The American Cases


Edited by John Mueller


Mershon Center

Ohio State University

1501 Neil Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43201 USA


Cato Institute

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20001


March 2016

This book includes a detailed discussion, each organized in a similar manner, of the cases that have come to light of Islamist extremist terrorism since 9/11, whether based in the United States or abroad, in which the United States itself has been, or apparently has been, targeted. It mostly springs from papers generated in honors seminars I conducted at Ohio State University. Interns at the Cato Institute have also contributed case studies. I have added an introduction as well as a headnote for each case. Since we plan to update, revise, and correct, and then to re-post from time to time, each case study and each headnote is dated and carries its own individual pagination.—John Mueller

The full 835-page book can be accessed in pdf (5 MB) by clicking here.


The introduction and the individual case studies that have been completed or for which there is information beyond that given below can be accessed individually in pdf by clicking on the title in the listing below.

The book is also available as a high-quality bound paperback from The Educational Publisher (edupublisher.com) for $44.95. This is a print-on-demand book, and its text will be updated whenever the web version is updated or revised.



The Cases

Cases that have come to light of Islamist extremist terrorism since 9/11, whether based in the United States or abroad, in which the United States itself has been, or apparently has been, targeted

The case studies are arrayed below in this file. They can also be accessed as individual files by clicking on the titles.


Number, title, type, year, description, author for full case studies


Introduction—John Mueller

The shoe bomber  4  2001  British man tries to blow up a US‑bound airliner with explosives in his shoes but is subdued by passengers and crew—Jolie Yang

Padilla  1  2002  American connected to al‑Qaeda who had discussed a dirty bomb attack returns to US and is arrested—Allison Barbo

3  Mt. Rushmore  3  2002  Two men in Florida, one of them possibly connected to an al‑Qaeda operative, plot, crucially aided by an informant, to bomb local targets as well as Mt. Rushmore before 9/11, and are arrested and tried the year after

El Al at LAX  4  2002  A depressed anti‑Israel Egyptian national shoots and kills two at the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles airport in an act later considered to be one of terrorism, and then is killed by a guard—Zachary Zaerr

Lackawanna  1  2002  Seven Americans in Lackawanna, NY, are induced to travel to an al‑Qaeda training camp, but six return disillusioned, all before 9/11, and are arrested the next year—Blaise Katter

Khan and the Parachas  2  2003  A young Pakistani seeks to help an al‑Qaeda operative enter the country to attack underground storage tanks and gas stations—Alexander Hitchcock

Abu Ali in Saudi Arabia 2  2003  A US citizen joins a terrorist cell in Saudi Arabia and plots to hijack a plane in the US and to assassinate President Bush when he is arrested by the Saudis and extradited to the US for trial—Leigh Stephens

Columbus and the Brooklyn Bridge  2  2003  American connected to al‑Qaeda  discusses shooting up a shopping mall in Columbus, OH, with two friends, then scouts taking down the Brooklyn Bridge for al‑Qaeda, but  decides it's too difficult—Drew Herrick

Barot and the financial buildings  2  2004  Group  in London tied to al‑Qaeda scouts out  financial buildings in US with an eye to bombing them, but never gets to the issue of explosives—Tessa Reinhart

10  Albany  3  2004  Two men in Albany, NY, effectively help fund an informant's terror plot—Michael Spinosi

11  Nettles  3  2004  An American with a long history of criminal and mental problems plots under the nickname of "Ben Laden" to blow up a federal courthouse in Chicago and reaches out for help to a Middle Eastern terrorist group, but gets the FBI—Rachel Cohen

12  Herald Square  3  2004  Loud‑mouthed jihadist in New York and a schizophrenic friend attract informant who helps them lay plans to bomb Herald Square subway station—Surili Sheth

13  Grecula  3  2005  An American with visions of being an modern day Spartacus agrees to build a bomb to be exploded in the US for undercover agents claiming to be al‑Qaeda—Todd Ives

14  Lodi  1  2005  American in Lodi, California, who may have attended a training camp in Pakistan but with no apparent plan to commit violence is arrested with the aid of an informant—Andrew Ashbrook

15  JIS  2  2005  American in jail masterminds a plot by three others to shoot up military recruitment centers, synagogues, and a non‑existent military base in the Los Angeles area but, although close to their first attack, the plot is disrupted when they leave a cell phone behind at a funds‑raising robbery—Demetrius Daniels-Hill

16  Pipelines and the terrorist hunter  3  2005  An American offers on the internet to  blow up pipelines in Canada as an aid to al‑Qaeda, and attracts the attention of free‑lance informant—Shannon Buckner

