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Crimes Committed by Terrorist Groups: Theory, Research, and Prevention

NCJ Number
Trends in Organized Crime Volume: 9 Issue: 2 Dated: Winter 2005 Pages: 18-51
Date Published
34 pages

This article presents one part of a three-part study that examined terrorist organizations' involvement in a variety of criminal activities as an alternative means of support for their terrorist activities.


The study involved in this report was organized into three parts: 1) a secondary analysis of the American Terrorism Study (ATS) database comparing the criminality of international jihad groups with domestic right-wing groups; 2) six case studies of crimes committed by international jihad groups and domestic right-wing groups, selected from the ATS database based on frequency distributions of criminal counts filed against the groups; and 3) content analysis of the pervasive themes presented in closing arguments of the transcripts from the court cases identified in part 2 of the study. The main finding from part 1 of the study is that international jihad groups are more likely to commit aircraft and motor-vehicle related crimes, violations of explosive materials, and firearms violations than domestic right-wing groups, whereas domestic right-wing groups are more likely to commit mail fraud, racketeering, robbery/burglary, and violations involving machine guns and destructive devices than international jihad groups. In the second part of the study, the data indicate that the most successful method of detecting and prosecuting cases of terrorism is through the pursuit of conventional criminal investigations. The case studies included in the analysis suggest that the opportunities and skills associated with the criminal successes and failures of the terrorist groups are dependent on historical as well as cultural factors of the various groups. The case study examined in detail in this article discusses Robert Jay Matthews and his involvement with the Aryan Nation. References

Date Published: January 1, 2005