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Rudy Giuliani
stated on August 15, 2016 in a speech in Youngstown, Ohio:
"Under those eight years before (Barack) Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States" since Sept. 11, 2001.
true false
Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu August 16, 2016

Aside from 9/11, Rudy Giuliani is wrong about no terrorist attacks before Obama

Rudy Giuliani, warming up the crowd for Donald Trump’s counter-terrorism speech, appeared to forget one of the defining moments of modern U.S. history and his own political career: the Sept. 11 attacks.

The former mayor of New York City during 9/11 was widely lampooned for suggesting that terrorist attacks on U.S. soil were unique to Barack Obama’s presidency.

But many media reports left out the beginning of his speech, when he talked at length about 9/11. He recounted how it was the "worst foreign attack in our history since the War of 1812" and how Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, visited "Ground Zero when we were in desperate need of help."

Still, Giuliani seemed to throw everything he had just said out the window: "By the way, under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States. They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office."

Back in 2010, Giuliani made a similar gaffe when he claimed, "We had no domestic attacks under (President George W.) Bush." He later apologized for misspeaking and not adding the words, "since Sept. 11."

Giuliani apparently made the same mistake again, telling the New York Daily News that he was just using "abbreviated language."

But even barring 9/11, Giuliani is omitting several successful attacks on U.S. soil. Some are undoubtedly jihad-linked while the connection to "radical Islamic extremism" is murkier in others.

The New America Foundation, for example, compiles a comprehensive list of terrorist plots, but its definition of "violent jihadist attacks" does not necessarily match up with law enforcement classification.

That’s because strict definitions like "hate crime" or "terrorist attack" may be useful for prosecuting cases, but they may cloud the public’s understanding of what the attack was and what motivated the crimes — "questions to which answers are rarely linear or packaged into a neat explanation," said Albert Ford, a research assistant at New America.

That being said, let’s go through successful attacks on U.S. soil in which ideology played some role.

2002 Los Angeles Airport shooting  

On July 4, 2002, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport, killing two and injuring four. Hadayet, a 41-year-old Egyptian national, died after being shot by an airport security guard.

Prior to his immigration to the United States, Egyptian authorities accused him of belonging to the terrorist organization, Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (though he denied this charge). The FBI concluded that Hadayet’s killing spree was a terrorist act, but he acted alone and hoped to influence U.S. government policy toward Palestine.

2002 Beltway snipers

In October 2002, John Allen Muhammad and his accomplice, 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo, randomly gunned down 10 people in Washington. They were arrested by police and SWAT officers on Oct. 24.

The snipers’ motives were myriad. Malvo drew sketches depicting his acts as jihad and testified that Muhammad, a member of the Nation of Islam, lectured him on the religion. He also said Muhammad wanted to start a revolution over "the continued oppression of black people."

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A Virginia court found Muhammad guilty of engaging in an act of terrorism, and the incident is listed as a major terrorism case on the FBI’s website. Muhammad was executed in 2009 and Malvo is currently serving a life sentence.

2006 Seattle Jewish Federation shooting

On July 28, 2006, Naveed Afzal Haq killed one woman and injured five others at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

A witness told the Associated Press that Haq declared himself "a Muslim American, angry at Israel" before opening fire. FBI officials said he was not acting part of a terrorist group, but "acting out some kind of antagonism toward this particular organization." The attack was ultimately classified as a hate crime by the county prosecutor.

In 2014, however, the City of Seattle included the shooting as an example of an incident that fits "into the terrorist mold" while the New America Foundation lists it as a "violent jihadist attack," because Haq claimed to be motivated by opposition to U.S. actions.

2006 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill attack

In March 2006, UNC graduate Mohammad Reza Taheri-azar drove an SUV onto campus, injuring nine pedestrians.

He turned himself in following the attack and sent several letters to UNC’s student newspaper from jail declaring his intentions to exact revenge for Muslims. "I was aiming to follow in the footsteps of one of my role models, Mohammad Atta, one of the 9/11/01 hijackers, who obtained a doctorate degree," he wrote in one letter.

UNC students were divided over whether Taheri-azar’s actions constituted an act of terror. The FBI declined to comment on whether it was investigating links to terrorism, the New York Times reported in 2006.

Terrorist attacks that were unsuccessful or with unknown motives

Two other infamous attacks don’t exactly fit Giuliani’s criteria, but are worth noting.

The 2001 anthrax scare, which occurred shortly after 9/11, is the worst biological attack in U.S. history and a major terrorism case, according to the FBI. Five Americans were killed and another 17 were injured during the attacks. In 2008, the FBI was about to bring charges against Dr. Bruce Ivins, but the microbiologist committed suicide before they were filed.

The 2001 shoe bomber, admitted al-Qaida member Richard Reid, attempted to light explosives on an American Airlines flight before he was subdued.

In addition to these attacks, the New America Foundation has documented a handful of thwarted terrorist plots before Obama’s presidency.

Our ruling

Moments after mentioning 9/11, Giuliani said, "Under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States."

Since then, there have been four successful plots on U.S. soil that were declared by the FBI to be terrorist attacks or whose perpetrators claimed to be motivated by ideology or anti-U.S. sentiments.

Reasonable people can disagree over the definition of jihad-inspired terrorism, but Giuliani is taking things too far by omitting all of them.

We rate his claim False.

Our Sources

YouTube, Rudy Giuliani in Youngstown, Ohio, Aug. 15, 2016

PolitiFact, "Giuliani says there were no domestic attacks during Bush presidency," Jan. 8, 2010

Associated Press, "Giuliani, backing Trump, appears to briefly forget 9/11," Aug. 15, 2016

New America Foundation, Violent Jihadist Attacks, accessed Aug. 16, 2016

New American Foundation, Terror Plots, accessed Aug. 16, 2016

FBI, Famous Terrorist Cases, accessed Aug. 16, 2016

Email interviews with Albert Ford and Alyssa Sims, research assistants at the New American Foundation, Aug. 16, 2016

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Aside from 9/11, Rudy Giuliani is wrong about no terrorist attacks before Obama

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