Homegrown Muslim American terror plots have dropped sharply over the past two years, despite warnings from government officials that the threat against the U.S. is at its most "heightened state" since 9/11, a new report said.
The study, released Wednesday from North Carolina's Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, found that 20 Muslim Americans were charged in violent terrorist plots in 2011, down from 26 the year before and an uptick of 47 in 2009. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, 193 Muslim Americans have been arrested or convicted in connection with violent terrorist attacks, an average of about 20 per year.
"This number is not negligible -- small numbers of Muslim-Americans continue to radicalize each year and plot violence. However, the rate of radicalization is far less than many feared in the aftermath of 9/11," report author Charles Kurzman wrote.
Among those who have sounded warnings, the report said, are FBI Director Robert Mueller, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who have "braced Americans for a possible upsurge in Muslim-American terrorism, which has not occurred."
"Threats remain: violent plots have not dwindled to zero, and revolutionary Islamist organizations overseas continue to call for Muslim-Americans to engage in violence," said Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina. "However, the number of Muslim-Americans who have responded to these calls continues to be tiny, when compared with the population of more than 2 million Muslims in the United States and when compared with the total level of violence in the United States, which was on track to register 14,000 murders in 2011."
Of the 20 Muslims terror suspects arrested in 2011, they fit no single demographic profile: 30 percent were Arab, 25 percent were white and 15 percent were black, the study said. Thirty percent were age 30 and over, and 70 percent were U.S. citizens -- roughly on par with previous years. Additionally, 40 percent were converts, an increase from 35 percent of all cases since Sept. 11. Four of the 20 had military experience, considered an "unusually large ratio."
Viewing the total number of plots in context, Kurzman said, "the limited scale of Muslim-American terrorism in 2011 runs counter to the fears that many Americans shared in the days and months after 9/11, that domestic Muslim- American terrorism would escalate."
"The spike in terrorism cases in 2009 renewed these concerns, as have repeated warnings from U.S. government officials about a possible surge in homegrown Islamic terrorism. The predicted surge has not materialized," he wrote.
The report says government officials may continue to issue terror warnings as a precaution, but that "a byproduct of these alerts is a sense of heightened tension that is out of proportion to the actual number of terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11."