Although the terrors of war and criminal violence have been known since the dawn of human existence, the concept of terrorism as a form of political violence originated in le terreur of the French Revolution. Initially a word for the brutal excesses of a revolutionary government (some forty thousand persons were guillotined), by the late nineteenth century "terrorism" referred almost exclusively to the antigovernment violence of groups such as the Russian Narodnaya Volya ("Will of the People"). Since then, the designation of particular groups and actions as terrorist has varied with political assumptions and aims.
To defenders of government, almost any violence by opponents may be defined as terrorism. To opponents, virtually any governmental effort to restrain or repress opposition may be defined as terrorism. Whether "oppositional" or "state" terrorism, the distinction itself is embedded in a snarl of issues raised by the intersection of ideological and analytical concerns.
After noting that more than one hundred definitions have been offered, Laqueur (1999) concludes that the only generally accepted characteristic of terrorism is that it involves violence or the threat of violence. Nonetheless, most observers also include political motivation and some notion of an organization that accepts and fosters violence as a political tactic.
Political motivation may vary from a scarcely articulate resentment of felt obstructions and sensed antagonists to a highly developed consciousness and analysis of political relationships. Mob violence against despised racial or ethnic groups typically has no specific political rationale and goals, despite the tendency of politicians and media commentators to impute responsibility for such violence to agitators and conspirators. At a somewhat higher level of political consciousness are planned attacks by individuals aroused by ideological messages warning them of some threat (e.g., extinction of the white race, loss of national sovereignty, environmental catastrophe, economic ruin) and blaming it on some population (e.g., Jews, Arabs, nonwhites, whites) or institution (e.g., the American "Zionist Occupation Government," the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund). Revolutionary strategists such as Che Guevara and Carlos Marighela, as well as counterrevolutionary strategists such as East Germany's Markus Wolff and Argentina's General Augusto Pinochet, exemplify the application of reason to planning and justifying the systematic use of terrorism and other forms of violence for political ends. Whether in the revolutionists' manuals of guerrilla warfare and bomb-making or the counterrevolutionists' manuals of "low intensity warfare" and antiterrorist operations, the rationales for violence are derived from quite explicit (though sometimes bizarre) understandings of the historical and social dimensions of the conflict situation.
Whether individuals acting on their own initiative may be terrorists depends on how one defines political organization. Wardlaw is one of the few analysts to allow for the possibility of a lone terrorist who uses or threatens violence to coerce a target group, beyond the immediate victims, into acceding to political demands. Theodore Kaczinski (the Unabomber) might be seen as an example. However, the Unabomber acted in awareness that a great many people agreed or sympathized with his views on the environmental threats posed by corporate greed aided and abetted by irresponsible scientific research and governmental corruption. Similarly, the fugitive Eric Robert Rudolph, wanted for abortion clinic bombings as well as for the Atlanta Olympics bombing, acted with at least the tacit (and probably some material) support of antiabortion and antigovernment extremists. That their views were drawn from or coincided with the ideologies of terrorist organizations (ranging from Earth First and the May 19th Communist Organization (M19CO) to Aryan Nations and The Order) indicates that they acted in an organizational context, from which they drew inspiration, orientation, and justification.
The notion of organizational context implies that terrorists may be more or less loosely organized, and that particular organizations may be indirectly as well as directly responsible for terrorist incidents. For instance, while the Saudi Arabian exile Osama bin Ladan cannot possibly be directly responsible for every attack by Islamic fundamentalists, his ideological and financial support for their cause encourages terrorism far beyond the operations of his own organization. Indeed, bin Ladan's organization appears to be more accurately described as a network of quasi-independent militant groups who benefit from his capacity to provide inspirational leadership and logistical support.
So far we have observed that terrorism is politically motivated violence for which organizations are directly or indirectly responsible. What remains to be settled is just how terrorism differs from other political violence. To begin, no definition of terrorism has included rioting, civil war, revolution, or international war, though analysts have agreed that terrorist incidents may occur in conjunction with or as a part of such violence. The consensus is that terrorist violence is more organized and deliberate than rioting, lesser in organization and scale than war. And though guerrillas are often pictured as terrorists by their government opponents (e.g., the Zapatista rebels in Mexico), guerrilla resistance to governmental forces does not necessarily involve terrorist acts.
Differentiating assassination and terrorism is more problematic. Ben-Yehuda argues strongly that terrorism must be distinguished from assassination, but has been unable to pin down the exact nature of the presumed differences. He suggests that terrorism is indiscriminate killing aimed at a general target while assassination targets specific individuals, but is admittedly unable to maintain the distinction in his own case analyses (pp. 38, 46–47). As the number of victims rises, observers appear to be increasingly likely to describe the incident as terrorism rather than assassination. And insofar as "innocents" such as children, café patrons, and passing motorists are victims, the violence is more likely to be viewed as terrorism. But the difficulty is that deliberate attacks on specific individuals because of their political importance may harm people who just happen to be in the line of fire or nearby when the bomb explodes. Moreover, "innocents" may be victimized by assassins not only accidentally but sometimes deliberately—for example, to eliminate witnesses, distract pursuers, or intimidate bystanders.
Perhaps the best working solution is to accept Ben-Yehuda's general point: that assassination is targeted at specific persons even though others may be harmed, while terrorism is characterized by essentially random targeting. Both aim at maximum political impact, but differ in the rationale for target selection: the assassin believes that killing one or more specific persons will be effective in weakening the will of the opposition; the terrorist believes that the randomness of victimization—especially if casualties are maximized—will be effective, particularly by spreading the perceived risks of victimization.
To summarize, terrorism is defined as politically motivated violence, for which organizations are directly or indirectly responsible, that is intended to weaken the will of the opposition by using random targeting to spread the fear of victimization.
Terrorism and law
There is no established legal definition of terrorism. Internationally, efforts within and outside the United Nations have failed in the face of widely divergent perceptions of what constitutes terrorism and who are terrorists. In 1972 the General Assembly formed an Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism that met for seven years. There were prolonged debates on whether it is necessary or possible to reach a definition (Higgins). Moreover, it became clear that terrorism cannot be defined in terms of specified acts, targets, purposes, or actors. For instance, the shooting of a high official by an individual may be motivated by personal jealousy or envy; a plane may be destroyed in a plot to collect insurance; a diplomat may be kidnapped to force payment of a ransom. Beyond the apparent technical impossibility of defining terrorism as a distinct criminal offense, international rivalries make it politically impossible.
