Murder and Extremism in the U.S.

Since 2008, the ADL Center on Extremism (COE) has worked to identify and track as many as possible of these domestic extremist-related murders, regardless of the motive or the ideology, and to identify past extremist-related murders dating back to 1970.

Domestic extremists of many types pose significant problems in the U.S., from incitement and harassment to hate crimes and terrorism, but reliable data is often scarce, and this can make it more difficult to understand or respond to issues related to extremism. Since 2015, COE has used its data on extremist-related murders to release annual reports on such killings to help people understand one of the most severe threats that extremists can pose: the taking of human lives.

Domestic extremists—extremists who are U.S. citizens or longtime permanent residents—regularly commit murders to further their causes, using deadly force against perceived enemies ranging from government officials to religious or racial minorities. These are the extremist-related killings with which people may be most familiar.

In addition, extremists also often commit murders in the service of a group or gang they may belong to—targeting a rival group member, for example, or even a suspected informant in their own ranks. Extremists can also commit murders while engaging in non-ideological criminal activities ranging from home invasions to domestic violence. This is especially true for some types of extremists, such as members of white supremacist prison gangs, which also operate as organized crime.

In some cases, the motive for murders connected to extremists may never be discovered, leaving one to speculate on the reason for the violence.

This report includes all these different types of killings, as each is important for different reasons. The data we provide is transparent, so it is possible to distinguish ideologically motivated killings from other types.

In recent years, extremists from the far right (such as white nationalists or sovereign citizens), the far left (such as Black nationalists or anarchists), Islamist extremist movements, and other, more obscure causes or groups have all committed murders in the United States. Killings connected to all such ideologies are included in these annual reports if such murders occur in a given year.

Each report also contains updated statistics from previous years, where applicable, as the extremist connections to some killings can sometimes take months or years to emerge. Our report on extremist murders in 2021 initially identified 29 extremist-related killings for that year, while our report for 2022 identified 25 murders. Our most recent statistics now stand at 35 extremist-related murders for 2021 and 27 for 2022. Thus, the figures given here for 2023 are also likely to increase over time.

It is important to note these statistics are just one metric of extremist violence and crime. Every year, extremists in the U.S. are involved in terrorist plots and acts, armed standoffs, shootouts with police, hate crimes, scams and cons, threats and harassment and a wide variety of other criminal acts. In late 2023, for example, ADL released a comprehensive report on right-wing extremist terrorism in the United States from 2017-2022 that includes many incidents not detailed in these annual murder-related reports because they did not result in fatalities.[1]

ADL’s regularly updated Hate, Extremism, Antisemitism and Terrorism (H.E.A.T.) map keeps track of some of the more serious of these extremist-related incidents, including extremist murders but also terrorist incidents and extremist-related shootouts. It also contains other important types of data related to hate or extremism, such as white supremacist events and propaganda distribution, antisemitic incidents, and anti-LGBTQ+ incidents across the United States.[2]


Policy Recommendations
We need a whole-of-government approach to address the threat of violent extremism. The framework that ADL has created — the PROTECT plan — is a comprehensive, seven-part plan to mitigate the threat posed by domestic extremism and domestic terrorism while protecting civil rights and civil liberties. Together, focusing on these seven categories can have an immediate and deeply significant impact in preventing and countering domestic terrorism— more so than any one action, policy, or law— and can do so while protecting civil rights and liberties and ensuring that government overreach does not harm the same vulnerable people and communities that these extremists target. Our suggestions come under these seven areas:

Prioritize Preventing and Countering Domestic Terrorism

Resource According to the Threat

Oppose Extremists in Government Service

Take Public Health and Other Domestic Terrorism Prevention Measures

End the Complicity of Social Media in Facilitating Extremism

Create an Independent Clearinghouse for Online Extremist Content

Target Foreign White Supremacist Terrorist Groups for Sanctions

Prioritize Preventing and Countering Domestic Terrorism
First, we urge Congress to adopt a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to preventing and countering domestic terrorism.

