The Terrorist Attack in Texas and the Threat from Abroad-Born Terrorists

Terrorist attacks like Akram's show that there are a few similar threads that go across them.

On the morning of January 15, 2022, Malik Faisal Akram kidnapped four people at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. One of the captives was released by Akram, while the other three escaped. Akram was shot dead by FBI officers as they entered the synagogue. As it turned out, Akram's terrorist strike was a success, and no innocent persons were killed or injured. Even Nevertheless, the act carried out by Akram offers some important lessons and insights on the phenomenon of homegrown terrorism.

At the end of December, Akram presumably arrived in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, although he may have also entered the country on a tourist visa. Most nationals of more than 40 countries are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, which eliminates the need for a visa for short-term visits to the United States. For the Visa Waiver Program, 40 countries are included because they have low rates of illegal immigration, share security data with the U.S. government, and have similar economic development.

It's possible that Akram was not on the notoriously faulty terrorist databases because British intelligence studied him at some time but concluded that he was not a threat. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) system, which Visa Waiver Program passengers use to apply online for preapproval, certainly didn't stop Akram from flying here for this reason, one of several. In theory, Akram would have been flagged by ESTA's biographic background check, and it may have preserved records of his terrorist inquiry, unless he traveled on phony papers. In 2012, Akram was convicted of theft and harassment and sentenced to time behind bars.

Security and verification procedures are clearly not ideal. But because he hadn't been charged with any terrorist charges and had committed his previous crimes years ago, Akram should have been on the radar. The government is expected to strengthen ESTA in reaction to Akram's attack, but that is not going to be sufficient. The Department of Homeland Security will continue to implement policies that might have deterred some prior terrorists in order to combat future threats. However, if someone has not previously been involved in any criminal or terrorist activity, no screening mechanism can prevent him from entering the United States. This does not mean that travel should be prohibited, nor does it mean that the government should not employ cost-benefit-tested security measures; it just means that we should not hold ourselves to unrealistic standards.

Fortunately, Akram's strike did not result in any deaths. A total of 3,040 people were killed and 17,059 were injured in 198 terrorist acts on American soil between January 1, 1975, and January 15, 2022, all of which were carried out by foreign-born individuals. Injuries to the terrorists who carried out the attacks aren't included in those numbers. Thankfully, Akram's presence did not result in an increase in the number of terrorists or casualties. Terrorists who were born outside the United States had an annual probability of murdering someone in a terrorist act of roughly 1 in 4.4 million and an annual risk of wounding someone of around 1 in 775,000.

Out of the almost half a billion international visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program, thirteen terrorists perpetrated or attempted terrorist acts in the United States. For every 39 million people who enter a hospital, one terrorist gets admitted. When he carried out a religiously motivated assassination in Arizona in 1990, Glen Cusford Francis was the sole terrorist to enter the country via the Visa Waiver Program. Immigrating to Canada in the 1980s, Francis was granted Canadian citizenship, allowing him to visit the US without a visa.

In the United Kingdom, Akram was born. The Visa Waiver Program was used by all five of the terrorists born in the United Kingdom. The only people they've ever killed or hurt are themselves. Islamists made up four of the five terrorists, and the fifth plotted to kill Donald Trump in 2016 while he was running for president. Terrorists are known to suffer from mental health issues, and at least two of them appear to have had major issues.

Terrorist attacks like Akram's show that there are a few similar threads that go across them.

The first thing to keep in mind is that most terrorists fail to kill people. 143 of the 198 foreign-born terrorists who have carried out assaults since 1975, or 72 percent, have not killed anyone. Failure to kill was often a result of incapacity, indecision, or mental illness, as in the case of the Texans. It is not uncommon for terrorists to be motivated by a belief in a particular religion, ideology, or political ideology, but these beliefs appear to be associated with other traits that make murder less likely.

Terrorists, on the other hand, are more likely to attack Jews. With a few significant exceptions, foreign-born terrorists are less likely to target Jews. Terrorists who are natives of the United States are more prone to attack Jewish targets. Anti-persistence Semitism's into the third decade of the 21st century is a surprising fact, but we should expect it to continue.

Third, foreign-born terrorists seldom reach the United States through the illegal immigration channels. Despite the repeated warnings of Todd Bensman, most foreign-born terrorists are able to enter the country legitimately rather than illegally, despite this. Terrorists who entered the United States illegally have never murdered or wounded anybody on American territory. Akram found it simpler to fly into the United States via New York than it was to travel to Central America, cross Mexico on foot, and pay a smuggler thousands of dollars to be captured by Border Patrol in the Colleyville assault, which took place in Texas. Illegal immigration is a problem, but terrorism isn't one of the reasons to worry about it.

Fourth, there will never be a perfect way to evaluate and screen suspects in a terrorist investigation. There are much more non-terrorists screened out than terrorists, and that's a reasonable price to pay given the limited number of terrorists in the world and the potential harm they may cause. A certain degree of danger is necessary, no matter how unpleasant it may be for the victims.

Terrorism and immigration are intertwined, and it's critical that the government doesn't overreact or underreact to potential dangers. Overreactions are becoming more widespread in today's society. Because of Akram's anti-Semitic attack in Texas, we can see why terrorism is both terrifying and frequently ineffective.

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