Probably the most intractable political issues have been whether a legal definition should or can include (1) violent actions by a state, and (2) violent resistance to internal or foreign oppression. On the question of state terrorism, governments have adamantly rejected any legal definition that might apply to their own acts of violence against external or internal enemies. On the second issue, governments have sharply disagreed on whether the concept of terrorism might extend to violence on behalf of such causes as "national liberation" from colonial rule or imperial domination, "progressive" opposition to capitalism, resistance to "cultural genocide," or impeding "assaults on the environment." The outcome has been a consensus to abandon the quest for a legal definition of terrorism in favor of a piecemeal strategy: the ad hoc prohibition of carefully delimited acts against specified targets such as skyjacking commercial airliners.
Apart from the United Nations, there have been other multinational attempts to establish a legal basis for cooperation against oppositional (including state-sponsored) terrorism. Most such efforts involve operational agreements among states to help one another in such ways as sharing intelligence, apprehending and extraditing suspects, and joint training of special police and military units. The most ambitious such arrangement is the 1992 agreement (the Maastricht "third pillar") institutionalizing cooperation among the twelve members of the European Union in combating "terrorism, drug trafficking, and serious organized crime" (Chalk, p. 3). The treaty commits the members to eliminating internal border controls, while leaving the definition of terrorism to the discretion of the operational executive (the "K4 Committee"). Given the greater freedom of movement and the lack of oversight by either national parliaments or elected EU institutions, there is some concern that Western Europe is becoming more vulnerable to terrorism while at the same time weakening democratic legal controls over antiterrorism policy decisions (Chalk).
Within the United States, the legal status of terrorism is similarly unsettled. Although it is the subject of a growing stream of congressional committee hearings, presidential statements, and reports from the cabinet level down through the complex of intelligence and investigative agencies, terrorism is as much a term of convenience in American legal discourse as it is in international law. A statutory definition is found in the United States Code, Section 2656f(d): "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetuated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience." However, it is used by the State Department as a guideline for compiling incidence reports, but not by either the Defense Department or the F.B.I., which have their own definitions reflecting the differences in agency priorities and interests (Hoffman, pp. 37–38). Though crimes of violence believed to be politically motivated are given the highest investigative priority, the F.B.I. emphasizes specific criminal conduct in developing evidence on which charges are based. Accused persons are indicted not for terrorism but for "a plethora of traditional and, occasionally, exotic criminal offenses" (Smith, p. 7). Two sets of guidelines have been issued by the Attorney General: domestic terrorism investigations are conducted under explicit public guidelines, "foreign-based" terrorism investigations under classified guidelines allowing greater leeway. Increased federal powers (including controversial restrictions on habeas corpus) to deal with both domestic and foreign terrorism were provided in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Kappler). It is increasingly clear that although political motivation is typically avoided as an element in the prosecution of terrorists, conviction does result in significantly longer sentences (averaging 167 months) than for comparable conventional offenders (averaging 46 months)–with identification as "terrorist" being the most powerful predictor of sentence severity (Smith and Damphousse).
Because of their openness and commitment to the rule of law, democracies are indeed more likely than dictatorships to suffer terrorist attacks, and tend under attack to increase police discretionary powers. (For the classic review of the issues, see Wilkinson.) It appears highly unlikely that democratic institutions can be protected from oppositional terrorism without sacrificing, at least temporarily, some freedoms. Whether and how far antiterrorism measures can proceed without themselves contributing to the permanent weakening of democracy is the subject of continuing debate.
Research aimed at explaining terrorism has focused on the psychological characteristics of individual terrorists, the nature of terrorist organizations, and the social or cultural environments in which terrorist organizations emerge.
The psychology of terrorists. In a useful summation of the literature, Ross has identified seven psychological approaches that have been used in efforts to understand terrorists: psychoanalytical, learning, frustration-aggression, narcissism-aggression, trait, developmental, and motivational/rational choice. Finding some merit in each, though none is satisfactory in itself, he proposes an integration of their key features in a model consisting of five "etiological features of terrorism listed in increasing order of importance" (p. 182). First: the development of facilitating traits, with the most often reported being fear, hostility, depression, guilt, antiauthoritarianism, perceived lack of manliness, self-centeredness, extreme extroversion, need for high risks or stress, and alienation. Second: frustration or narcissistic rage resulting in aggressive behavior. Third: associational drives arising from social marginality and isolation. Fourth: learning opportunities to which members of terrorist organizations are exposed, through which orientations and behaviors are shaped. Fifth: cost-benefit calculations by which terrorist acts are justified as the only or most effective means to achieve political goals.
To his credit, Ross argues that these psychological factors constitute a process inclining, though not determining, an individual to become a terrorist. Further, he embeds the psychological model in a larger model of historical and structural factors that define the contexts, either facilitating or inhibiting, in which the processes operate. The full model incorporating both psychological and structural factors summarizes numerous hypotheses about causal paths. This is an ambitious and commendable effort to organize all that has been learned about terrorists and terrorism, as the basis for further research. However, the vast body of research on which it is based is extremely uneven in quality, in terms of both conceptual and methodological rigor. In particular, the psychological studies have generally ignored the political and ideological clashes in which terrorists and terrorism are defined. The assumption of psychopathology has dominated the field of terrorist research, and the measurement of psychological variables has been characterized by low reliability and dubious validity.
The potential value of psychological studies of individual terrorists appears to be quite limited at best. Perhaps the most promising line of inquiry is to follow Crenshaw's lead in recognizing that terrorist behavior is a matter of strategic choice. In Hoffman's words, the "terrorist is fundamentally a violent intellectual, prepared to use and indeed committed to using force in the attainment of his goals" (p. 43). Whatever one thinks of the content and implications of terrorist reasoning, it is clear that terrorists do base their decisions on what they know, or believe they know, about the realities of the political situations in which they operate. That their knowledge and the conclusions to which it leads may be mistaken or even bizarre in the eyes of outsiders is a function not of psychopathology but instead of the information and analyses to which they have access. Among the most important determinants of what terrorists can know and believe are the organizations to which they belong, or at least from which they receive inspiration and direction.