·  In June 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration released the first-ever National Strategy to Counter Domestic Terrorism, an ambitious plan to meet the rising threat of domestic violent extremism, which since 2019, the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have repeatedly identified as the most persistent and lethal terrorist threat to the homeland.

·  The strategy is laudable, and a step in the right direction. However, many critical details were left unaddressed. ADL worked with partners to press the Administration for further details into how the plan would be implemented, and the steps that should be taken to ensure protection for civil rights and civil liberties. We welcomed the fact sheet released at the two-year anniversary. However, Congress must push for further details and departments and agencies must create their own implementation plans for the Strategy.

·  The White House should name a senior level Domestic Terrorism Director at the National Security Council whose exclusive, full-time focus is addressing domestic terrorism and hate-motivated violence in the United States.

·  The appointment and public announcement would send a message to the American people – and specifically those targeted by domestic violent extremism – that this remains an unwavering priority for the Administration.

·  In September 2022, the White House held the United We Stand Summit to address hate-fueled violence. Bringing together impacted communities with experts on hate and extremism is a critical effort. We urge the Administration and Congress to work together to ensure that the United We Stand effort is an ongoing, fully funded, and fully supported endeavor.

·  The Biden-Harris Administration released a National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism in May 2023, which notes the connection between violent extremism, white nationalist conspiracy theories, and attacks against Jewish communities and other targeted groups, specifically that “our intelligence agencies have determined that domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy—including antisemitism—is the greatest terrorist threat to our Homeland today.”

·  The National Strategy lays out more than 200 policy proposals to holistically combat the problem.

·  ADL welcomed the release of the historic and comprehensive U.S. strategy, as well as an update in October in which eight federal agencies clarified—for the first time in writing—that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits certain forms of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and related forms of discrimination in federally funded programs and activities.

·  The two-page annual threat assessment on drivers of transnational violent extremism released in May 2023 by the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center was a laudable first step. However, we urge the intelligence and law enforcement community to provide a more comprehensive assessment in future iterations. The 2024 review should be on par with the rigor and robustness that is typical of intelligence assessments.

·  For the strategy to succeed, we urge Congress to commit to its implementation.

·  See ADL’s COMBAT Plan for a full spectrum of recommendations to directly tackle antisemitism on the international, federal, and state level.

·  We urge robust funding for programs like the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). Difficult funding decisions need to be made across all areas of public policy, but efforts to counter serious threats from domestic violent extremism must be top priorities. At a time of increased vulnerability to threats of hate-motivated violence by domestic extremists, Congress should significantly increase funding for non-profit religious institutions and other non-profit organizations that government and law enforcement authorities objectively determine are at high risk of attack to no less than $500 million for FY 2024 and $500 million FY2025. Funding is especially critical as swatting incidents and hoax bomb threats targeting synagogues and Jewish communal institutions have occurred over the past year.

·  The NSGP provides non-profits with the capacity to increase their defense against these threats, including physical security and cybersecurity capacity and coordination.  Despite recent increases in the NSGP program, as extremism threats continue to rise, the need continues to be greater than the resources provided, as outlined in previous Presidential budget requests. In FY 2023, FEMA received $675 million in grant applications, yet only 42% were funded

Resource According to the Threat
We must ensure that the authorities and resources the government uses to address violent threats are proportionate to the risk of the lethality of those threats. In other words, allocation of resources must never be politicized but rather based on transparent and objective security concerns.

·  Congress has been unable to pass the bipartisan Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (DTPA) to enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism by formally authorizing offices to address domestic terrorism and requiring law enforcement agencies to regularly report on domestic terrorist threats. Congress should reconsider the DTPA in this Congress, or at minimum, ensure that those offices are created, that they have the resources they need, and that they deploy those resources in a manner proportionate to existing threats. Further, the transparency that comes with regular reporting is crucial for civil society, Congress, and the public writ large to help oversee the national security process and hold leaders accountable.

·  Congress must exercise careful oversight to ensure that no resources are expended on counterterrorism efforts targeting protected political speech or association. Investigations and other efforts to mitigate the threat should be data-driven and proportionate to the violent threat posed by violent extremist movements.