17  U of North Carolina  4  2006  To punish the US government for actions around the world, a former student, after failing to go abroad to fight or to join the Air Force so he could drop a nuclear bomb on Washington, drives a rented SUV onto campus to run over as many Americans as possible and manages to injure nine—Andrew Braun

18  Hudson River tunnels  2  2006  Angered by the US invasion of Iraq, several men plot on the internet to flood railway tunnels under the Hudson river, but are arrested overseas before acquiring bomb materials, meeting each other in person, or setting foot in the US—Zachary Karabatak

19  Sears Tower  3  2006  Seven men in Miami plot with an informant, whom they claim they were trying to con, to take down the Sears Tower in Chicago, then focus on closer buildings—Lauren Brady

20  Bombings transatlantic airliners  2  2006  Small group in London, under intense police surveillance from the beginning, plots to explode liquid bombs on US‑bound airliners—Tyler Puhl

21  Rockford Mall  3  2006  Loud mouthed jihadist attracts attention of an informant and together they plot exploding grenades at a shopping mall in Rockford, IL—David Bernstein

22  Fort Dix  3  2007  Small group target practices, buys guns, and plots to attack Ft. Dix, NJ, with the aid of an informant who joins the group when the FBI is told they took a jihadist video into a shop to be duplicated—Jovan Galevski

23  JFK airport  3  2007  Small group, with informant, plots to blow up fuel lines serving JFK airport in New York—Bryan Staub

24  Vinas  2  2008  New York man travels to Pakistan, is accepted into al‑Qaeda, and plots to plant a bomb in the US, but is being watched and talks after being arrested—David Dawson

25  Bronx synagogues  3  2009  Four men, with crucial aid from an informant, plot to bomb synagogues in Bronx, NY,  and shoot down a plane at a military base—David Bernstein

26  Little Rock  4  2009  American man travels to Middle East to get training, but fails, and on return, working as a lone wolf, eventually shoots and kills one soldier at a military recruitment center in Little Rock, AK—Michael Coleman

27  Boyd and Quantico  2  2009  Complicated conspiracy in North Carolina including an informant, gathers weapons and may have targeted Quantico Marine Base—Kelly Stritzinger

28  Zazi  2  2009  Afghan‑American and two friends travel to Pakistan to join Taliban, but are recruited by al‑Qaeda to plant bombs on NY subways instead, and are under surveillance throughout—Justin Heilmann

29  Springfield  3  2009  Loud mouthed jihadist plots, with informants, to set off a bomb in Springfield, IL—Ronald Lieberman

30  Dallas skyscraper  3  2009  Jordanian on a student visa rouses interest from the FBI in internet postings and, together with three agents, tries to detonate a fake bomb in the basement of a Dallas skyscraper—Lauren Brady

31  Mehanna  2  2009  Well‑educated Muslim jihadist may have plotted briefly to shoot up a shopping center in the Boston area and tried to join insurgency in the Middle East, but is arrested for spreading jihadist propaganda—Malgorzata Mrozek

32  Killings at Fort Hood  4  2009  Military psychiatrist, acting as a lone wolf,  shoots up a military deployment center in Ft. Hood, TX,  killing 12 soldiers and one civilian, shortly before he is supposed to be deployed to the war in Afghanistan—Taylor Schmaltz

33  The underwear bomber  4  2009  Nigerian man tries to blow up a US‑bound airliner with explosives in his underwear but is subdued by passengers and crew—Matthew Spade

34  Times Square  4  2010  Pakistani‑American gets training in Pakistan and on his own tries, but fails, to set off a car bomb at Times Square in New York—David Tan

35  Alaska  3  2010  Muslim convert in a remote Alaska town plots the assassination of 20 with the aid of an informant

36  Parcel bombs on cargo planes  2  2010  An effort by al‑Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to set off parcel bombs implanted in printer cartridges on cargo planes bound for the United States is disrupted by an insider—Ruxton McClure

37  DC Metro—bomb plot  3  2010  A Pakistani‑American aids FBI operatives posing as al‑Qaeda in a plot to bomb the DC Metro—Chad Chessin

38  Oregon  3  2010  Teenaged Somali‑American jihadist, unable to go abroad to fight, works with FBI operatives, apparently alerted by his father, to set off a van bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, OR—David Bernstein

39  DC Metro—Facebook  2  2010  Virginia man brags without substance to a female Facebook correspondent that he will bomb the Washington Metro soon, and is quickly arrested for making interstate threats, receiving a light sentence—Lauren Brady

40  Baltimore  3  2010  Baltimore man seeks allies on Facebook for violent jihad, and the FBI supplies him with an informant and with a fake SUV bomb with which he tries to blow up a military recruitment center—Lauren Brady

41  Texas  2  2011  Saudi student in Texas, flunking out and displaying intense new discontent on his blog and Facebook profile, is arrested after buying bomb‑making materials and considering potential targets including crowded streets in distant New York and a local residence of former President George W. Bush—David Bernstein