The nature of terrorist organizations. Terrorist organizations vary from the classic secret "cell" structure to loosely defined networks of persons with essentially the same political ideology who have adopted terrorist tactics. Examples of tightly organized (and extensively researched) groups are the Irish Republican Army, the Italian Red Brigade, the German Baader-Meinhof Group (Red Army Fraction), and the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). There are fewer examples of terrorist networks, and less has been written about them, partly because they have proven to be more difficult to locate and study and partly because the shift toward less tightly knit and identifiable organizations is a relatively recent development. (Debates in the 1960s–1980s era over the existence of a worldwide terrorist network dominated by the former USSR were driven by cold war politics rather than any real evidence.) Perhaps the prototypical network internationally is that associated with Osama bin Ladan, widely considered ultimately responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York, the 1996 destruction of an American military housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and the 2000 attack on the U. S. S. Cole while berthed for refueling at Aden, Yemen.
Within the United States, there is an emerging network of right-wing terrorists, many of whom are sometime members of an assortment of militias, secessionist communities, white supremacy organizations, and morality movements, most of them adherents to some variant of Christian Identity ideology. The main impetus for shifting to more loosely organized domestic terrorism is the success of the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies in obtaining criminal convictions of leaders and members of such organizations as the Ku Klux Klan and Richard Butler's Aryan Nations, which have also been bankrupted by civil suits. To date, the most deadly incident linked to the rightist network is the 1995 bombing of the Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City (in which 168 people died) by Timothy McVeigh, with help from a few associates and at least tacit approval of many others.
Becoming a terrorist appears to be a "process of radicalization" (Turk) in which politically aware individuals move through blurred and overlapping stages of alienation, searching, recruitment, commitment, and action. Whether a particular individual will in fact become a terrorist cannot be predicted because of the myriad factors affecting the transitions at every point. One of the few safe generalizations is that the many who begin the process become a relative few by its end. And it should be kept in mind that what is known about the radicalization process is based almost entirely on studies of "cell" organizations.
The trajectory begins with a vaguely disturbing sense that "our" kind of people and values are threatened, combined with the assumption that one can "do something about it." This level of political consciousness tends to reflect the individual's perceptions of social divisions and conflicts, with the most common being those associated with class, ethnic, racial, nationalist, and ideological distinctions. Accordingly, it is very likely that a particular group will be seen as the threat which needs to be countered. Conventional political activities such as helping in elections and signing petitions may result in perceived failures to improve the situation. Repeated experiences of political failure lead to frustration with conventional politics: the resentment of threatening others is now heightened by alienation from "the system."
Searching for alternatives may take the alienated individual through a range of ideological and organizational possibilities. Reading, listening to speeches and debates, going to meetings, arguing with others: the search may lead from one version of truth to another, from one group to another, in what some searchers find a confusing odyssey that they wish to end in a clear resolution. They feel the need to believe and do "something." Some of the options will at least raise the issue of whether and when it is right to use violence to further political objectives. And some will offer convincing justifications for violence. Whatever the form of violence advocated or encouraged, eventually the killing of opponents will be the key issue in deciding how serious are one's political concerns. Taking up the gun or bomb is at this point the test of commitment.
The searcher will by now probably have been noticed by those already committed to terrorism. Whether the individual will become a terrorist is problematic, as terrorist organizations screen out the great majority of potential recruits. Regardless of their fervor, individuals seen as lacking the potential for total commitment and disciplined action will not be recruited. Those who are selected will have to "cross the bridge" to be accepted as members of the terrorist organization, which usually means they will be given the assignment of murdering a police officer or committing some other deadly act. The test serves both to confirm the recruit's willingness and ability to carry out an act of illegal violence and to give the organization the power to turn the offender over to the authorities if necessary—for example, in the event of a refusal to obey orders or a future change of heart.
Commitment is ensured by a strict regimen of internal discipline combining isolation, blackmail, coercion, and indoctrination. Physical and social isolation is accomplished by persuading or forcing the individual to cut off ties to family, friends, and anyone else outside the organization. In rare instances, a contact may be authorized, usually in order to obtain funds, supplies, information, target access, or something else of use to the organization. Movements from place to place are tightly controlled. Members are required to turn over all financial and other personal assets to the organization. Blackmail is a constant threat should the member become seriously troublesome. More often, members who are thought to be weakening in their commitment or to be insubordinate, careless about security, or losing their nerve are punished by beatings, confinement, deprivation of food or other amenities, torture, rape, or murder.
While the elements of isolation, blackmail, and coercion place the individual terrorist in a highly vulnerable controlled environment, real commitment is achieved by indoctrination. Access to unauthorized sources of information is prohibited, exposure to authorized sources is required. Increasingly, the terrorist develops a perspective shaped only by the organization's ideology. Factual assertions cannot be checked, explanations cannot be tested, assumptions and implications cannot be debated. Dissensus becomes an impossibility as well as an offense within the organization. Not surprisingly, the world view promoted by indoctrination typically exaggerates the salience and resources of the organization and the effectiveness of its actions. The major themes are that the cause is just, the organization's power is growing, the struggle is the foremost political reality for opponents as it is for the terrorists, the opposition is weakening, and victory is assured.
The end product of the radicalization process is a dedicated terrorist, whose convictions are nonetheless real even though based as much on isolation and lack of knowledge as much as on collegial support and knowledge of political realities. To the terrorist, responsibility for terrorism and its casualties lies with the opposition, whose threats and intransigence have forced adoption of the terrorist option. The struggle is not a "fantasy war" but a real one.
Environments of terrorism. Excepting the most ruthless dictatorships, terrorist organizations have emerged in virtually every kind of society: democratic and authoritarian, developed and developing, ethnically or racially diverse and homogeneous societies. The diversity of social and cultural environments of terrorism has, so far anyway, defeated efforts to explain terrorism by pointing to class, racial, or other social inequalities; economic exploitation or decline; political oppression; demographic imbalances; or other social structural factors. (For exhaustive reviews of general theories of terrorism and other forms of political violence, see Schmid and Jongman, and Zimmermann.) If theories focused on political and economic factors have achieved little, their failure has at a minimum encouraged the questioning of the common assumption that violence is a political abnormality somehow caused by political and/or economic inequities. That violence may well be not just a potential aberration but an ever-present option in political conflicts is suggested by Laqueur's observation that terrorist organizations usually arise from "a split between the moderate and the more extreme wings of an already-existing organization" (p. 104).
