None of those who have conducted lethal jihadist terror attacks in the US since 9/11 emigrated from a country that is under the Trump travel ban, authors write
Editor’s Note: Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst, a vice president at New America and a professor of practice at Arizona State University. He is the author of “United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists.” David Sterman is a policy analyst at New America’s International Security Program.
Twelve terrorists have conducted deadly jihadist terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11, killing a total of 94 people. None of those twelve – who are all American citizens or legal residents – emigrated from or were born into a family that emigrated from a country that is the subject of the Trump administration’s travel ban.
Indeed, seven of the twelve terrorists are native-born U.S. citizens, hailing from cities such as Memphis and Arlington, Virginia, according to research by New America. And none of the 9/11 attackers came from any of the seven countries listed by Trump’s executive order.
New America also found that three potentially serious attacks in the US since 9/11 that did not end up killing anyone were perpetrated by terrorists from countries that are covered by Trump’s ban, two from Somalia and one from Iran.
Of the almost 400 individuals accused of jihadist terrorism crimes since 9/11 in the United States – ranging from crimes such as murder to less serious crimes such as sending small sums of money to a terrorist organization – almost half are native-born American citizens, and more than 80 percent are US citizens or legal permanent residents.
Half of the deadly attackers in the US since 9/11 come from families that trace their origins either to the United States or to Pakistan, which is not included on Trump’s travel ban list.
President Donald Trump on Friday issued an executive order banning travel to the United States from seven majority Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, which had all been identified as “countries of concern” by the Obama administration.
Of the twelve lethal terrorists in the United States since 9/11:
- Three are African-Americans
- Three are from families that hailed originally from Pakistan
- Two came from Russia as children
- One was US-born and descended from family that emigrated from the Palestinian Territories
- One emigrated from Egypt and carried out an attack a decade after arriving
- One each had families that originally came from Kuwait and Afghanistan
None of these countries are on the travel ban list.
The only lethal terrorist to immigrate to the United States as an adult and conduct an attack shortly after arriving is Tashfeen Malik, who was born in Pakistan. She entered the United States on a K-1 visa for spouses of American citizens in July 2014 and obtained her green card a year later, only a few months before she and her husband killed 14 people attending an office meeting in San Bernardino, California.
Tashfeen Malik’s entry provides no basis for Trump’s travel ban as she was born in Pakistan, a country not covered by the ban. And she was only able to enter the United States on her visa because she married Syed Rizwan Farook, an American citizen born in the United States, who conducted the attack with her.
According to a criminal complaint, Farook obtained firearms and explosives and planned terrorist attacks in California with another alleged co-conspirator years before his wife entered the country.
In addition to the 12 terrorists who carried out lethal attacks in the United States there are also 15 jihadist terrorists since 9/11 that intended to carry out lethal attacks inside the country, but were foiled. One such case involved the Nigerian “underwear bomber” who tried to blow up an American passenger jet over Detroit in 2009.
Three of these foiled attacks were perpetrated by terrorists from countries that are covered by Trump’s ban, two from Somalia and one from Iran.
Mohammed Taheri-Azar, a naturalized US citizen hailing from Iran, crashed his SUV into a crowd at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006, injuring nine people.
Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a Somali who entered the United States as a refugee, similarly plowed his car into a crowd at Ohio State in November. He was killed by police before he could kill anyone.
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While there is scant national security justification for Trump’s executive order, the order has taken its own toll on American national security.
It has played into ISIS’ narrative of a West at war with Islam.
It has undermined the trust of locals supporting American counterterrorism missions abroad by denying entry to US military translators who have been promised visas.
The ban also risks upsetting relations with Iraq at a time when the United States is relying upon the Iraqi government to help defeat ISIS.
And while it remains in effect, it wreaks havoc on those now stuck in detention, sometimes split from their families.