The FBI says it is investigating more than 2,000 cases tied to groups designated by the United States as foreign terrorist organizations, a figure that reflects the persistent threat posed by outfits such as al-Qaida and Hezbollah.
There are currently 68 individual groups on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, the vast majority jihadi outfits such as al-Qaida.
The designation allows the U.S. to freeze the groups’ and their members’ assets and investigate their activities.
The jihadist terrorist threat to the United States is relatively limited. The threat posed by ISIS is receding, and the number of terrorism-related cases in the United States has declined substantially since its peak in 2015, though the nature and level of the threat are unlikely to change in a fundamental manner.
The most likely threat to the United States comes from terrorists inspired by ISIS or in contact with its virtual recruitment networks, as opposed to ISIS-directed attacks of the sort seen in Paris in 2015 and Brussels in 2016.
The most typical threat to the United States remains homegrown rather than from infiltrating foreign nationals.
The threat to the United States from jihadist terrorism remains relatively limited. New America’s “Terrorism in America After 9/11” project tracks the 449 cases of individuals who have been “charged” with jihadist terrorism-related activity in the United States since September 11, 2001.
The international terrorism investigations are in turn divided into about 1,000 cases each of so-called homegrown violent extremism and Islamic State.
The rest is made up of “thousands of other cases associated with foreign terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and Hezbollah,” the FBI said.
In the post-9/11 era “they’re obligated to open and investigate every plausible threat,” said David Gomez, a former FBI special agent and terrorism investigator.
In the 17 years since the 9/11 attacks, individuals motivated by jihadist ideology have killed 104 people inside the United States. Every one of those deaths is a tragedy, but they are not national catastrophes as 9/11 was.
The death toll from jihadist terrorism over the past 17 years is far lower than what even the most optimistic of analysts projected in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Al-Qaeda and its breakaway faction, ISIS, have failed to direct a successful attack in the United States since the 9/11 attacks.
Indeed, no foreign terrorist organization has carried out a successful attack in the United States since 9/11, and none of the perpetrators of the 13 lethal jihadist attacks in the United States since 9/11 received training from a foreign terrorist group.
The FBI’s three largest field offices — in Washington, New York, and Los Angeles — are probably responsible for as much as 80% of the investigations, Gomez said.
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