A far more promising path to explanation is suggested by the increasing significance of religious elements, and the declining importance of secular materialist notions of class and power struggles, in the ideologies of terrorism. Juergensmeyer has in a monumental study opened up the implications of this historic shift, demonstrating that the meaningfulness of their struggle for most contemporary terrorists derives from religious traditions and innovations (seldom acknowledged as such) that constitute, or are compatible with, "cultures of violence" (pp. 10–12). The thesis is developed through case studies of "social groupings" (encompassing huge and small networks as well as tight organizations) whose ideologies express themes found in five major religious traditions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, and Buddhism.
In each case it is shown that the terrorist ideology cannot be cavalierly dismissed as simply a distortion or deviation. Christian antiabortionists such as Michael Bray justify the bombing of clinics and the murder of surgeons by complex theological arguments against killing the innocent and for establishing a new moral order. Yoel Lerner's 1995 assassination of Israel's prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was justified by Rabbi Meir Kahane as a religious act to ensure the survival of the state of Israel, which is the essential fore-runner of the biblical Israel to be fulfilled through divine redemption (the coming of the Messiah). The World Trade Center bombing and other violence against the United States and its allies is defended by invoking the Koran's prescription of violence to defend the faith against its enemies, including whoever threatens the material and cultural survival of the faithful. Sikh terrorism in India and abroad is similarly justified by such leaders as Simranjit Singh Mann as protecting the faith from the corrosive effects of secularism and Hinduization. And despite Buddhism's pacifist teachings, Shoko Asahara found justification for releasing sarin gas in the Tokyo subway in traditional Buddhist teachings that the rule of nonviolence can be broken when five conditions are satisfied: "something living must have been killed; the killer must have known that it was alive; the killer must have intended to kill it; an actual act of killing must have taken place; and the person or animal attacked must, in fact, have died" (Juergensmeyer, p. 113). Force may be used to defend the faith and to establish a peaceful moral order.
In each case, religious ideas provide an explanation of the believer's sense of loss and threat in this world; define in cosmic terms the need to struggle against those responsible; and give the believer's life a wonderful new significance as a holy warrior in a just cause. Doubt, confusion, and hopelessness are overcome by a transcendent truth that makes sense of what for many have been "real experiences of economic destitution, social oppression, political corruption, and a desperate need for the hope of rising above the limitations of modern life" (Juergensmeyer, p. 242). Increasingly, the religious ideologies driving terrorist movements resonate with widely held feelings that the secularism of the modern world order is threatening the nonmaterial values (family, morality, faith, caring, sharing) on which human societies depend for meaning and survival.
Three conclusions are drawn from reviewing efforts to explain terrorism. First, terrorists are not psychologically much different from the rest of us. Second, their organizations are shifting toward looser networks rather than the tight hierarchies of the past. Third, the environments inspiring terrorism are increasingly cultural, and specifically religious. The implications for the future appear to be grim.
The future of terrorism
Because individual terrorists and their organizations are becoming harder to keep track of, and given the difficulties of identifying terrorists and terrorism in the first place, the policy assumptions of the past are likely to be counterproductive in the future. Containment, in particular, does not seem to be a promising strategy when the ease of travel and communication are helping to make anachronisms of international borders. Similarly, efforts to control investments and limit technology transfers appear to be not only failing but also aggravating the fears of people around the globe who distrust the motives of multinational economic and political entities. The 2000 demonstrations in Seattle and elsewhere against the International Monetary Fund are harbingers of what we can expect as the development-investment programs of the Western power centers sharpen the great differences between those favored by the programs and those disadvantaged by them.
The "new terrorism" of religiously dedicated holy warriors is less vulnerable to being deterred by military and law enforcement threats. Indeed, the use of violence has not only failed to diminish international and domestic terrorism but also provided the ideologists of terrorism with useful ammunition. Rightist domestic terrorism in the United States has been strengthened by such incidents as the Waco assault, as has Islamic terrorism by the attempted assassinations of Osama bin Ladan and other leading figures. Though understandable and perhaps even appropriate in some instances, military tactical responses to terrorist threats and attacks have given credence in the eyes of believers to religious depictions of Western, particularly American, societies as satanic. The new terrorists are convinced of divine approval of their actions and of ultimate victory, even if it is to be a supernatural one. As Laqueur emphasizes, the new terrorists are so dangerous precisely because they "are not primarily interested in gain or glory, but instead want a state or a society in their own image, cleansed of their enemies" (p. 277).
Such warriors can be expected to show little reluctance to use weapons of mass destruction. Although governments have concentrated investigative resources on reducing the threat of major nuclear attacks, most analysts are more concerned with the growing possibility of small-scale yet spectacularly alarming weapons being used. Small nuclear devices are perhaps less likely to be used than chemical or biological weapons, but in any event the casualties of the future will probably be much greater on average than in the past. Meanwhile, conventional weapons continue to be readily available, along with instructions on how to make and use them. The portent is more incidents, more deaths and injuries, and more terrorist challenges to established social orders.
Austin T. Turk
See also Crime Causation: Political Theories; International Criminal Law; Political Process and Crime; War and Violent Crime; War Crimes.
Ben-Yehuda, Nachman. Political Assassination by Jews. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.
Chalk, Peter. West European Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.
Crenshaw, Martha. "The Logic of Terrorism: Terrorist Behavior as a Product of Strategic Choice." Origins of Terrorism. Edited by Walter Reich. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Higgins, Rosalyn. "The General International Law of Terrorism." Terrorism and International Law. Edited by Rosalyn Higgins and Maurice Flory. New York: Routledge, 1997. Pages 13–29.
Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
Kappler, Burke W. "Small Favors: Chapter 154 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, the States, and the Right to Counsel." Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 90, no. 2 (2000): 467–598.
Laqueur, Walter. Terrorism. Boston: Little, Brown, 1977.
——. The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Ross, Jeffrey Ian. "Beyond the Conceptualization of Terrorism: A Psychological-Structural Model of the Causes of This Activity." Collective Violence: Harmful Behavior in Groups and Government. Edited by Craig Summers and Eric Markusen. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999. Pages 169–192.
Schmid, Alex P., and Jongmanlbert J. Political Terrorism. New York: North-Holland Publishing Company, 1988.
Smith, Brent L. Terrorism in America: Pipe Bombs and Pipe Dreams. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.