42  Manhattan's pair of lone wolves  3  2011  Upset with how the US treats Muslims around the world mentally ill American citizen, with accomplice and undercover officer, purchases weapons as the first step in a plot to blow up synagogues, the Empire State Building, and other targets in New York and New Jersey

43  Pentagon shooter  2  2011  A US marine reservist with jihadist literature shoots at military buildings in the DC area and is arrested as he seeks to desecrate the graves of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—Andrew Braun

44  Seattle  3  2011  Two financially‑destitute men, exercised over US foreign policy, are arrested in Seattle after they purchase an FBI‑supplied machine gun that they plan to use to attack a military recruiting center after they save up enough money to purchase bullets and other material

45  Abdo  2  2011  A US Army Private, unwilling to wage war on Muslims, is arrested after he buys ammunition and bomb materials to explode in a restaurant popular with soldiers—Nicole Spaetzel

46  Model planes  3  2011  Seeking to “decapitate” the US “military center,” a mentally‑ill hobbyist plots with police operatives to attack the Pentagon with remote‑controlled model planes bearing explosives and then to shoot at people as they flee the building—Ruxton McClure

47  Iran and Scarface  3  2011  An Iranian‑American used‑car salesman from Texas, nicknamed “Scarface” from the results of an earlier street brawl, is engaged for a promised $1.5 million by members of the Iranian government to arrange for a Mexican drug cartel to blow up Saudi Arabia's ambassador in a Washington restaurant but is foiled by an undercover Drug Enforcement Agency operative who is wired $100,000 as a down payment—Zachary Zaerr

48  Pimentel’s pipe bomb  3  2011  A naturalized US citizen and Muslim convert, hostile to US military ventures in the Middle East, seeks to make pipe bombs using match heads to attack various targets

49  Tampa  3  2012  Under suspicion after he walked into a store seeking to purchase an al‑Qaeda flag, an Albanian‑American loner plots in Tampa with a police operative to detonate a car bomb, fire an assault rifle, wear an explosive belt, take hostages, and bomb nightclubs, a police center, several bridges, and a Starbuck's coffee shop in order to avenge wrongs against Muslims and to bring terror to his “victims' hearts”—Nicole Spaetzel

50  Capitol bomber  3  2012  A Moroccan man who had overstayed his visa for years and had been thrown out of his apartment for non‑payment of rent, concludes that the war on terror is a war on Muslims, plots with FBI operatives, and is arrested as he seeks to carry out a suicide bombing at the Capitol—Zachary Karabatak

51 Chicago bar 3 2012  Drawn by the violent jihadist emails and internet postings composed by an unemployed and apparently retarded 18-year-old Egyptian-American who felt the US was at war with Islam, FBI agents gain his confidence, supply him with a fake bomb which he parks outside a Chicago bar he said was filled with “the evilest people,” and then arrest him when he attempts to detonate it from a nearby alley—Rachel Cohen

52 Bombing the Federal Reserve Bank  3  2012  A college flunk-out from Bangladesh uses his parents’ life-savings to study in the US and reaches out on Facebook, obtains the help of the FBI to do something that will “shake the whole country,” and is arrested when he tries to set off an FBI-supplied bomb planted at the Federal Reserve Bank from a nearby hotel room—Todd Ives

53 The brothers  2  2012  Two brothers in Florida plot to set off a bomb in New York in revenge for US drone attacks in Afghanistan, but are arrested before getting very far beyond bicycling around Manhattan looking for targets

54 Boston marathon 4 2013  Two Chechen-American brothers, working alone, detonate two homemade bombs in a crowd at the Boston marathon, killing three, and then are killed or captured in a several-day manhunt—Chad Chessin

55 Wichita airport 3 2013  A worker at the Wichita, Kansas, airport plots with FBI agents to detonate a car bomb at dawn at the airport

56 Rochester  3  2014  A local man, in sympathy with Islamic State militants, plots with FBI operatives to shoot and kill members of the U.S. military

57 Killings in Washington and New Jersey 4 2014 Motivated by hostility to American foreign policy, a man murders three in Washington State and is captured later when he kills another in New Jersey

58 Cincinnati 3 2015  A young local loner, in sympathy with ISIS, plots with FBI operatives to set off a bomb at the Capitol in Washington, DC

59 Aurora 3 2015  Unable to travel abroad to fight because of a felony conviction for trying to rob a McDonalds, an Illinois man plots with FBI operatives to “unleash the lion” by attacking a local National Guard Armory

60 Two women in Queens 3 2015  Protesting that “It’s war” and “Protest don’t work” and “Why we be some real bad bitches?” two women, one in communication with al-Qaeda in Yemen, try to fabricate bombs with the aid of an undercover officer

