It is time to blow the whistle on the hype and exaggeration surrounding terrorism. While terrorism is a threat, it is not the greatest nor the most dangerous threat we face or have ever faced. Frankly, the most serious danger posed by terrorism is that we allow our fear of it to justify suspending our Constitution, surrendering our civil liberties and engaging in the grotesque human rights violations that tarnish America’s destiny to be a light of freedom and justice to the world.

This is not a matter of my “opinion.” I will show you the cold, hard facts. The source of this is the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database. You can go there and download for yourself.

Consider this chart:

Terrorism Casualties and Incidents by Region 1991-2010

Let me give you the actual numbers.

From 1991 thru 2010 there were 133,178 terrorist attacks around the world. Sounds like alot, but a closer look at the data shows that the activity is concentrated–big surprise–in the Middle East, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Deaths from terrorism? 53,162. That works out to an average of 2.5 deaths per incident. A terrible loss for the families and friends of the deceased, but let’s put this in context.

Let’s consider the drug violence in Mexico. Since 2006 at least 47,515 people have been slaughtered in Mexico. And that number is probably a low estimate:

The new official tally provided by the attorney general’s office included data only through September, and it showed that drug-related killings increased 11 percent, to 12,903, compared with the same nine-month period in 2010. Still, a government statement sought to find a silver lining, asserting that it was the first year since 2006 “that the homicide rate increase has been lower compared to the previous years.”

But that will hardly calm a public scared by the recent arrival of grisly violence in once-safe cities like Guadalajara, nor will Wednesday’s limited data release silence the increasingly loud call for better, more transparent government record keeping.

The Mexican government has failed to create the tracking system it needs to understand criminal trends and improve security, experts say, even as it has become more secretive with the limited information it has.

Most of the murders in Mexicoare not captured by the University of Maryland database because it does not fit the definition of terrorism they rely on to decide whether or not an attack is “terrorist.”

You remember the trauma we experienced with the loss of almost 3000 souls on 9-11. So multiply that by a factor of 15 and tell me that is less of a concern. In twenty years, less than 4000 Americans died in terrorist attacks. A sad loss to be sure. But more Americans die in automobile accidents–32,885 were killed in 2010.

How about our losses in Vietnam? That war cost us 58,000 American lives. The Vietnamese? More than 1.4 million Vietnamese, North and South combined, died during the period 1955 to 1975.

World War II? That conflict saw the slaughter of 60 million human beings.

Next time you hear a politician justify sacrificing your liberties in the name of security, please blow the bullshit whistle. We can deal with the threat of terrorism without deluding ourselves into believing that it is the greatest threat of our lives.

Both the Bush and Obama Administrations are guilty of hyping the threat. Want another example of how out of whack things are? During the Cold War there were 6000 analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) working on the Soviet threat. The Soviets had a massive military force numbering more than one million. They had (and have) inter-continental ballistic missiles, long range bombers, nuclear armed submarines and a global network of spies.

How many at DIA are assigned to terrorism? More than 12,000. When you combine the total number of U.S. Government agencies spending your tax dollars on combating the threat of terrorism the number exceeds 100,000.

But why worry about facts? Let’s just keep pretending that the threat of terrorism justifies shredding the Constitution and wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on chasing small, isolated groups of extremists. If you are comfortable with that, so be it. I think it borders close to criminal negligence.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.
  • mainbei649

  • Abelli

    So ‘terrorism’ was never reason for war in Iran and Afghanistan. A silly but effective excuse for other objectives. Before Obama already!

  • Popsmoke
  • linwei873

  • lola828

    Wow, a reasonable post from Larry Johnson for once.
    Not the usual cut and paste from laughable conservative websites as the basis of NQ’s analysis. Something originial.

    However, you really believe that the Obama Adminstration has been hyping the threat of terrorism. What planet do you live on? For 3 1/2 years we have heard about nothing regarding terrorism.

    Can you provide any proof whatsoever that Obama has hyped the threat of terrorism?

    The reality is that we had 7 years of Bush hyping the threat of terrorism to both justify his military actions and for political gain. Bush, had his color coded warning system that he effectively ratcheted up before the 2004 election to get re-elected over Kerry. One of the first things Obama did was get rid of that stupid color coded warning system.

