Preparing a report for the US Army War College

In December 2019, tPP was contacted by an individual with the United States Army War College seeking assistance with data. This individual asked if we could provide a number of measures of criminal defendants in order to compare defendants with and without military histories.

After a few emails and a phone call to ensure we could deliver the desired analysis product, our team went to work and in a few days completed two reports: “Active duty vs. discharged veterans and international vs. domestic affiliation in the Prosecution Project (tPP) dataset & Veteran versus civilian comparisons in the Prosecution Project (tPP) dataset”. We are pleased to share these reports here for others to review.

The Prosecution Project team is happy to assist individuals and institutions when our data can be useful. If you have a query which could benefit from tPP data, please let us know!

tPP’s first journal publication!

We at tPP could not be more pleased to announce that in April 2019, two members of our Steering Team published the first peer-reviewed journal article based around the Prosecution Project data set!

The stellar team of Athena Chapekis and Sarah M. Moore published, “The prosecution of ‘others’: presidential rhetoric and the interrelation of framing, legal prosecutions, and the Global War on Terror“, as part of a four article Special Section in the journal Critical Studies on TerrorismThe journal portion, titled ‘Emergent Voices in Critical Studies on Terrorism,” featured five undergraduate student researchers each acting as first time authors. The papers were able to pass a standardized double blind peer review, and met strict academic and professional standards.

The abstract for the article is included below, and we invite you to read the complete article, available here!


In examining the Global War on Terror, the effects of presidential rhetoric on the framing of terrorism has been well documented. However, little previous work links terrorism and its status as an “othered” phenomenon to differential legal prosecution in a post-9/11 era. Using the Prosecution Project data set, we compared “othered” individuals, as defined by a Muslim, Arab/Middle Eastern, and/or foreign-born status, to “non-othered” individuals charged with terroristic felonies. Furthermore, we subdivided the dataset into three analytical time blocks: the George W. Bush administration immediately post-9/11, the latter half of the Bush administration, and the Obama administration. For the first and third time blocks, we found that “othered” individuals were prosecuted significantly more frequently than “non-othered” individuals. These findings call into question the effect of presidential rhetoric and the national framing of terrorism on the legal prosecution of “othered” individuals.

Locating Extremists Where They Strike: Ideological and Geographic Influences on Terrorist Target Selection

The posts below are brief summaries of 14-week research projects designed and carried out by our student team. tPP plans to release the full studies as peer-reviewed publications in the future.

Locating Extremists Where They Strike: Ideological and Geographic Influences on Terrorist Target Selection

Isabel Bielamowicz and Kayla Groneck








The purpose of our research was to identify the relationships between geographic location, ideological affiliation, and physical target for cases of politically motivated violence coded in the Prosecution Project’s (tPP) dataset. We contended that population density will be reflected in clusters of attack locations, and that higher population urban hubs will likely have greater diversity of both ideology and target type, with more obvious trends being revealed in lower population regions. Furthermore, we proposed that Leftist affiliated attacks and prosecutions will see higher concentration on the West and East coasts with targets focused on Private Sites; whereas Rightist affiliated attacks and prosecutions will see greater presence in the South and the Midwest, with target type focused on Religious Institutions, Federal Sites, and Individual Person(s). Additionally, we hypothesized that Salafi/Jihadist/Islamist attacks will be nearly exclusive to high population density urban areas with target type focused on Federal Sites and Public Sites.

Methodologically, descriptive statistics were employed to reveal that over half of our selected sample is composed of those sharing Rightist ideology acting uniformly across the United States; that Leftists act predominantly in the West, targeting Private Sites almost exclusively; and that Salafi/Jihadist/Islamists act across the spread of the country, but most commonly in high density areas. We found that mapping through GIS software augmented our statistical findings by visualizing the spread of attacks and prosecutions in our dataset by ideological affiliation. Based on our findings, we concluded that geography is helpful in defining political violence in the United States to the extent that is has strong correlations to the ideological affiliation of a defendant. Ultimately, this relationship between geography and ideology and the relationship between ideology and target type culminate in an understanding of the geographical spread of target selection employed by delineated ideologies across the United States for political violence attacks and prosecutions.

