Terrorism Threat Assessments


I The Year in Review

II Terrorism in the United States

IV Current Threat

V Current Trends in the United States

Appendix One: Terrorism in the United States Statistics

Appendix Two: FBI Counterterrorism Responsibilities

FBI Home Page



Terrorists continued to threaten U.S. citizens and interests in the United States in 1995. The number of terrorists attacks here increased slightly over relatively low 1994 levels.

Inside the United States, the FBI recorded one act of terrorism. This act--the most destructive ever on U.S. soil--appears to have been conducted by domestic extremists with no connection to a foreign power.

The FBI also recorded one suspected act of terrorism and two terrorism preventions. One of these preventions involved thwarting the potential use of a biological weapon against law enforcement officers by a domestic group in the Midwest.

Domestic extremist rhetoric experienced an upsurge in 1995 as right wing extremist groups--many of whom adhere to reactionary, racist, or anti-semitic ideology--continued to recruit new members in the United States. Many of these supporters feel displaced by the rapidly changing U.S. culture. Others hate or fear the federal government. As demographics, economies, and lifestyles continue to transform, the potential for hate crimes and anti-government attacks by the most extreme of these right wing militants is likely to increase.

International terrorists also continued to pose a threat. State sponsors of terrorism, many formal terrorist groups, and loosely-affiliated extremists view the United States as an enemy. The United States' free society also attracts a variety of foreign extremists seeking refuge or a platform to support their terrorist activities.

In the past year, the country witnessed the re-emergence of spectacular terrorism with the Oklahoma City bombing. Large-scale attacks designed to inflict mass casualties appear to be a new terrorist method in the United States.

Extremists in the United States also continued a chilling trend by demonstrating interest in--and experimentation with--unconventional weapons. In February, two members of a Minnesota group were convicted of manufacturing the biological agent ricin in an attempt to murder law enforcement officers. In May, an Ohio man was arrested for unlawfully purchasing bubonic plague. It is still unclear why he purchased the biological agent or what he intended to do with it.

Terrorists continued to improve their ability to support or conduct violent acts. Some extremists and their followers here have demonstrated the ability to use advanced technology, travel undetected, and circumvent the letter and spirit of U.S. law.

Finally, based on the large number of apprehensions and convictions of known and suspected terrorists in 1995, some terrorist supporters may be considering acts of revenge or blackmail. As in the past, it is likely that Americans at home and abroad will be the potential target of terrorists for the foreseeable future.

The 1995 edition of Terrorism in the United States records and describes international and domestic terrorist activity occurring inside the United States over the past year. It also examines--but does not provide statistics on--other politically-oriented violence on U.S. soil, and comments on foreign events which impact domestic extremist activities.

FBI Policy and Guidelines

In accordance with U.S. counterterrorism policy, the FBI considers terrorists to be criminals. The FBI investigates terrorists in the United States under the following guidelines:

  • Domestic terrorism investigations are conducted in accordance with the Attorney General Guidelines for General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprises, and Domestic Security/Terrorism Investigations. These guidelines set forth the predication threshold and limits for investigation of U.S. persons who reside here, who are not acting on behalf of a foreign power, and who may be conducting criminal activities in support of terrorist objectives.
  • International terrorism investigations are conducted in accordance with the Attorney General Guidelines for FBI Foreign Intelligence Collection and Foreign Counterintelligence Investigations. These guidelines set forth the predication level and limits for investigating U.S. persons or foreign nationals in the United States who appear to be either acting on behalf of a foreign power and who appear to be targeting national security interests.

There is no federal law which makes terrorism a crime. Terrorists are arrested and convicted under existing criminal statutes. All suspected terrorists placed under arrest are provided access to legal council and normal judicial procedure, including Fifth Amendment privileges and a fair trial by judge and jury.


 There is no single definition of terrorism. The FBI defines terrorism as, "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."
The FBI further describes terrorism as either domestic or international, depending on the origin, base, and objectives of the terrorist organization. For the purpose of this report, the FBI will use the following definitions:

  • Domestic terrorism involves groups or individuals who are based and operate entirely within the United States and Puerto Rico without foreign direction and whose acts are directed at elements of the U.S. Government or population.
  • International terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence committed by a group or individual, who has some connection to a foreign power or whose activities transcend national boundaries, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

The FBI divides terrorist-related activity into three categories:

  • A terrorist incident is a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, in violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state, to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
  • A suspected terrorist incident is a potential act of terrorism in which responsibility for the act cannot be attributed at the time to a known or suspected terrorist group or individual.
  • A terrorism prevention is a documented instance in which a violent act by a known or suspected terrorist group or individual with the means and a proven propensity for violence is successfully interdicted through investigative activity.

The FBI investigates terrorism-related matters without regard to race, religion, national origin, or gender. Reference to individual members of any political, ethnic, or religious group in this document does not imply that all members of that group are terrorists. Terrorists represent a small criminal minority in any larger social context.