessee (Memphis). That district saw two other cases referred by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that were classified by prosecutors as involving critical infrastructure protection, although the defendants were only charged for the immigration offense of illegal re-entry.

A complete list of the lead charges are shown in Table 1, while the districts with terrorism prosecutions in October 2014 are listed in Table 2.

Lead Charge Count Rank
18 USC 1791 - Providing or possessing contraband in prison 4 1
08 USC 1326 - Reentry of deported alien 2 2
18 USC 111 - Assaulting, resisting, impeding certain officers 2 2
18 USC 1038 - False Information and Hoaxes 2 2
18 USC 1546 - Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents 2 2
18 USC 115 - Influencing, impeding, or retaliating against a Federal official 1 6
18 USC 844 - Explosives - Importation and storage of explosives 1 6
18 USC 875 - Interstate Communications 1 6
18 USC 876 - Mailing threatening communications 1 6
18 USC 1542 - False statement in application and use of passport 1 6
18 USC 1621 - Perjury generally 1 6
18 USC 2339B - Provide material support to foreign terrorist orgs 1 6
18 USC 3583 - Term of supervised release after imprisonment 1 6
22 USC 2778 - Control of arms exports and imports 1 6
Table 1. Top Charges Filed

Judicial District Count Rank
Tenn, W 6 1
Cal, C 2 2
Arizona 1 3
Cal, E 1 3
Conn 1 3
D. C. 1 3
Fla, M 1 3
Guam 1 3
Ill, S 1 3
Ind, N 1 3
Mass 1 3
Mich, W 1 3
Miss, N 1 3
N Car, M 1 3
Tenn, M 1 3
Table 2. Districts with
Terrorism Prosecutions

Report Date: December 12, 2014
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Copyright 2014, TRAC Reports, Inc.