The following datatable shows the two most frequent physical targets selected by the four most common ideological affiliations found in our selected sample (N611 set) divided by circuit court regions. The most prominent findings of this research are that Rightist attacks and prosecutions composed over 50% of our sample; Salafi/Jihadist/Islamists were over four times more likely, than is proportional to the population, to attack and be prosecuted in the 2nd circuit; that Leftists were most likely to attack and be prosecuted in the 9th circuit.

Because this research is based on a the tPP dataset, which tracks prosecutions rather than attacks, it would be negligent not to mention that many of the cases included in the N611 set have multiple co-defendants for singular events. Without this clarification, some data points may be misleading. As it stands, our hypotheses regarding this research were predominantly correct for geographic concentrations of ideology and the most frequent target types selected by the most prominent ideological affiliations within the given dataset. Conclusively, the most prevalent ideological affiliations (composing >10% of the N611 dataset) for attacks on physical targets within the United States which have resulted in prosecutions are as follows: Rightist: government-focused, Rightist: identity-focused, Leftist: eco-animal focused, and Salafi/Jihadist/Islamist.

The geographic sprawl of these ideologies across the United States varies categorically based on a set of factors including population density, spatial and temporal considerations, and target type.

This research identifies the relationships between geography, ideology, and target type as related to political violent attacks and prosecutions, and ultimately concludes that ideology has a stronger direct relationship to physical target selection than geography. The extent to which the geographic sprawl of persons having shared ideological affiliation which motivated political violence is not predictive of future attacks or prosecutions; however, it is indicative of trends which may continue in the future. Trends in geographic concentration of ideologies are very useful as they aid both in understanding patterns in selection frequency of classifications of physical targets and in predicting – to a degree – the regions in which certain physical target classes are most at-risk or in which regions individuals of certain ideological affiliations are likely to be indicted for targeting them.

The Influence Ideological Affiliation Can Have on Length of Prison Sentence

The posts below are brief summaries of 14-week research projects designed and carried out by our student team. tPP plans to release the full studies as peer-reviewed publications in the future.

The Influence Ideological Affiliation Can Have on Length of Prison Sentence

Monica Gomes

When it comes to the ideological affiliation of a criminal and its influence on a potential or carried through crime with a focus on material support charged crimes, the length of sentence can seemingly be predicted. Not predicted in a way that we are able to figure out what the exact length of sentence will be, but perhaps a direction it may go. The findings for this research study signify just this. To easily compare the data, I compiled a chart of basic math calculations including the median, mode, mean, and range. The categories where the crimes are not ideologically affiliated or are unclear of the affiliation, if there is one, produced the lowest values in terms of length of sentence compared to any other ideological affiliation. This is possibly due to the fact that these crimes in particular are not associated with any large entity or terrorist organization with the potential to endanger the greater society.



Ideological affiliations that do pose as a potentially larger risk are the rightist and leftist affiliations. Although there are separate categories within the leftist and rightist ideologies, for this study I decided to combine all leftist and all rightist ideologies because the number of cases included in the subject sample were very low and putting them together would produce more significant results. The values that were calculated for this dataset to observe showed that the rightist and leftist ideological affiliations were not the highest but not the lowest values.

These two affiliations traded off with one being higher than the other and then being the lower value of the two. Therefore, that places these affiliations at similar outcomes to each other. The highest values lie within the nationalist- separatist and salafi/jihadist/islamist affiliations with nationalist- separatist having slightly higher values overall. The only exception to this portion of the data is that the greatest number for length of sentence among the ideological affiliations is salafi/jihadist/islamist, however, the highest average for lengths of sentence is nationalist- separatist.