Smith, Brent L., and Damphousse, Kelly R. "Punishing Political Offenders: The Effect of Political Motive on Federal Sentencing Decisions." Criminology 34, no. 3 (1996): 289–321.
Turk, Austin T. "Political Crime." Major Forms of Crime. Edited by Robert F. Meier. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1984. Pages 119–135.
Wardlaw, Grant. Political Terrorism: Theory, Tactics, and Counter-Measures, 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Wilkinson, Paul. Terrorism and the Liberal State. London: Macmillan, 1977.
Zimmermann, Ekkart. Political Violence, Crises, and Revolutions: Theories and Revolutions. Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman Publishing Company, 1983.
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Terrorism and Counterterrorism
Terrorism and Counterterrorism
Brian Michael Jenkins
Terrorism was a matter of growing international concern during the last three decades of the twentieth century, but following the 11 September 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., it became the paramount issue of U.S. foreign policy. On that day Middle Eastern terrorists hijacked four U.S. commercial airliners. They seized the controls and crashed two of the planes into the World Trade Center and one plane into the Pentagon. Passengers fought to regain control of the fourth plane, which then crashed in Pennsylvania, missing any symbolic targets but killing all those on board. These attacks, unprecedented in the annals of terrorism and unparalleled in American history in the magnitude and concentration of casualties, provoked an equally unprecedented declaration of war against terrorism.
Terrorist tactics themselves are nothing new. Political intrigues and wars throughout history have involved murder, hostage taking, and sabotage. Deliberately savage and cruel, even by eighth-century standards, Viking berserkers spread terror throughout the British Isles. Muslim assassins provoked terror among Christian crusaders and Arab leaders in the twelfth century. Julius Caesar, King Richard the Lionhearted, and Miguel de Cervantes were all held for ransom.
The word "terror" entered the political lexicon during the French Revolution's "reign of terror" and in the twentieth century was associated with oppression by totalitarian governments. The term "terrorism" emerged in the nineteenth century when bomb-throwing revolutionaries who wanted to obliterate property and terrorize the ruling classes acknowledged themselves to be terrorists. Revolutionary terrorism continued into the early twentieth century and reemerged following World War I. From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, terrorism often accompanied armed struggles for independence, especially in Algeria and Palestine.
THE EMERGENCE OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM
Terrorists continued to use the tactics of their historical predecessors: setting off bombs in public places, assassinating officials, kidnapping individuals to demand political concessions or ransom payments. But a new phenomenon, international terrorism, began with a series of spectacular attacks in the late 1960s. In 1968, Palestinians hijacked an El Al jetliner and flew it to Algeria, where they demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners. This began a wave of hijackings to obtain political concessions. In 1969 urban guerrillas in Brazil kidnapped the U.S. ambassador, later releasing him in return for the release of fifteen comrades imprisoned in Brazil. The tactic quickly spread throughout the world. In the following twelve months, diplomats were kidnapped in Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Jordan.
In February 1970 members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) sabotaged a Swissair flight to Tel Aviv, killing all forty-seven persons on board. In September 1970 the same group hijacked three airliners bound for Europe and diverted them to Jordan. In May 1972 three members of the Japanese Red Army, a group allied with the PFLP, attacked passengers at Israel's Lod Airport, killing twenty-five and wounding seventy-six. And in September of that year, members of Black September, another Middle Eastern group, seized nine Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Five of the terrorists and all nine of the hostages were killed in a disastrous rescue attempt by German police. The three surviving terrorists were traded for hostages aboard a Lufthansa flight hijacked the next month.
International terrorism emerged from a confluence of political circumstances and technological process. In the Middle East, Israel's defeat of the Arab armies in the Six-Day War of 1967 and the inability of Palestinians to mount an effective resistance movement in the territories newly occupied by Israel pushed them toward the use of terrorist tactics. Their mentors were the Algerian revolutionaries who in the fight for independence had carried their own terrorist campaign to France itself. For the Palestinians, anyone anywhere in the world who supported Israel's continued existence became a potential target, greatly broadening the theater of operations.
Inspired by the success of the Cuban revolution but unable to replicate its success, Latin America's guerrillas moved their struggle from the countryside into the cities. They replaced traditional guerrilla warfare with bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings, which guaranteed them national and international attention. Spectacular action took the place of patient political mobilization. At the same time, the Vietnam War sparked a new wave of revolutionary fervor that spread through the universities of Europe, Japan, and the United States. Mass protest movements spawned small groups on their extremist fringes that were determined to pursue a more violent struggle. These extremist groups emulated the tactics of their ideological counterparts in Latin America and the Middle East.
Changes in the technological environment during the 1970s also facilitated international terrorism. Jet air travel offered terrorists worldwide mobility and, with it, opportunities to strike targets anywhere. Television and the deployment of communications satellites offered terrorists almost instantaneous access to a global audience. By choreographing dramatic incidents of violence and hostage situations in which human life hung in the balance, terrorists could guarantee worldwide press coverage for their acts and their causes. The diffusion of small arms around the world and of increasingly powerful explosives and sophisticated detonating devices took terrorists far beyond the capacity of the early bomb throwers. Modern technology-dependent societies offered numerous vulnerabilities, from power grids to jumbo jets.
The relationship of all these incidents to one another was not self-evident at the time. Beyond the similarity in tactics, there was no obvious connection between a kidnapping in Uruguay, a bombing in Germany, and a hijacking in Africa. Why should actions carried out by persons who called themselves Tupamaros, Montoneros, the Red Brigades, or the Japanese Red Army be addressed within the same analytical and policy framework? International terrorism was an artificial construct useful for policy purposes. While recognizing the diversity of the terrorists and their causes, it identified their actions in the international domain as a mutual problem for all nations.
THE TARGETING OF AMERICA
Concern about international terrorism on the part of the U.S. foreign policy community was driven by two overlapping issues: the use of tactics that fell outside the accepted norms of diplomacy and armed conflict and the spillover of terrorist violence into the international domain. The latter was particularly important, since the prominence of the United States in world affairs and its involvement in many contentious areas made Americans and American interests frequent targets. Hundreds of terrorist attacks have been directed against the United States, its diplomats, and its diplomatic facilities.
