Peter Brookes: A critical national security matter


Some news outlets have pointed out in recent days that little attention was given to the topic of terrorism at the Democratic National Convention last week. This is no surprise, as Team Obama’s record and rhetoric on terrorism has been disappointing – to say the least.

In fairness, Hillary Clinton did mention terrorism in her speech accepting the Democratic nomination, devoting five or so sentences (depending on how you count) to her plans for fighting the Islamic State.

But no matter how you see it, the statistics and trend lines on terrorist activity – especially here at home – indicate that fighting violent Islamist extremism must be given a very high priority.

Based on Heritage Foundation research, there have now been 89 Islamist terror plots against the homeland since Sept. 11, 2001. It turns out that 11 of those 89 plots have resulted in actual attacks here, taking 91 lives.

Of the 11 terror attacks that have taken place here in the homeland, 10 of them occurred during President Obama’s tenure.

(Beyond the 9/11 tragedy, the one terror attack that took place during the Bush administration was a plot to drive an SUV into a crowd of students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006, resulting in injuries but no fatalities.)

Over the course of Obama’s two terms, we endured a terror attack in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas (2009), resulting in the loss of 13 lives. We also suffered the Boston Marathon bombings (2013) which killed three people, injured more than 260 others, and led to the shooting death of an MIT police officer.

But what’s perhaps most alarming is the recent terror trend line.

Almost 30 percent – that is, 25 of the 89 domestic terrorist conspiracies – have occurred since the start of 2015, making last year the most terror plot-intensive year since 2001.

Five of those 25 domestic plots turned into terrorist attacks, all taking place since July of last year.

Let me repeat: We’ve had five terrorist strikes here in the homeland in the last 12 months.

These include the shootings at military facilities in Chattanooga (five deaths), at a workplace in San Bernardino (14 dead) and the killing of a Philadelphia police officer. There was also the stabbing of four people at the University of California, Merced.

The most recent – and deadly – attack here at home came in June at an Orlando nightclub, taking the lives of 49 people, bumping up the number of lives lost to terrorism in the United States since last summer to 68 innocent victims.

What is also notable is that of these 25 terror plots since January 2015, all of them are considered to be “homegrown” – and 21 of the 25 have some sort of connection to ISIS, usually in the form of ideological inspiration.

It’s also possible that based on current numbers and recent history – with eight plots or attacks already this year – that 2016 could end up rivaling 2015 for levels of terror activity here in the homeland. That possibility is deeply troubling.

I think we can all agree that violent Islamist terrorism isn’t a partisan issue, but rather a critical national security matter — one that demands a vigorous plan for crushing it here at home and abroad.

This article first appeared in the Boston Herald.  Dr. Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a Fort Valley resident. Follow him on Twitter @Brookes_Peter. Email: