After spiking after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, the number of federal terrorism prosecutions started to decline in 2004 and now stands at pre-9/11 levels, says a study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University reported by the Christian Science Monitor. The length of sentences served by those convicted of international terror-related crimes has dropped from a median of 41 months before 9/11 to 28 days in the two years after the attacks. One reason for the drop is the intensity of law-enforcement activity immediately after the attacks, which then leveled off.
Critics raise questions about the effectiveness of current surveillance and intelligence operations, and ask whether the threat of terrorism has been exaggerated. The Department of Justice counters that the report “presents a misleading analysis,” and ignores the “successful strategy of prevention through prosecution.” An independent review by the Monitor of dozens of cases categorized by the government as terrorism or terrorism-related supported the the TRAC report. The Monitor found many cases had tenuous connections to terrorism and resulted in little, if any, jail time.