Major incidents have included the kidnappings of U.S. diplomats in Latin America in the late 1960s and early 1970s; the multiple hijacking to Jordan's Dawson Field in 1970; the attack on arriving American passengers at Israel's Lod Airport in 1972; the terrorist seizure of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, and the subsequent murder of two American diplomats in 1973; the terrorist takeover of the U.S. consulate in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1975; the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran; the suicide bombings of the American embassy and U.S. marine barracks in Beirut in 1983; the bombing in 1983 of the American embassy in Kuwait; the kidnappings of Americans and the protracted hostage crisis in Lebanon, which lasted from 1984 to 1991; the hijackings of TWA flight 847 and of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985; the Libyan terrorist campaign in 1986; the sabotage and crash of PanAm flight 103 in 1988; the assassination plot against former President George H. W. Bush in 1993; the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993; the suicide bombing of the American military residential facility in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 1996; the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; the suicide bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in 2000; and the attacks in 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The attacks in the 1980s increasingly involved truck bombs, huge amounts of explosives on wheels, often driven by suicide drivers. These attacks manifested a fundamental change in terrorism. Traditionally, terrorists wanted a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead. Wanton violence was seen as counterproductive. But with the replacement of ideological causes by ethnic hatreds and religious fanaticism, large-scale, indiscriminate violence became the reality. Terrorists wanted a lot of people dead. But while truck bombs increased death tolls, they could not easily push the number of victims above several hundred. The terrorist solution was multiple attacks. In 1994 terrorists plotted to sabotage twelve U.S. airliners in the Pacific, and the 1998 attacks on the American embassies in Africa as well as the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon involved multiple targets. These large-scale operations have also led to fears that terrorists will incorporate chemical, biological, or possibly even nuclear weapons in future attacks.
It is clear that efforts to combat terrorism depend on international cooperation, but international politics has complicated attempts even to define international terrorism. Discussions in international forums have inevitably bogged down in futile debate. Some see terrorism as an alternative mode of warfare used by nations or groups that lack the conventional means of waging war, not as something to be outlawed. Some, believing that the ends justify the means, seek to exclude from the definition anything done by those engaged in wars of liberation. Others have wanted to broaden the definition to include acts of violence and other repressive acts by colonial, racist, and alien regimes against peoples struggling for liberation.
The United States has tried to define terrorism objectively on the basis of the quality of the act, not the identity of the perpetrators or the nature of their political cause. The rationale is that all terrorist acts are crimes, and many would also be war crimes or "grave breaches" of the rules of war even if one accepted the terrorists' assertion that they wage war. Terrorist acts involve violence or the threat of violence, sometimes coupled with explicit demands and always directed against noncombatants. The perpetrators are usually members of an organized group whose purposes are political. And the hallmark of terrorism—actions that are carried out in a way that will achieve maximum publicity and cause major alarm—introduces a distinction between the victims of the violence and the target audience. Indeed, the identity of the victims may be secondary or even irrelevant to the terrorist cause. "Pure terrorism" is entirely indiscriminate violence.
The U.S. position never won universal endorsement, but ultimately, the international community has come to achieve a rough consensus on terrorism. Although the community of nations could not reach an agreement on a precise definition, it did denounce terrorism as a form of political expression or mode of armed conflict and managed to construct a corpus of conventions that identified and outlawed specific tactics: airline hijacking, the sabotage of commercial aircraft, attacks on airports, attacks on diplomats and diplomatic facilities, the taking of hostages, bomb attacks on civilian targets, and so on. This tactic-by-tactic approach gradually extended to cover virtually all the manifestations of international terrorism.
CRIME OR WARFARE?
A continuing U.S. policy issue has been whether terrorism should be considered as a crime or a mode of war. The question is not merely one of a choice of words. The two are different concepts with entirely different operational implications. If terrorism is considered a criminal matter, the appropriate response is to gather evidence, correctly determine the culpability of the individual or individuals responsible for the incident, and then apprehend and bring the perpetrators to trial. This has been the primary approach taken by the United States, and it has received wide international acceptance. To enhance this approach, the United States extended the jurisdiction of American courts to cover all terrorist acts against U.S. citizens and facilities anywhere in the world, thereby giving the Federal Bureau of Investigation legislative authority to investigate terrorist crimes and apprehend terrorists anywhere. Although not all nations accept this assertion, a number of terrorists have been turned over to U.S. authorities for prosecution in the United States.
Public trials of terrorists keep terrorism firmly in the realm of crime, strip terrorists of their political pretensions, and allow the United States to make a public case against those terrorists still at large. Dealing with terrorism strictly as a criminal matter, however, presents a number of problems. Evidence is extremely difficult to gather in an international investigation where some countries might not cooperate, and apprehending individual terrorists is extremely difficult. Moreover, the criminal approach does not provide an entirely satisfactory answer to a continuing campaign of terrorism waged by a distant group, and it does not work against a state sponsor of terrorism.
If, on the other hand, terrorism is viewed as war, there is less concern with individual culpability; only proximate responsibility—for example, the correct identification of the terrorist group—need be established. Evidence does not have to be of courtroom quality; intelligence reporting will suffice. The focus is not on the accused individual but on the correct identification of the enemy.
The United States has at different times taken both approaches, and recently began to orchestrate the criminal and military approaches, combining conventional evidence gathering and intelligence reporting to indict and prosecute terrorists, then combining that with information gained at trial to support further indictments, which were then utilized to justify military action.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF COUNTERTERRORIST POLICY
U.S. policy on terrorism has been largely driven by events. Indeed, policy is rarely created in the abstract. It responds to events that create a requirement to do something. Policy is reactive, an accumulation of statements and actions that then become precedents. And it is constantly evolving. Ask some official to explain the reasoning behind a certain policy and, if he knows his history well enough, he will cite the exact incident that prompted the reaction. This is especially true of a diverse, multifaceted phenomenon such as terrorism.
Much of the early U.S. counterterrorist policy focused on dealing with hostage incidents—hijackings and kidnappings. In addition to increasing security at airports, the United States sought to improve international cooperation in returning passengers and aircraft and prosecuting or extraditing the hijackers. Gradually, use of this tactic became less frequent, but it never disappeared. In the cases of kidnappings of American diplomats by urban guerrilla organizations in Latin America, the United States initially took the position that the host country must do whatever is necessary, including yielding to the kidnappers' demands. As kidnappings continued, however, resistance grew and the policy moved toward one of no concessions. That policy was sealed in blood in March 1973 with the murder of two American diplomats by members of Black September who demanded, among other things, the release of the convicted assassin of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The no-concessions policy has remained one of the pillars of the U.S. response to terrorism, although at times creative ways to bend it have been sought.
