Report: Most Foreign-Born Terrorists Become Radicalized After Living in the US

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

According to an unclassified, internal Department of Homeland Security report, most foreign-born terrorists operating in the United States do not become radicalized until several years after entering the country, which is the antithesis of Donald Trump’s reasoning for his travel ban.


ABC News reports that the findings “may undercut the ability of officials to prevent their entry to the U.S. through the vetting and screening process, as well as the counter-terrorism argument behind President Donald Trump’s travel ban.”

MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show broke the news of the report, and ABC News independently obtained and verified it, reporting that it is “consistent with previous non-governmental data and analysis that has been released over the past few years.”

From ABC News:

A DHS spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the unclassified, internal report, calling it an “official DHS assessment” used to inform federal, state and local partners on the “trends of foreign-born individuals engaged in terrorism activity in the Homeland.”

Homeland Security downplayed the significance of the report, pointing out that the information was derived only from “unclassified, open source materials” and does not include information from “historical or current investigative case data” or “current intelligence from classified data.”

It was published internally on March 1, 2017 and was coordinated with numerous agencies, including the Department of State, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

John Cohen is an ABC News contributor and former acting undersecretary for intelligence at DHS. He said that if the report was inconsistent with current intelligence reporting, it would have been resolved in the clearance process before it was published.

Trump is expected to unveil a revised executive order on immigration any day now.


As previously reported on The Root, Trump’s previous order, which banned refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, was suspended by a federal judge on Feb. 3, and an appeals court denied a Justice Department request to reinstate the order.


At the signing of the original order Jan. 27, Trump said: “I am establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We don’t want them here. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”

Cohen told ABC News that the report “undermines” the reasoning behind Trump’s ban because terrorist attacks are primarily carried out by people already in the U.S., not those coming from overseas.


“This intelligence assessment absolutely undermines the justification for the proposed travel ban,” Cohen said.

More from ABC News:

The findings are constant with past reports and studies on this issue, like the George Washington University program on extremism, which found that the “vast majority” of ISIS attacks in the U.S. were carried out by U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Last year, then-Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson said in Congressional testimony that the terror landscape had shifted from terrorist-directed attacks, to a world that also includes the threat of “terrorist-inspired attacks—attacks by those who live among us in the homeland and self-radicalize, inspired by terrorist propaganda on the internet.”

“By their nature, terrorist-inspired attacks are often difficult to detect by our intelligence and law enforcement communities,” he added.


Cohen said that by focusing on banning people from certain countries, rather than the psychological and behavioral characteristics that draw people to radicalization, authorities could miss the “key threat.”

The report was released by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which based its findings on the examination of 88 people who either conducted or planned attacks in the U.S., provided funds to overseas terrorist organizations or traveled to join a terrorist group, ABC News reports.


More from ABC News:

The report also found that nearly half of the foreign-born, U.S.-based violent extremists examined were less than 16 years old when they entered the country.

The majority of those lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years before they were either killed or were charged.

For example, the report cites, a man from Bangladesh who came to the U.S. when he was 11 months old and lived in the country for 24 years before traveling to Syria and joining ISIS, as a well as Cuban man who came to the U.S. in 1989, but didn’t start displaying signs of radicalization until 2015.


According to ABC News, a previous DHS study found that in most cases, extremists began radicalizing on average 13 years after coming to the U.S.

Read more at ABC News.



It’s almost like discrimination, alienation, harassment, inequality and religious bigotry are things that are more likely to cause people to become radicalized or violent, rather than less. Huh.