A potential factor that goes into this result is that there are only eighteen cases that are identified as nationalist- separatist while there are two hundred and forty-three salafi/jihadist/islamist. The nationalist- separatist, salafi/jihadist/islamist, and leftist ideological affiliations have a sentence length of zero for their least number of months. This is due to those cases being acquitted but the case still being included into the original tPP database. Criminal charges against perpetrators who engage in material support and are prosecuted for that crime is incredibly complicated and prosecutors must consider many different factors.

First of all, previously prosecuted crimes must be taken into account as well as the intent of the perpetrator. High profile criminal charges call for a more severe sentencing, which becomes increased even more with high intensity previous crimes. Another important factor is intent, this could be an intention as part of a terrorist organization or just the intent to promote or support one. These factors are considered into the criminal cases included in this dataset that ultimately determine and explain the trends shown through the collected data.

The subject and focus of this research is an important extension to the wider field of study of crimes throughout the United States, with an additional lens looking at terrorism crimes. Crime, specifically incarceration, has been and is a prevalent distinction that sets the United States and other nations apart which leaves people curious as to why this is the case. Because of that, endless amounts of research have been done to unveil the possible meanings and reasons behind this fact.

This study is able to contribute to that knowledge and give an explanation to those high incarceration rates. The ability to apply previous findings and knowledge to this less recognized area of crime studies can be of practical use when creating future policies regarding the subject. More specific data and observation of that data, particularly speaking towards ideological affiliation and length of sentence, will help redirect or reevaluate current policies and what producers can do to create a more just system.

The hypothesis created in the proposal wanted to examine material support cases pre-9/11 and post-9/11. In doing this, the research would have found trends and themes from the data to observe any disparities between ideological affiliation and if that was a determiner for the proposed length of sentence of the perpetrator. This kind of data would have been able to make assumptions and locate any forms of discrimination within the justice system against individuals who possessed certain beliefs and if it has been a persistent issue. The justice system supposedly does not have any prejudices against certain individuals and purely look at the facts when determining a length of sentence, but as we know, human error is an inevitable factor when dealing with these types of situations.

Bias and emotions, as well as opinions, are factors that will be included when involved in the justice system while dealing with crime cases whether it is intended or not. The original hypothesis wanted to explore this concept to evaluate and analyze if these types of injustices occurred, however, I had to reroute my research topic because there weren’t enough cases pre-9/11 to build a strong enough database to compare to post-9/11 crime cases. I will say that in regard to material support, there are many salafi/jihadist/islamist ideologies, which is expected because this group of individuals is heavily associated with larger groups of people, or organizations, with the intent of material support for their plans to carry out action.

The world of crime and criminal studies is such a large entity that has an unlimited amount of data and information that it is difficult to find an area of concern that hasn’t been researched already. Today’s society comes with an enormous list of issues and occurrences that are considered disturbing to the majority of society which provides researchers with the resources to examine and create their own inferences and their own basis of knowledge that they can eventually share with others. In relatively recent years, terrorism studies have been more thoroughly explored due to the occurrences that took place on September 11, 2001.

Crimes that  are committed who are in affiliation with a foreign terrorist organization are not dealt with lightly and it has been a mission to eradicate any forms of associations with these organizations throughout the United States. Because of this incident, terrorism crimes have been under the eye of many researchers who haven’t left much room for different thought. In exploring different areas of this field in particular, I think it would be important to look at mapping as a methodology to locate where future crimes may occur based on tactic and the perpetrator’s ideological affiliation. I believe that these components to a crime can say a lot about where others may target next and how they will go about doing their crime. It could possibly prevent future occurrences by recognizing the patterns that previous criminals have pursued.

Age and Ideological Affiliation in Terrorism: As Reported in tPP

The posts below are brief summaries of 14-week research projects designed and carried out by our student team. tPP plans to release the full studies as peer-reviewed publications in the future.