The same hard-line policy was applied to embassy takeovers. Improved security made such takeovers more difficult and governments were increasingly willing to use force. Faced with declining prospects of achieving their demands and growing risks of capture or death, terrorists gradually abandoned the tactic in the 1980s.
American presidents have learned that hostage situations can be politically perilous. Frustration over the inability of the United States to rescue or negotiate the release of American hostages held for more than a year in Iran probably contributed to President James Earl Carter's defeat in the 1980 presidential elections. Six years later, the revelation that the United States, in contradiction to its own no-concessions policy, had secretly sold weapons to Iran in return for the release of American hostages in Lebanon deeply embarrassed the Reagan administration.
Since the late 1970s, the question of how to deal with state sponsors of terrorism has been a major policy issue. Under pressure from Congress, the U.S. Department of State identified Iran, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba as state sponsors of terrorism, a list that has changed little in the past quarter century. In 2000, the National Commission on Terrorism recommended that Afghanistan be added to the list and that both Pakistan and Greece be identified as countries that were not fully cooperating with the United States, a suggestion that provoked howls of protest.
Middle East conflicts have motivated most of the major terrorist crises, and most of the states identified by the United States as state sponsors of terrorism are in that part of the world. The region's secular extremists and, increasingly, its religious fanatics have seen themselves as being at war with America. America's steadfast support for the State of Israel has angered many, but even U.S. attempts to broker agreements between Israel and the Palestinians have provoked reactions by hard-liners who oppose any accord. America's close relationship with the shah of Iran, overthrown by Islamic revolutionaries in 1979, was a further source of antagonism. Some Muslim fanatics have come to see the American commitment to the principles of freedom, democracy, and equality and what they regard as a subversive and libertine American popular culture as a dangerous influence to be eradicated. The fanatic terrorists' beliefs require them to strike violently at the American presence and influence, and no reconciliation is in sight. One continuing foreign policy challenge for the United States has been to keep efforts to combat terrorism from appearing to be a war on the Arab world or Islam. The United States opposes the violent tactics of terrorism, not any system of beliefs.
Countries identified as state sponsors of terrorism are subject to economic sanctions that deny U.S. assistance and prohibit trade with the United States, but sanctions are only effective if they are universally enforced. International compliance has been patchy at best, although Syria's blatant involvement in a 1986 plot to plant a bomb aboard an airliner departing London led to further European sanctions against that country. Largely to appease an angry United States, Europe went along with some sanctions against Libya in 1986, and suspected Libyan involvement in the sabotage of PanAm 103 in 1988 and a French airliner in Africa in 1989 resulted in more stringent sanctions being imposed until Libya agreed to turn over two Libyans suspected of involvement in the PanAm incident to a tribunal in The Hague. U.S. sanctions on Libya remained in effect for other reasons. To ensure more universal compliance, the United States has sought to have the United Nations impose sanctions. In 2000 Afghanistan became subject to UN sanctions for its refusal to turn over known terrorists.
Additional sanctions were imposed on Iraq as a consequence of that country's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent Gulf War. However, the issue transcends Iraqi sponsorship of terrorism and involves that country's suspected secret efforts to manufacture chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Sudan entered into productive discussions with the United States in mid-2000 and became a possible candidate for removal of American sanctions.
Sanctions, however, have been criticized as blunt, ineffective instruments—the modern economic equivalent of medieval siege warfare. They inflict more suffering on ordinary people than on the governments in which the people have no say, and efforts have been initiated to develop more precisely targeted sanctions that hurt rulers, not the general populace. Nonetheless, economic sanctions have stunted economic development in these countries and probably have moderated, if not reversed, the behavior of their governments, although that would be hard to prove.
MILITARY FORCE AND ITS LIMITS
The United States has used military force in response to terrorism on a number of occasions. U.S. forces bombed Libya in 1986 in response to a Libyan-sponsored terrorist attack in Germany and indications of further attacks being planned; an Iraqi intelligence facility was bombed in 1993 in response to Iraqi involvement in the thwarted assassination attempt on former President Bush during a visit to Kuwait; and, in response to terrorist attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998, U.S. forces bombed terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan suspected of manufacturing chemical weapons.
While terrorists themselves offer few lucrative targets for conventional attack, military action may still be useful. It can disrupt the terrorists' operations, forcing them to move their camps, tend to their own security, and worry about the possibility of further strikes. It can also be used to reinforce diplomacy. Military force serves as a warning to states that sponsoring terrorism is not without serious risks. It demonstrates resolve and it clearly signals that the country initiating it regards terrorism as a very serious issue. It also carries with it an invitation to states to cooperate.
Military force may also be viewed in some cases as necessary for domestic political purposes, not as a cynical ploy to garner political support or distract the public from other issues, but as a way to demonstrate to an alarmed public that something is being done. The British suffered terribly during the Battle of Britain, and their ability to take the punishment without a complete collapse of morale depended in part on the fact their British forces were fighting to destroy the enemy. The absence of military action could reinforce feelings of national impotence that could, in turn, lead to popular support for draconian measures to ensure security that might imperil civil liberties.
The opportunities for military action against terrorism, however, are limited. It is necessary to focus and carefully calibrate the response; otherwise, the use of force becomes capricious. A military response, moreover, must be delivered soon after the terrorist incident that provokes it. It has been difficult to sustain military operations beyond the first strike. The United States may have wanted the terrorists to fear that it might attack them again, but in fact it never did. That may change in light of the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
There were possible alternatives to the policies that have been chosen. The United States might have tried to pay less attention to the issue of terrorism, putting it lower on the foreign policy agenda, deliberately adopting a more phlegmatic posture and using less bellicose rhetoric. But given the spectacular nature of terrorist attacks and the public outrage they provoke, it would have been extremely difficult to sustain a deliberately phlegmatic policy.
The United States could have followed a more flexible policy in dealing with hostage situations, as did some European nations. However, the private sector's practice of routinely paying ransom for company executives kidnapped abroad suggests that compliance only encourages further kidnappings. And research suggests that it is the ability of the local government to apprehend, convict, and punish kidnappers and destroy their gangs, whether they are politically motivated or common criminals, that determines the frequency of kidnappings. Politically motivated kidnappings have declined. The United States could have adopted a policy of assassinating foreign terrorist leaders, as Israel did in 1972. While this policy may have led to the removal of some effective terrorist leaders, it has had little discernible effect on the level of terrorism aimed against Israel.
