The number of terrorist incidents in the United States has declined dramatically from 51 in 1982 and 31 in 1983 to eight during the current year, FBI Director William H. Webster said at a news conference yesterday.
"This is one of the things that pleased me the most about this past year," Webster said.
The decline was a result of FBI arrests during the past several years of members of terrorist groups, including terrorist Armenians, Croatians and the group FALN (Puerto Rican Armed Forces for National Liberation), Webster said. The arrests, in turn, were partly a result of help from a computer system known as the "Terrorism Research and Analytical Center" that analyzes terrorist incidents, finds patterns, traces connections between terrorist groups and asseses their threat, Webster said.
In response to questions, Webster said the 20 bombings at abortion clinics around the nation are not counted as terrorist incidents because an organized group has not been identified as being responsible for the bombings.
He said that while people claiming responsibility for the acts use the name "Army of God," that name may be "a nice name to be used" but may not have anyone behind it.
"I'm trying to hold the line and not call everything terrorism," Webster said. "We have a lot of activities in civil rights cases that you might want to call terrorist. But bombing a church would be a major civil rights violation."
Webster also said he would ask Congress to amend the Federal Tort Claims Act, which makes law enforcement officials liable when defendants claim that they were beaten or otherwise harmed.