DENVER, CO – Thanks to left-wing extremism and several high-profile incidents of eco-terrorism, two Colorado counties have been named “hot spots” of terrorism according to a recently issued government report.
Denver and Boulder counties have earned a place in the Department of Homeland Security’s report “Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970 to 2008,” created by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland. The report was released January 31, 2012.
Using incident information drawn from the Global Terrorism Database and other sources ranging from the U.S. census and newspapers, the UM research team created extensive profiles for each act of terrorism, compiling and categorizing each event in order to tease out potentially relevant information—specifically, geographic concentration.
Denver and Boulder both made the cut, with Denver defined as a “hot spot” of “extreme left-wing” terrorism in the 1970s and “single issue” (ecological) terrorism in the 2000s.
START estimates that more than 2,600 terrorist events have occurred in the United States from 1970 to 2008. The report defines terrorism as “the threatened or actual use of illegal force by non-state actors, in order to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal, through fear, coercion or intimidation.”
According to START, the evidence points to a wide geographical distribution in both large, urban counties as well as lower population, rural counties. Terrorism hot spots “are predominately located in large, metropolitan areas” but there is a “significant amount of variability over time” in both location and motivating ideologies over the time period of 1970-2008.
While terrorist attacks have occurred in all 50 states, approximately 30 percent of the attacks happened in five counties: Manhattan County, NY; Los Angeles County, CA; Miami-Dade County, FL; San Francisco County, CA; and Washington, DC. The report noted the overall decline in the number of terrorist attacks, from nearly 1,500 in the 1970s to just over 200 from 2000 to 2008. In spite of the decrease overall in fatal attacks over the past four decades, the percentage of attacks including fatalities has remained relatively significant since 2000.
From the report (PDF):
“We also ask whether certain counties are prone to a particular type of terrorist attacks (e.g., extreme left- wing, extreme right-wing, ethno-nationalist/separatist, etc.). Ideological motivation could be coded for 1,674 terrorist attacks (64% of all terrorist events from 1970 to 2008) occurring in 475 U.S. counties. Looking at five ideological categories, 88 counties experienced extreme right-wing terrorism (44 counties were identified as hot spots), 120 counties experienced extreme left-wing terrorism (24 counties were identified as hot spots), 26 experienced religiously motivated terrorist acts (3 counties were identified as hot spots), 56 experienced ethno-nationalist/separatist terrorism (6 counties were identified as hot spots), and 185 experienced single issue events (43 counties were identified as hot spots).
Researchers further subdivided the attacks by ideological motivation and time period (decadal) to reveal the patterns of “variability.” For Colorado, only two counties experienced terrorist-related attacks in double digits—Boulder with 10 incidents and Denver with 21.
For both counties, the majority of attacks occurred in the 1970s, when a flurry of left-wing bombings hit multiple locations on the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado and government buildings in Denver. From 1970 to 1975, at the height of the Vietnam War, students and “left-wing militants” targeted military recruiting offices, police stations, and government offices in both counties. Racial tensions in Boulder and Denver over issues like integration and school busing saw additional public buildings attacked, including schools and courthouses.
More recently, suspected attacks attributed to the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front have resulted in tens of millions of dollars in damage to private property in the state. While START found no fatalities or injuries between ALF and ELF’s claimed attacks in Colorado, the destruction of multiple structures at the Vail Ski Resort in 1998 formed part of a larger string of “ecotage” arson attacks.
In 2008, the FBI listed eco-terrorism as the number one domestic terrorism threat. Defined by the FBI “as the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature”—the ALF and ELF attacks have comprised the majority of known terrorist attacks in Colorado since the late 1990s.
In 2007, Grant Barnes, a suspected ELF-affiliated sympathizer, torched several SUVs over a span of four days near Denver. Members of ALF claimed responsibility for a sheepskin factory burned down in 2010.