Age and Ideological Affiliation in Terrorism: As Reported in tPP

Preet Patel

The results of my research represent various statistics regarding age, ideological affiliation, and number of people killed per attack in the Prosecution Project database. The graphs representing the statistical analysis that I ran reflect some averages and ranges that should be considered in understanding the subset of data that I finalized for my research.

Based on these findings, we can make conclusions regarding the average age of an attacker, the average number of people killed per attack, and the most common ideological affiliations for cases that resulted in one or more deaths per attack.

This research fits into the wider field of study in the Prosecution Project in its ability to offer understandings as to who commits certain acts of terrorism, as well as how and why those people committed those acts.

Further, in accordance with a variety of theoretical frameworks, conclusions can be drawn to further elaborate on why individuals commit terrorist acts and how these acts can be deterred by people in positions of authority such as police officers, prosecutors, judges, etc.

For future study of this material, I would first recommend sticking with a smaller subset of the full Prosecution Project database. This is beneficial because it allows researchers to analyze the data in a more detailed manner and reduces potential confusion, misinterpretation, and/or overlooking of data and details. Additionally, I would suggest considering multiple secondary coders depending on the type of research and analysis one is planning on conducting.

Gender, Jail, and Injustice: Gender Interaction Effects on Judicial Sentencing Rhetoric

The posts below are brief summaries of 14-week research projects designed and carried out by our student team. tPP plans to release the full studies as peer-reviewed publications in the future.

Gender, Jail, and Injustice: Gender Interaction Effects on Judicial Sentencing Rhetoric

Maddie Weaver & Alexandria Doty








The following report analyzes court documents that correspond with the Prosecution Project’s dataset as of mid-April 2019. There is a clear and statistically significant relationship between gender and sentence lengths, but there are no prevailing theories on the reasons behind this correlation. The purpose of this study was to find out why defendants that have similar backgrounds in all other coded variables still face different sentences, as decided by a judge through the federal sentencing guidelines. There is no written record of how a judge uses the guidelines or any other logic for that matter to show how they reach the sentence that they do. We wanted to find the patterns between how sentences are given and connect it with the rhetoric that judges use during sentencing hearings for both men and women. It was hypothesized that, when analyzing judge’s sentencing transcripts, there will be gender-based biases within the rhetoric.

The final sentencing hearing is focused on giving both the prosecuting witness(es) and the defendant a space to express the effects of the crime and the trial on their lives. Federal judges are elected or appointed to be impartial upholders of the law, but as shown by the creation of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, impartiality is something not commonly achieved. Thus, we believed that we would be most likely to find consistent rhetoric used by judges by utilizing sentencing hearings. Our study looked at the transcripts published from these hearings, as well as other documentation related to sentencing such as memorandums and judgements, in order to collect data of the lexicon and rhetoric used.

The hearing transcripts from 54 women within tPP database were analyzed and then compared to a comparable sample of men to look for major differences or patterns that were present. We analyzed these documents through AntConc, a corpus linguistic analysis software that allows us to look into patterns present in large selections of text and found many interesting patterns.

One interesting finding was through another software we used, R, that showed men’s memorandums being shockingly similar to women’s judgments when it came to the ratio of positive and negative words used throughout the document. Similarly, men’s judgments were very similar to women’s memorandums ratio of positive to negative words. While all had significantly more negative than positive words, the men’s judgments had the most positive to negative ratio, just exceeding the half and half point.

With more time and expertise of R and other sentiment analysis packages, this research could dive deeper into finding what these patterns describe. If bias is found with closer examination by more advanced sentiment analysis, judges could be trained and better understand their bias as well as the bias of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that could be leading men to receive disproportionally longer sentencing lengths. This could then be examined not only for gender but also inclusive of variables like race.

An Exploratory Dive into the Dark Network Links of Far-Right tPP Cases

The posts below are brief summaries of 14-week research projects designed and carried out by our student team. tPP plans to release the full studies as peer-reviewed publications in the future.