    End of the day Obama has been very very good at protecting this country, dismantling Al Qaeda, shifting the focus of the fight to the right places of emphasis and getting us the hell out of Iraq. Obama gets an “A” grade in his fight against terrorism.

  • HELENK2–Mahmoud-Ahmadinejad,-President-of-Iran/1

    top ten most dangerous leaders of 2012

    funny thing they do not list one of the most dangerous of all obama

  • JohnnyTwoDog

    Drug violence and related border spillover might get a more proportionate amount of resources if not for the also related voting block.

  • scottymac54

    I wish more emphasis could be placed on the correlation between fear of manufactured terror and the continuing loss of our privacy rights, and civil liberties.

  • foxyladi14

    Happy July everyone


    this type of terrorism is much more dangerous. take away freedom to tell the truth by a government and freedom will suffer


    turkey and syria playing chicken
    6 Turkish fighters scrambled after Syrian helos come near border

  • Dave L.

    The greatest threat to America today is , Barack Obama !!

  • Fred82

    I think you forgot one Larry.

    How about the fear of terrorism convinces us to spend billions upon billions of dollars on Homeland Security measures that failed to stop numerous terrorist plots (IE: Dec 25th airline plot, printer cartridge plot).

    Given the enemy’s stated goal of bleed US to bankruptcy, I would say the fear of terrorism plays right into their hands.

    • FLDemFem

      It just goes to show that Franklin Roosevelt was right, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

  • Popsmoke

    Here is another sad part. Goto the data base and punch in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973…. then search and then press region…. Now lookie at that little ole green North American line in comparison from 2001 todate…

    Now the scary part… Just think what our country would look like today if the dates were reversed??

  • Popsmoke

    Her ya go! For the family who thinks they have everything! Sleep well at night knowing that there are no terrorist under your bed!

    5) Quantum Sleeper, the “anti-terrorist” bed.
    Only $160.000! What a deal!

    Now the sad part is … I bet there were some idiots who went out and actually bought this crap….

  • Popsmoke

    PS: Eh… you trying for the top dog on the blacklist again? :-)

  • BronwynsHarbor

    Try saying that on Fox News, Larry. Oh wait …

    What a superb, clear post on what is frankly an unpopular viewpoint. Thank god. I wish you could get this published in The New York Times … oh wait … before 9/11 … uh oh …

    Life. Ironies. You’re still correct all the way, Larry.

  • Popsmoke

    ” I think it borders close to criminal negligence.”


  • Flop_Flipper

    I’ve always thought that the usurpation of our Constitutional rights was Osama bin Laden’s real victory. Our whole political system went haywire. It suddenly went from terrorists might be anywhere to we might all be terrorists. And a government all too willing to “legally” gather as much intel on it’s citizenry as possible. Masking it under the guise of national security. McCarthyism on steroids. Groping us in airports so that little Jimmy using the airtank in that wheelchair won’t blow us all up to smithereens. Then getting their 3D porn on anyway when we refuse them the “right” to cop a feel.

    Our phones are tapped, emails read, computers monitored, high in the sky surveillance watching, listening, transmitting, recording. Preparing for what?

    It’s interesting that you mention the Soviets. As a child I was always warned about them. Their citizens had no rights. They were constantly monitored by their evil government. They were a scary lot. Something us Americans needed to rally against.

    I think there are several constituencies that are quite pleased citizen rights have been curtailed. Many, perhaps most, of them being within the structures of government itself. Both political parties engage in dispensing these limits, these undefined privileges they help themselves to.

    Nowhere is even the hint of a Constitutional basis for suspending liberties. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that Congress or the Administration can just willy nilly dissolve citizen rights. Or refuse to respect them. Nothing in our Constitution allows a Law to supersede a Right.

    • buzzlatte3

      Yes, thanks I couldn’t of said it better. Those that are willing to take your rights or give up their rights are not acting in your best interest. Read the ACA – the latest attack on your rights and the biggest intrusion in your life, and then try to justify it beyond the sing-songy whine of the left.

      • KenoshaMarge

        Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it
        is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
        ~ Patrick

  • elizabethrc

    I keep thinking of what Rham Emmanuel used to say about never letting a good emergency (paraphrasing) go to waste. Seems appropos.