61 Miami 3 2015  Posting sympathies to ISIS on Facebook, a Florida man is arrested after he seeks to buy arms and ammunition (with plans to emboss “ISIS” on the shell casings) from an FBI operative

62 Fort Riley 3 2015  A young man enthusing on Facebook about being killed in jihad, plots with FBI operatives to explode a 1000-pound bomb at a nearby military base

63 Ohio returnee from Syria 2 2015 A Somali-American, actively communicating about his plans on social media, travels to the Middle East, stays about a month, receives some training, returns, and may have planned to commit violence

64 Carolina 2 2015  Two men, one a teen, plan to rob a gun shop, attack a North Carolina military base, then go to the Middle East to join ISIS

65 Shootings at Cartoon Contest in Garland, Texas 4 2015 Two men with very limited connections to ISIS and other terrorist groups drive from Phoenix to Garland, Texas, wearing body armor and carrying six guns, open fire at an anti-Islamist exhibit, and are gunned down by a traffic officer armed only with a handgun and then killed by a SWAT team—Sam Zacher

66 Attempted stabbing of a police officer in Boston 4 2015 An ISIS-inspired man approaches a group of police officers with a knife and is killed

67 Attempted stabbing of an FBI agent in New York 4 2015 Three ISIS-inspired men plot attacks and are arrested when one tries to stab an FBI agent searching his home

68 Cleveland 3 2015  After posting his ISIS sympathies and declaring on social media that “WW3” has just begun, a man is arrested as he seeks to buy a rifle from an FBI operative

69 Sullivan 3 2015  Tipped off by his stepfather, the FBI puts an operative on, and eventually arrests, an unstable 19-year-old man in North Carolina with a yearning to kill hundreds of people on behalf of ISIS and who had previously robbed and killed a neighbor to get money for weapons

70 Ciccolo 3 2015  Turned in by his father, a Boston police captain, a man who advertised his desire to join ISIS on social media, had a long history of mental illness, and planned to attack a university cafeteria deemed to be “very sinful” is arrested when an undercover agent supplies him with weapons

71 Chattanooga 4 2015  A mentally-ill man with no known terrorist connections, but who possessed some jihadist literature and whose life was on a downward spiral, kills five military personnel in Tennessee and then is killed in a shoot-out with police

72 Florida 3 2015  Alerted by a Facebook account with selfie photographs and beheading videos posted by a man who considers himself to be a member of ISIS and expects the group soon to come to the US to fight, an FBI operative befriends the author and arrests him when he accepts a bomb

73 Akron 2 2015 An ISIS supporter is arrested when he posts on social media the names and addresses of 100 military people he thinks should be killed and declares that he would be proud when he sheds American blood

74 San Bernardino 4 2015  A husband and wife, professing loyalty to ISIS, fire guns in an attack at a holiday party killing 14, and then are killed in a battle with police in a subsequent chase

75 ISIS fund transfer 2 2015 A Baltimore man, tracked for months, is arrested when he receives at least $8700 from Islamic State operatives in Egypt to fund a terrorist attack in the US, although he claims he was merely seeking to scam the money from the group

76 Rochester panhandler 3 2015 Deemed an “aggressive panhandler” by a local restaurant/bar owner, a mentally-unstable man, part of a four-man terrorist cell or cluster (the other three are FBI operatives), becomes “ready to give up everything” to join ISIS in Syria and, to show ISIS that he is serious, plots to attack the restaurant/bar with a machete that one of the FBI operatives purchases for him at Walmart


Case types

1. An Islamist extremist conspiracy or connection that, in the view of the authorities, might eventually develop into a plot to commit violence in the United States

2. An Islamist extremist terrorist plot to commit violence in the United States, no matter how embryonic, that is disrupted but not by infiltrating a police operative into the plot

3. An Islamist extremist plot to commit violence in the United States that is essentially created or facilitated in a major way by infiltrating a police operative into the plot and then arresting the plotters when enough evidence is accumulated

4. An Islamist extremist terrorist or terrorist group that actually reaches the stage of committing, or trying to commit, violence in the United States


There are also two cases concerning efforts by Islamist extremists to go abroad to inflict damage on US interest there:


98 New York Stock Exchange  2010 Three men seek to join the fight against the US in the Middle East and find a couple of operatives in Yemen who agree to help them (and after being arrested, identity them), but only after the men send over tens of thousands of dollars and case the New York Stock Exchange for a possible attack—Jake A. Douglas

99 Toledo  3  2006 Three men in Toledo, OH, seek to join the fight against the US in the Middle East but fail to get in while attracting the attention of an informant who trains them—Meagan Woodall