An Exploratory Dive into the Dark Network Links of Far-Right tPP Cases

Meg Drown

There has been a mass movement by far-right extremists to dark web social media platforms and the use of cryptocurrencies as a means to crowdsource. This move has largely been due to the initiatives of big tech companies to stymie the current of extremist content on their websites by removing users who express extremist views or are otherwise connected to extremist organizations. Many on the far-right have publicly renounced Facebook, Twitter, and other tech companies claiming that their actions to remove extremist content, especially that iterated from the far-right, infringes on Americans’ right to free speech [1].

Although there are detailed user agreements that place constraints on the content that is broadcast by users, prohibiting the kind of insulting and hateful speech that is often expressed by those on the far-right, leaders and organizers on the far-right have gained momentum by politicizing this phenomenon. However new sites have arisen to paradoxically give far-right extremists a “safe haven” to express their views. The creator of social media platform Gab, has told media outlets that the purpose of Gab was to create an online platform specifically for conservatives and the far-right, whom he believes have been treated unfairly by big tech. The site’s lackadaisical regulations on what would normatively be considered hate speech and its targeted advertising towards conservatives have combined to create the perfect storm, or what has been described as a “hate-filled echo chamber full of racism and conspiracy theories” [2].

Likewise, 8chan, an imageboard and offshoot of 4chan, is another well-known site that harbors extremist content. Purportedly, the manifesto released by 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, the man who murdered 50 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand was circulated via 8chan and fell into the hands of another impressionable extremist. John Earnest, a 19-year-old who has been indicted on 109 hate crime charges, carried out an attack on a synagogue in early May leaving one dead and three injured. According to a Vox article detailing the apparent perils of 8chan, Earnest was inspired to carry out the attack, in part, due to the radical ideology outlined in Tarrant’s manifesto [3].

Fintech has pursued similar action against extremist users. Mainstream digital fundraising sites such as PayPal and Amazon, have been proactively identifying and denying access to those users utilizing their sites to fundraise for nefarious purposes. Richard Spencer and prominent voices on the far-right reveled at the spectacularity of Bitcoin to fundraise for their unsettling online platforms. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are unique due to their peer-to-peer (P2P) transactional features. It is, in part, due to this feature that makes it easy to hide under the guise of anonymity while extorting money for various purposes [4]. Though the apparent anonymity benefits of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been cited by law enforcement and those using Bitcoin as a means to fundraise as the defining feature of the platform, scholars have asserted that Bitcoin is one knock below anonymous. Rather, Bitcoin and many of its crypto counterparts are pseudonymous due to endpoint identification in straightforward transactions.

An ambition of many open-source intelligence analysts is to be able to identify and track the financial networks of far-right actors. Certainly, open-source intelligence analysts have been highly successful at identifying traditional transactional networks and, recently, crypto transactional networks. John Bambenek, an open-source intelligence researcher and professor of cybersecurity at the iSchool in Illinois, does just that [5]. Specifically, Bambenek tracks the donations received by white nationalist BTC wallets, the amount spent, and their balance, which he records in a daily wallet summary report via his Twitter account called Neonazi BTC Tracker (@NeonaziWallets) [6]. Bambenek also records whenever a withdrawal or a substantial donation is made to one of the white nationalist BTC wallets in a separate tweet. For all of the apparent anonymity benefits of using BTC, highly-skilled computer scientists are able to identify and track specific BTC wallets using mathematical algorithms and the fact that the BTC transaction log is public by design.

Keeping in mind tPP while researching the shift of far-right actors to cryptocurrencies and dark web platforms, it was an ambition of mine to be able to identify individuals who occur in tPP that exist in a crypto transactional network with some prominent members of the far-right that have rose to prominence in recent years, and have, in fact, gained traction in the Bitcoin and dark web realms. However, due to my limited capabilities in being able to identify users who send donations via Bitcoin to these prominent far-right actors and the sheer volume of transactions that occur between their accounts, I found it an improbable task to carry out in a limited amount of time.