·  Data drives policy, and as such, Congress must empower high-quality, comprehensive data to understand threats related to hate and democracy. For example, the annual FBI hate crimes statistics demonstrate a systematic gap in reporting by law enforcement agencies. This gap must be filled, including through support for hate crimes data collection resources and requirements for mandatory reporting by law enforcement agencies.

Oppose Extremists in Government Service
It is essential that we recognize the potential for harm when extremists gain positions of power, including in government, law enforcement, and the military.

·  To the extent permitted by law and consistent with Constitutional protections, government should take steps to ensure that individuals engaged in violent extremist activity or associated with violent extremist movements, including the white nationalist movement and the militia movement, are deemed unsuitable for employment at the federal, state, and local levels — including in law enforcement. Appropriate steps must also be taken to address any current employees, who, upon review, match these criteria.

·  To the extent permitted by law and consistent with Constitutional protections, government should take steps to ensure that individuals engaged in violent extremist activity or associated with violent extremist movements including the white nationalist movement and the militia movement, are not given security clearances or other sensitive law enforcement credentials. Appropriate steps must also be taken to address any current employees, who, upon review, match these criteria. Law enforcement agencies nationwide should explore options for preventing extremists from being among their ranks.

·  ADL has worked with Law Enforcement experts to provide tools for identifying and weeding out extremists in the recruitment process as well as within law enforcement ranks. While there is no evidence that white nationalist extremists have large numbers in our law enforcement agencies, we have seen that even a few can undermine the effectiveness and trust that is so essential. We have provided resources to law enforcement agencies with guidance on approaches that do not violate First Amendment protections.

·  More must be done to address the problem of extremism within the military, train officials for how to address it, and scale efforts to fully ensure that members of our armed forces are not targeted for recruitment to extremist causes.

·  An independent study on extremist behavior in the Armed Forces commissioned by the Department of Defense highlighted the danger of extremism in the military, stating “the participation in violent extremist activities of even a small number of individuals with military connections and military training could present a risk to the military and to the country as a whole.” It also points out that the military’s process for giving security clearances to military and civilian personnel is outdated and inadequate, asserting that “the Department remains at risk of unknowingly permitting persons who may have engaged in violent extremist conduct to enter and encumber privileged positions as civilian employees or contractors in the military community.”

·  ADL worked with Members of the Armed Services Committee to secure two provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024 to address this issue by securing two new reports that would:

·  Require the Secretary of Defense to report on the implementation and status of its training and education for DOD members and civil personnel on protecting the military from extremist recruitment and activity.

·  Identify gaps in the DOD security clearance process.

·  We look forward to reading the reports in June 2024, as mandated by in statute.

·  DHS announced that it reviewed internal extremist threats, though noted that there were no mechanisms for doing so systematically or comprehensively. DHS and law enforcement agencies must have these protocols in place.

Take Domestic Terrorism Prevention Measures
We must not wait until after someone has become an extremist or a terrorist attack has happened to act. Effective and promising prevention measures exist, which should be scaled.

·  Congress can provide funding to civil society and academic programs that have expertise in addressing recruitment to extremist causes and radicalization, whether online or offline. By providing funding for prevention activities, including education, counseling, and off-ramping, Congress can help empower public health and civil society actors to prevent and intervene in the radicalization process and undermine extremist narratives, particularly those that spread rapidly on the internet.

·  These initiatives must be accompanied by an assurance of careful oversight with civil rights and civil liberties safeguards. They must also meaningfully engage the communities that have been targeted by domestic terrorism and the civil society organizations already existing within them, and those communities which have been unfairly targeted when prior anti-terrorism authorities have been misused and/or abused. These initiatives must be transparent, responsive to community concerns, publicly demonstrate careful oversight, and ensure that they do not stigmatize communities.

·  Further, DHS should not be the only agency working on prevention; ADL urges the Department to partner with Health and Human Services and other non-security Departments whenever possible.

