Terrorism and Homeland Security

Violent Extremism in the United States

Brian Levin
Professor of Criminal Justice, California State University, San Bernardino

Key Findings

  • The number of total terror attacks has increased since 2011 in the United States.
  • Since 9/11, 66 terror attacks were carried out by right wing extremists and 25 by Islamic extremists.
  • From 2009 to 2014, there was a one-third decline in federally prosecuted jihadist cases and a 75% decline from the previous ten years.
  • Extremists are identified as  1) ideology motivated (religious, political, hybrid) 2)psychologically dangerous (cognitively impaired, sociopath) or 3) personally motivated to benefit or seek revenge.
  • Structured right wing organizations, such as Neo-nazis, are more prominently seen in prison when compared to lone wolf, right-wing extremists.


In the hearing before the Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, and the U.S. House of Representatives called, “Terror Inmates: Countering Violent Extremism in Prison and Beyond,” Levin addressed the issue of homeland terrorism threats from jihadists and far right extremism in the context of prison and post release. This is a growing concern in the United States as the total number of terror attacks has increased since 2011 with more than twice as many of attacks being executed by right wing extremists. Levine explained both types of extremists, jihadists being a small and decreasing sub-sect of American Muslims, and right wing extremists being found in both structured national groups, such as Aryan Brotherhood, as well as acting alone. Levin discussed the types of extremists that can come from both groups, organizing them into the categories of ideology motivated (religious, political, hybrid), psychologically dangerous (cognitively impaired, sociopath), and personal benefit or revenge.

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