Sorry, Trump: Biggest U.S. terror threats come from white supremacists

Heather Heyer died in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a car driven by a white supremacist plowed into a group of protestors. But she wasn’t the only one who died at the hands of right-wing activists.

The Trump administration is trying to peddle tired stories and false conclusions about foreign-born terrorists as a way to argue against immigration, but these numbers are real: The most terrorist deaths in this country are committed by U.S.-born, right-wing white supremacists.

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism finds that the number of right-wing, terror-related deaths doubled in 2017. Extremists killed 34 people in 2017.

Unlike 2016, a year dominated by the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida, committed by an Islamic extremist, a majority of the 2017 murders were committed by right-wing extremists, primarily white supremacists, as has typically been the case most years.

Yet Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are touting different figures, claiming that most terrorism convictions are of foreign-born terrorists. A new report from the Trump administration Department of Justice claims that three out of four individuals convicted on international terrorism charges in the U.S. were foreign-born.

The report restricted the definition of “terrorists” to those who are influenced by movements outside the U.S. (“international terrorism” included only Muslim groups) and did not include right-wing extremists. The report was even disingenuous enough to include people who committed acts in a foreign country and were brought to the United States to stand trial. So of course many of those people were born elsewhere. But they certainly aren’t immigrants. As House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer pointed out in a statement criticizing the DoJ report:

Their report cannot be taken seriously because it is so deeply misleading. The fraction of immigrants who engage in terrorism is minuscule, barely registering against the overwhelming share who contribute positively to our economy and national security. The report counts those who committed terrorist acts overseas and were brought here to face trial – such individuals are not “immigrants” by any stretch of the imagination.

I’m sure it’s merely a coincidence that this report was issued at the same time congressional negotiations are taking place over immigration and the fate of “Dreamers,” or those affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

The Trump administration figures were so silly that very few were buying the claims.

Let’s go back to real facts. Here are a few other key findings from the ADL report:

  • The white supremacist murders included several killings linked to the alt right as that movement expanded its operations in 2017 from the internet into the physical world—raising the likely possibility of more such violent acts in the future.
  • An Islamic extremist still committed the single deadliest incident in 2017: the New York City bike path vehicular homicide attack, which killed eight people. Adherents of several different extremist movements, including white supremacists, anti-government extremists, and black nationalists, have also used vehicles to commit attacks in the U.S. in the past several years.
  • Firearms remain the most common weapon of choice for extremists committing deadly acts in 2017, followed by vehicles and stabbing/cutting implements.

A piece in The Atlantic further explained the ADL report and described numerous instances when white supremacists killed, attacked, or tried to attack African-Americans, Jews, and other minorities.

Global totals may tell a very different story, but in the United States far-right extremist murders far exceed those carried out by Islamic extremists over the last decade: 71 percent of all murders were carried out by right-wing extremists, and 26 percent can be linked to Islamic extremists. …

It is important to note that the deaths described here represent merely the tip of a pyramid of extremist violence and crime in the United States; for each person actually killed by an extremist, many more are wounded or injured in attempted murders and assaults. Every year, police uncover and prevent a wide variety of extremist plots and conspiracies with lethal intentions. Moreover, extremists engage in a wide variety of other crimes related to their causes, from threats and harassment to white collar crime.

Both the Justice Department report and the ADL report don’t include victims of gun violence, such as the 58 people killed in October in the Las Vegas shooting massacre. There’s a whole other group of terrorists to study.

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