Current Threat



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

 Domestic Terrorism

The face of domestic terrorism in the United States continued to change in 1995. The FBI identified a further decline in traditional left wing domestic extremism, and an increase in activities among extremists associated with right wing groups and special interest organizations.

Left Wing Terrorism

Over the last three decades, leftist-oriented extremist groups posed the predominant domestic terrorist threat in the United States. In the 1980s, the FBI neutralized many of these groups by arresting key members who were conducting criminal activity. The transformation of the former Soviet Union also deprived many leftist groups of a coherent ideology or spiritual patron. As a result, membership and support for these groups waned.

The United States still faces a threat from some leftist extremists, including Puerto Rican terrorist groups. Although Puerto Rico voted to remain within the U.S. Commonwealth in 1993, some extremists are still willing to plan and conduct terrorist acts in order to draw attention to their desire for independence.

Right Wing Terrorism

On the other side of the political spectrum, right wing extremist groups--which generally adhere to an anti-government or racist ideology--continued to attract supporters last year. Many of these recruits feel displaced by rapid changes in the U.S. culture and economy, or are seeking some form of personal affirmation. As American society continues to change, the potential for hate crimes by extremist right wing groups is an increasing concern.

The militia movement in the United States also continued to attract supporters. Several factors have contributed to the increase of this generally anti-government effort. The changing political environment, issues such as gun-control legislation, United Nations involvement in international affairs, and clashes between dissidents and law enforcement are cornerstones of militia ideology.

One product of the militia movement is common law courts. These courts--which have no legitimate legal authority--consist of self-appointed judges and juries who sometimes issue fraudulent indictments and warrants.

Some militia members believe that the U.S. Government is part of a conspiracy to create a "new world order." According to adherents, in this new order existing international boundaries will be dissolved and the world will be ruled by the United Nations. Other militia supporters believe that the federal government is either too powerful or simply illegal.

Last year, some of these militants continued to conduct paramilitary training and stockpile illegal weapons in preparation for unlawful armed action. A few of these more extreme militia members pose a potential terrorist threat.


 Special Interest Extremists

Special interest extremists continued to conduct acts of politically-oriented crime last year. Violent anti-abortion advocates were responsible for almost all of these activities.

Due to the efforts of the Department of Justice's Task Force on Violence Against Abortion Providers (TFVAAP), the number of abortion-related crimes decreased from 1994 levels. Although the number of incidents declined, the TFVAAP still investigated more than 100 violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act in 1995.

Two of the most prominent abortion-related events in 1995 included the following:

  • On February 22, 1995, Dr. Elizabeth Karlin, a physician in Madison, Wisconsin, received two death threat letters. Vincent Whitaker--an inmate at a local county jail who was serving a 67-year sentence for reckless injury with a motor vehicle--later admitted writing the letters. On September 12, 1995, Whitaker was tried and convicted of two counts of the FACE Act and sending threats through the U.S. Mail. On November 21, 1995, Whitaker was sentenced to an additional 63 months imprisonment.
  • In August 1995, John Salvi--the suspected murderer of two receptionists during a December 30, 1994, shooting spree at an abortion clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts--was declared competent to stand trial. Salvi is charged under Massachusetts law with the murders of Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, and five other counts of aggravated assault.

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, through the TFVAAP, investigates any instance in which customers or providers of reproductive health services are criminally threatened, obstructed, or injured while seeking or providing services.

International Terrorism

Foreign terrorists viewed the United States as a priority target last year. Foreign terrorists and their supporters continued to live in and travel throughout this country.

State Sponsors of Terrorism

The recognized state sponsors of international terrorism--Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Cuba, and North Korea--continue to maintain diplomatic establishments here. In the past, the FBI has investigated allegations that diplomats from some of these countries were involved in terrorist-related activities.

During the 1995 seditious conspiracy trial in New York of Egyptian Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman and several followers, one Sudanese national testified that Sudanese diplomats were aware of the conspiracy to bomb major landmarks in New York City. One Sudanese diplomat allegedly offered to help the conspirators place a bomb at the United Nations by providing diplomatic license plates. The U.S. Department of State, in coordination with the FBI, declared a diplomat at the Sudanese Mission to the United Nations persona non grata in 1996.

Formal Terrorist Groups

Supporters of formalized terrorist groups--such as the Egyptian Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya, HAMAS, and Hizballah--also continued to view the United States as an attractive refuge and staging area. Some supporters in the United States are believed to be conducting criminal activity--to include military-style training--in support of terrorist groups' objectives. With the conviction of Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman--the spiritual leader of the militant Egyptian Islamic Group--and the detention of HAMAS leader Musa Abu Marzook, it is possible that members of formal terrorist groups may be considering some form of retaliation.

Loosely-Affiliated Extremists

Finally, loosely-affiliated extremists continued to view the United States as both a staging area and a target. Some of these unilateral radicals--who adhere to the worst excesses of hatred spawned by a variety of international conflicts--have demonstrated the ability to use advanced technology in the United States, travel undetected here, and circumvent the letter and spirit of U.S. laws. These militants represent the most difficult international terrorist challenge to the law enforcement and intelligence communities.