Despite claims by critics that the U.S. government needs to revamp its national security policies in order to be effective, a new report out by New York University School of Law suggests that the Department of Justice has been doing an excellent job of investigating, arresting, prosecuting, and convicting those involved in acts of terrorism.
The report collected and analyzed data over the past eight years to evaluate the success of U.S. criminal prosecutions against terrorists. The results are staggering—88% of those indicted for a crime relating to terrorism were convicted by either a guilty plea or after trial.
One reason or the success over the years has been an evolution in the Justice Department's strategy towards terrorism. As the report explains:
"Since 9/11, the Department of Justice's understanding of terrorism cases has grown exponentially in terms of its patience in building a case, its understanding of the threats posed by terrorists, and its willingness to focus on terrorism and other serious charges. The early practice of making high-profile arrests, while prosecuting few terrorism charges—which brought into question the capacity of the DOJ to try terrorism-related crimes—has largely been addressed."
The renewed vigor with which these cases have been brought, and the continuing reexamination of methods for successfully investigating and prosecuting these cases has led to an impressive track record. While there will continue to be a debate as to the appropriate forum in which to try those accused of acts of terrorism, this report shows that federal criminal prosecutions are a powerful tool for incapacitating terrorists and gathering intelligence.