  • AlessandroMachi

    Excellent perspective. I wonder however if we never feel afraid if we go out of whack in the other direction.

    Right now, nobody is afraid over the possible reduction in petroleum supplies, water supplies, and such. Yet it is possible that over the next 20 years legitimate shortages will emerge.

    Also, overpopulation is a real issue as well.

    People don’t seem to be worried about this stuff. It’s possible that the terrorism threat was designed to ease the world into compliance for coming real shortages with the hope that when real shortages occurs, people don’t panic and cause massive mayhem, no?

    (I got here from

    • BronwynsHarbor

      Excellent comments, Allesando + welcome to the blog.

      The water issue is global. Are private interests still buying up water rights? I’m not so sure that water is one instance in which it might be best for a government to oversee? Or? I’m willing to be proved wrong. (But your main point is spot on — none of us ever talks about the growing water crisis.)

      We’re also facing a growing shortage in the number of doctors and access to health care — not entirely because of Obamacare, but certainly not helped by that god awful Act.

    • Popsmoke

      “people don’t panic and cause massive mayhem, no?”

      I am reminded of the movie Men In Black, when Agent K said to (at the time) Officer Edwards… “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

      It would not take much…..

  • Matthew J. Weaver

    Inconvenient as too many Americans prefer to be scared.

    • BronwynsHarbor

      Nine words that say a hell of a lot about human psychology. or how we’ve been herded into a stupified fear of those terrorist boogeymen.

      • buzzlatte3

        and herded into thinking that we all need health coverage and only doctors can cure you and that you’re nothing without your ipad and that only Michelle O knows best about what you should eat and the UN has a better plan and you don’t really need your freedom because the collective is so much better, and only the media knows what is best for you to know. We are being dumbed down and I’ll say it again – those libbies that think they are raging against the machine are actually being sucked up by it by supporting teh One. Stupid and vapid idiots.

    • BronwynsHarbor

      Btw, I plead guilty a bit. One of my favorite TV dramas is BBC’s “MI-5″ in which the fictional heroes and heroines of MI-5 do battle with seemingly endless numbers of terrorists who employ all kinds of methods.

      In the show’s defense, it discusses — brilliantly — the PRICE of having a heavy-handed government meddle in the private lives of every UK citizen AND even Middle East immigrants.

      One episode I just watched showed a massive government cover-up all because current UK laws FORBID the use of TORTURE to extract information from terrorist suspects. Some gov’t officials didn’t like being constrained, so they spirited six terrorist suspects to Egypt to be tortured, but the heroes of MI-5 (the show) exposed the government’s cover-up.

      Then the MI-5 characters celebrated the triumph of the rule of law. It was quite an episode.

      Surprise, surprise. The United States is mentioned often as eager to ignore laws and to use torture instead.

      The series was filmed from 2005-2010 (thereabouts). But we have no idea if Obama has quit using torture. Besides, I’d submit that the overuse of drone attacks stinks of Obama’s reluctance to get his hands dirty while, at the same time, killing a lot of civilians and fomenting more hatred of the U.S.

      It can be complicated.

      • FormerLiberal9

        I like MI-5 too but I also like “Person Of Interest”. The idea of a giant computer system monitoring all the data collected in the United States and being able to predict probable acts of terrorism or crimes may not be as far fetched as it seems. To say nothing of being able to monitor citizens for any reason the government wishes maybe coming to your neighborhood soon. Think of the political possiblities…

    • buzzlatte3

      and dumb about the real losses taking place at home. If you own land, they want to know all about your water…Agenda 21 is here.

  • HARP2

    I`m more worried about the threat to our liberties from within.

    • buzzlatte3

      If we want to talk fear we need to start at the WH and the hidden war with the country going on there. The middle east numbers are truly sad. But they seem to dwell in violence no matter what.


    I know in the transportation field there are many back stage protections going on that the passengers never know about. I am not talking about airlines and the TSA radiation or molestation choice. Between the newspaper I used to work for and the railroads that I worked for there were bomb threats more often then the public will ever know about. It gets handled in a quiet timely manner.. It is not usually a outside so called terrorist that makes the threat, it is usually some small group with a gripe.
    If you live your life in fear, you are not living your life

    • Popsmoke

      “If you live your life in fear, you are not living your life”