The United States faces a growing terrorism problem that will likely worsen over the next year. Based on a CSIS data set of terrorist incidents, the most significant threat likely comes from white supremacists, though anarchists and religious extremists inspired by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda could present a potential threat as well. Over the rest of 2020, the terrorist threat in the United States will likely rise based on several factors, including the November 2020 presidential election.
On June 3, 2020, federal authorities arrested three individuals allegedly associated with the “boogaloo” movement, a loosely-organized group of extremists preparing for a civil war, for conspiring to cause violence in Las Vegas and possessing an improvised incendiary device. Less than a week later, law enforcement officials near Richmond, VA, arrested Harry H. Rogers, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, for driving a vehicle into peaceful protesters. Around the same time, members of a Brooklyn anarchist group urged its supporters to conduct “rebellion” against the government. Extremists from all sides flooded social media with disinformation, conspiracy theories, and incitements to violence in response to the protests following the death of George Floyd, swamping Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms.
This CSIS brief examines the state of terrorism in the United States. It asks two sets of questions. First, what are the most significant types of terrorism in the United States, and how has the terrorism threat in the U.S. homeland evolved over time? Second, what are the implications for terrorism over the next year? To answer these questions, this analysis compiles and analyzes an original data set of 893 terrorist plots and attacks in the United States between January 1994 and May 2020.