While Definition of Terrorism Fuzzy, Spike in These Prosecutions in 2021 Continues into FY 2022
(19 Jan 2022) US federal prosecutors have filed more prosecutions that fall under the charge group of “terrorism/national internal security” in FY 2021 than any year since the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. According to case-by-case data on federal prosecutions from the Justice Department obtained after successful court litigation by TRAC through the Freedom of Information Act, 717 such charges were filed between October 2020 and September 2021—the highest since FY 2005. The most recent month of data for November 2021 shows a continued trend of high numbers of these types of prosecutions; 75 such prosecutions were filed in federal court that month.

A large number of new prosecutions in this category continue to show ties to the Capitol Breach cases that TRAC reported on in a report from April 2021. For instance, the top charge in November 2021 was for “temporary residence and office of President” (18 USC 1752), a common charge used in court against defendants in the Capitol Breach cases. Indeed, all 30 of these prosecutions were filed in Washington, D.C.

However, not all of the prosecutions filed in November 2021 were directly related to the Capitol Breach cases. And in general, there is a lack of consensus even among federal law enforcement agencies as to the definition of terrorism offenses. A total of 26 prosecutions were recorded as being filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina for the rarely-used charge of trafficking in contraband cigarettes (18 USC 2342). According to a press release issued by the Department of Justice, defendants in the case are accused of attempting to “defraud the federal government, the State of North Carolina, the State of New York, the State of New Jersey, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, of millions of dollars in tax revenues from the sale of cigarettes.”.

Although cigarette trafficking may not seem at first to fall under the umbrella of terrorism/internal security charges, in the press release the federal prosecutor in the case claimed that funds collected through this type of illegal activity “could be a source of funding for terrorists.” TRAC’s data show that only one other charge for this offense occurred since the start of FY 2021 (in October 2020); that charge was filed in April 2021. None of the prior prosecutions under this statute over the past five years were categorized by federal prosecutors as terrorism.

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In addition to these most recent figures, TRAC continues to offer free monthly reports on selected government agencies such as the FBI, ATF, DHS and the IRS. TRAC's reports also monitor program categories such as immigration, drugs, weapons, and terrorism. Even more detailed criminal enforcement information for the period from FY 1986 through November 2021 is available to TRACFed subscribers via Express and Going Deeper tools. Go to for more information.

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