·  While Congress has funded a grant program for prevention measures domestically, the program is too small to have an impact at scale. Congress should significantly expand the Center for Prevention Programming and Partnerships (CP3) within DHS, such as through $200 million per year in grants and a proportionate increase in program evaluations, the results of which should be published for public view.

·  DHS should be empowered to support research and innovation to address domestic violent extremism. However, there have been reports that research and innovation related to domestic violent extremist radicalization has been halted at DHS, which would be troubling; we urge Congress to ensure there is adequate implementation of research and innovation.

End the Complicity of Social Media in Facilitating Extremism
Congress must prioritize countering online extremism and ensuring that perpetrators who engage in unlawful activity online can be held accountable. Online platforms often lack adequate policies to mitigate extremism and hate equitably and at scale. Federal and state laws and policies require significant updating to hold online platforms and individual perpetrators accountable for enabling hate, racism, and extremist violence across the internet. In March 2021, ADL announced the REPAIR Plan, which offers a comprehensive framework for platforms and policymakers to take meaningful action to decrease online hate and extremism. Like ADL’s PROTECT Plan, REPAIR addresses domestic extremism and terrorism but goes beyond these issues to address other manifestations and harms of online hate, including online harassment, antisemitism, racism, and disinformation.

Create an Independent Clearinghouse for Online Extremist Content
Congress should work with the Administration to create a publicly funded, independent nonprofit center to track online extremist threat information in real-time and make referrals to social media companies and law enforcement agencies when appropriate.

·  Those empowered with law enforcement and intelligence capabilities should not be tasked with new investigative and other powers that could infringe upon civil liberties such as broad internet surveillance. Scouring online sources through an independent organization will act as a buffer but will not prevent the nonprofit center from assisting law enforcement in cases where criminal behavior is suspected. This wall of separation, modeled in part on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), will help streamline national security tips and resources while preserving civil liberties.

·  The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) was provided with $500,000 to investigate the feasibility of this concept in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022.  NIJ should be empowered to complete its review, and Congress should quickly follow up to ensure that a clearinghouse can be authorized. 

Target Foreign Terrorist Groups
Congress must recognize that extremism is a major global threat and mobilize with that mindset.

·  To date, no white nationalist organization operating overseas has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Only one – and some members of its leadership – has been designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). Congress should review how these designation decisions are made, whether any additional racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist groups (RMVEs) outside the United States, particularly white nationalist groups, have reached the threshold for either designation, or whether such designations would help advance U.S. national interests.

·  We are pleased that the Department of State developed a strategy to counter global white nationalist extremism. We urge more transparency from State in this process and for Congress to provide more resources to implement it.

·  The Department of State must mobilize a multilateral effort to address the threat of white supremacy globally. Multilateral best-practice institutions, such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum, the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, and the International Institute for Justice and Rule of Law, may be helpful mechanisms through which to channel some efforts. Moreover, the Global Engagement Center should be charged with undermining the propaganda of violent extremist groups – not just designated terrorist organizations, but overseas white nationalist violent extremists as well.  DHS should participate in these efforts, supporting overseas exchanges, partnerships, and best practices sharing to engage in learning from other countries and sharing U.S. best practices, where applicable.

·  The FBI, DHS, and National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) assessed that ongoing tensions related to the conflict between Israel and Hamas likely heightened the threat of lone actor violence targeting large public gatherings. Since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, various foreign terrorist media organizations have called for lone actor attacks in the United States. RMVEs have also increased calls for violence and celebrated attacks on the Jewish community.

·  Congress should pass the STOP HATE Act which would require social media platforms to disclose their policies and how they’re dealing with content from FTOs, such as Hamas, who use these platforms to recruit, fundraise, and spread propaganda. The bill would also require the Intelligence Community to assess the threat posed to U.S. national security by FTO’s usage of social media platforms.

[1] Mark Pitcavage, “Right-Wing Extremist Terrorism in the United States,”Anti-Defamation League, November 15, 2023, accessed at

[2] The H.E.A.T. map—which allows configurable searches of many different kinds—can be accessed at