However, I did find that individuals in tPP who are coded as Rightist: Identity-focused under the variable Ideological Affiliation, especially those occurring after the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 had maintained a presence on dark web forums and were, perhaps, inspired by extremist media purveyed on these forums. Wanting to delve deeper into the dark web links of individuals in tPP, I took an exploratory sample of those coded as Rightist: Identity-focused occuring after 12 August 2017. I created a link analysis which identified how various actors in the exploratory sample connected with one another.

To do so, I collected open-source data on the individuals via court documents, newspaper articles, and examination of dark web content that had been released online. Though the results were rather underwhelming – most individuals who were linked to one another were linked through organizational ties – I did find that several members of my exploratory sample had maintained ties with prominent far-right organizers, such as Richard Spencer and Eli Mosley, or others in tPP who had carried out high-profile attacks such as Dylann Roof and Robert Bowers. In fact, Bowers purportedly decried the prosecutions of various members of the Rise Above Movement (RAM), described as a “a Southern California-based racist fight club” [7], who appeared in the exploratory sample and had allegedly interchanged with the leader of RAM, Robert Rundo, via Gab.

Though the subject sample was small and the findings marginally supportive of a dark web network that exists between tPP individuals, my paper revealed that there are demonstrable links between actors on the right through dark web social media platforms such as Gab, Discord, and 8chan. Further studies can and should be carried out in order that we can better understand how individuals occurring in tPP interact and position themselves in the far-right movement through dark web participation.


[1] Kirkland, “Relegated To Fringe Platforms, White Nationalists Stuck In Own Echo Chamber”; “Big Tech, the Alt-Right and the Unknown Future of the Internet”; “Inside the Hate-Filled Echo Chamber of Racism and Conspiracy Theories | Media | The Guardian.”

[2] “Inside the Hate-Filled Echo Chamber of Racism and Conspiracy Theories | Media | The Guardian.”

[3] Stewart, “8chan, Explained.”

[4] Mabunda, “Cryptocurrency.”

[5] Matsakis, Koebler, and Pearson, “This Twitter Bot Tracks Neo-Nazi Bitcoin Transactions.”

[6] Tracker, “New Payment to Henrik Palmgren (Http://RedIce.Tv ): 0.00519921 BTC ($20.16) Https://Blockchain.Info/Tx/127b726aa6ad4c43d41b1b6783d1a71e05c27deeae7a393b44ced91a032948a7 … Total of Henrik Palmgren (Http://RedIce.Tv ) BTC Wallets: 0 BTC ($0).”

[7] “Rise Above Movement.”

Friend of Foe?: An Analysis of Factors Influencing Sentence Length in the Prosecution of Terrorism

The posts below are brief summaries of 14-week research projects designed and carried out by our student team. tPP plans to release the full studies as peer-reviewed publications in the future.

Friend of Foe?: An Analysis of Factors Influencing Sentence Length in the Prosecution of Terrorism

Megan Burtis & Liz Butler

Our research project utilized a grounded theory case study analysis to determine which factors influence the extent to which the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are adhered to in the prosecution of terroristic cases.

The cases we analyzed we United States v. Burgert et al., United States v. Boyd et al., and United States v. Dibee et al. All findings within our paper were the result of the analysis of the three case studies we selected. Using a grounded theory approach, the analysis of these findings yielded the creation of specific categories which provide a theory as to what factors have the greatest impact on sentencing. Our paper theorizes that government manipulation of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines plays the biggest role in determining the final sentence length of defendants prosecuted for terroristic crimes. Thus, the way in which the government views a defendant ultimately determines their sentence.

