Terrorists right and left: Empirical issues in profiling American terrorists

  • Smith B
  • Morgan K
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Although recent efforts have been made to profile American terrorists, these efforts have been hampered by severe methodological difficulties, from the way in which terrorism was defined, to the identification of potential cases, to the methods used in sample selection. The current study utilizes a data base created from a list of persons indicted under the FBI's Counterterrorism Program from 1980 through 1989. This information was supplemented by case files from federal district courts and the U.S. Department of Justice and verified through demographic and sentencing data on each subject from the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. The sample includes over 200 terrorists from 21 terrorist organizations, who had been indicted for over 1300 viola- tions of federal criminal law. Analysis of the data reveals substantial differ- ences from traditionally accepted descriptions of terrorists. Of singular inter- est is the finding that American terrorists tend to be significantly older, on average, then previous studies have suggested. Results of the study also re- veal substantial differences between left- and right-wing terrorists; ideology appears to have a significant impact on their demographic and tactical characteristics.

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  • Brent L. Smith

  • Kathryn D. Morgan

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