Four key factors were found to influence the government’s view of defendants which include the plea entered by the defendant, the level of regret the defendant shows for the crime committed, the degree to which the defendant continues to support the ideology which motivated their crime, and finally the extent to which the defendant cooperated with the government during both the investigation and adjudication. The evaluation of these factors allowed for defendants to be placed in specific categories, as shown in the table, which reflect whether they will receive sentences at the lower or higher end of what was recommended.

Our research tentatively supported our initial hypothesis that race/ethnicity, citizenship status, and “othered” status would be influential factors, but we would require more evidence to make this claim with any degree of certainty. Finally, these findings have significant implications for future research, specifically pertaining to the use of terrorism enhancements and plea bargains. Further research is recommended to see whether both or neither of these strategies are suitable as a counterterrorism measure. Further research into the generalizability of our theory will also be required to test its applicability.

Deportation Station: How the United States Decides Who Stays and Who Goes

The posts below are brief summaries of 14-week research projects designed and carried out by our student team. tPP plans to release the full studies as peer-reviewed publications in the future.

Deportation Station: How the United States Decides Who Stays and Who Goes

Zoe Belford

My paper assessed what conditions lead to an increased likelihood of deportation following a guilty verdict in a United States terrorism prosecution, as well as if and how this relates to post-9/11 national security policy.  My sample included all cases in the Prosecution Project’s database that included a defendant with foreign citizenship, as well as had ended in a guilty verdict. This resulted in a sample size of 306, which I divided into two subsamples – cases which ended in deportation and cases which did not. Using these two samples,  I conducted a descriptive statistical analysis to find if any notable differences existed between the two groups.

My findings were as follows. Compared to non-deported defendants, deported defendants were:

    • Less likely to have a case involving a co-defendant
    • Less likely to have been charged with a previous similar crime
    • More likely to have completed the crime they were charged with
    • Less likely to have their case involve an informant
    • Less likely to be affiliated with a foreign terrorist organization
    • Have, on average, significantly lower sentence lengths
    • More likely to have an unclear ideological affiliation
    • Less likely to have an affiliation with a Salafi/Jihadist ideology
    • More likely to be Middle Eastern/North African

All of these findings hold the potential for further research, but I focused on the variable of foreign terrorist organization (FTO) affiliation. I found that deported defendants are known to be FTO-affiliated in only 35% of cases, whereas non-deported defendants are known to be FTO-affiliated in 72% of cases.

During my research for this project, I came across a theory that seemed particularly applicable to my observed findings. Based in economic and national security studies, mosaic theory posits that bits of intelligence can be pieced together by hostile parties (i.e. foreign intelligence agencies, foreign terrorist organizations) to form a picture of US intelligence practices and knowledge [1]. Since 9/11, this theory has played a significant role in the United States court system. Specifically, it was used to justify the classification of documents regarding the detainment of over seven-hundred people in regards to September 11th [2]. Based on my findings, I hypothesize that that the government is choosing to keep defendants who are more intertwined with known terrorist organizations within the country to avoid the potential intelligence risks of a deportation hearing. Deportation hearings can only be closed in a select number of circumstances [3], whereas the precedent to use mosaic theory to justify the classification of criminal proceedings has already been set.


[1] Neuman, Gerald L. 2005. “Discretionary Deportation.” Georgetown Immigration Law Journal 20: 611–56.

[2] Pozen, David E., James E. Baker, Jessica Bulman-Pozen, Fadi Hanna, Kenneth Levit, John Sims, and David Vladeck. 2005. “The Mosaic Theory, National Security, and the Freedom of Information Act.” Yale Law Journal.

[3] “Fact Sheet: Observing Immigration Court Hearings.” 2015. Department of Justice. February 10, 2015.

USA Today cites tPP

We’re very proud to see that the amazing work of our student researchers was quoted today by USA Today in their article, “AOC says she gets death threats after organizations air ‘hateful messages’ about her”.

We hope to be a resource to media, policy makers, researchers and advocates in the years to come as our data set grows and improves!

Have a question we can answer, let us know?