The United States did not have to officially designate state sponsors of terrorism and automatically impose sanctions, thus depriving itself of more flexible forms of diplomacy. As noted earlier, the record of sanctions is at best a mixed one. The United States could have rejected the use of military force altogether, relying instead exclusively on a criminal justice approach. However, few other nations extend the jurisdiction of their courts and send law enforcement officials abroad to investigate terrorist crimes against their citizens.
Persuading other nations to support sanctions, America's use of military force, and the rendition of foreign terrorists to the United States for trial have all required vigorous American diplomacy. The willingness to impose sanctions and use military force, as well as offer assistance in other areas, has in turn reinforced that diplomacy.
THE FRUITS OF AMERICAN POLICY
American policy has historically been pragmatic. Efforts to combat terrorism were just that. American diplomats paid little attention to root causes and conflict resolution, lest counterterrorism efforts become mixed up with judgments of causes. At the same time, the United States has devoted considerable effort to resolving the Middle East conflict, helping to bring about an end to the violence in Northern Ireland, and intervening to prevent ethnic cleansing and other atrocities in the Balkans that, if left to fester or produce vast new semi-permanent populations of refugees, could have become new sources of terrorist violence.
Progress has been made. Intelligence has improved through unilateral efforts and improved liaison with other intelligence services. An international legal framework has been created and international cooperation has increased. Countries would rather not be identified as state sponsors of terrorism. The volume of international terrorism, as it is defined by the United States, has declined, and certain tactics have declined significantly. All this could have been seen as a measure of success on 10 September 2001. However, the terrorist attacks on the following day—attacks on American soil that caused far more casualties than all of the previous terrorist incidents put together—overshadowed any sense of achievement.
11 SEPTEMBER 2001
The 11 September 2001 attacks have provoked a more formal expression of belligerency—a presidential declaration of war on those responsible for the attacks. The declaration clearly indicates the intention of the United States to use military force again and again at times and places and with means it deems appropriate. More terrorist attacks against Americans, abroad and in the United States, are possible. Exactly how the continuing campaign will be conducted, whether allies of the United States will participate, and what effect it will have are unknown at this time. Whether the counterattack will divide the nation politically remains to be seen.
Within the shadow of this tragedy, however, lie opportunities for even greater international determination and cooperation, if not to end terrorism once and for all—an unrealistic objective—at least to significantly reduce its practice. Whether such determination and cooperation materialize will depend on whether the rest of the world sees this event as an attack on the United States or as a threat to the international system as it exists.
Bass, Gail, et al. Options for U.S. Policy on Terrorism. Santa Monica, Calif., 1981.
Evans, Ernest. Calling a Truce to Terror: The American Response to International Terrorism. Westport, Conn., 1979.
Heymann, Philip B. Terrorism and America: A Commonsense Strategy for a Democratic Society. Cambridge, Mass., 1998.
Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. New York, 1998.
Jenkins, Brian Michael. International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict. Los Angeles, 1975.
——. International Terrorism: The Other World War. Santa Monica, Calif., 1985.
——. Terrorism: Policy Issues for the Bush Administration. Santa Monica, Calif., 1989.
Lesser, Ian O., et al. Countering the New Terrorism. Santa Monica, Calif., 1999.
Long, David E. The Anatomy of Terrorism. New York, 1990.
Pillar, Paul R. Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy. Washington, D.C., 2001.
Simon, Jeffrey D. The Terrorist Trap: America's Experience with Terrorism. Bloomington, Ind., 1994.
U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism. Washington, D.C. Published annually.
See also Covert Operations; Embargoes and Sanctions; Intelligence and Counter Intelligence.
On 9 September 1969 a small team comprised of members of two leftist urban guerrilla organizations—the October 8 Revolutionary Movement and Action for National Liberation—kidnapped Charles Burke Elbrick, the recently arrived U.S. ambassador to Brazil, the first of many kidnappings of diplomats. They selected him as their target because, in their words, "If we had selected the Turkish ambassador, nobody would have paid any attention." The kidnappers' communiqué gave more details. "Mr. Elbrick represents in our country the interests of imperialism, which … maintain the regime of oppression and exploitation." Elbrick's kidnappers never told him that in return for his safe release they had demanded the release of fifteen prisoners, mostly student and labor leaders, one old Communist Party leader, and several of those allegedly involved in the earlier assassination of American diplomat. It was a deliberately mixed group chosen to inspire unity among Brazil's revolutionaries.
The United States urged the government of Brazil to do everything necessary to ensure the ambassador's release. In fact, the triumvirate of military officers ruling Brazil during the president's illness had already decided to meet the kidnappers' demands, not because of U.S. pressure, but because they saw it as an opportunity to make a humanitarian gesture and give Brazil the chance to disprove accusations of widespread torture. This line of reasoning did not win unanimous approval through the Brazilian armed forces, and one local commander briefly ordered his forces to surround the airport where the prisoners had been assembled to be flown to political exile in Mexico, but higher-ranking officers intervened and the exchange plan proceeded.
Once the prisoners arrived in Mexico, Elbrick was released in good condition. His captors had washed and pressed his bloodstained shirt and tie (he had been hit on the head with a pistol during the abduction), and they gave him a copy of a book on revolution by Ho Chi Minh, in which they had inscribed, "To our first political prisoner, with the expression of our respect for his calm behavior in action."
In the following months the guerrillas kidnapped the Japanese consul general in Sao Paulo and the ambassadors of Germany and Switzerland. In each case the government freed prisoners in exchange for release of the diplomats but subsequently cracked down hard and brutally, ultimately destroying the urban guerrilla groups. But the tactic of kidnapping diplomats spread to other countries. Local governments and the governments of the diplomatic representatives became increasingly resistant to meeting the demands of those holding hostages. The term "terrorist" increasingly replaced the more neutral term "urban guerrilla."
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Violence directed primarily and randomly against civilians with the aim of intimidating them, achieving political goals, or exacting revenge for perceived grievances.
Since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks that destroyed the twin World Trade Center skyscrapers in New York City and killed nearly 2,800 persons, terrorism arising out of conflicts in the Middle East has been a focus of international media attention. Concern about violence undertaken by groups and states it considered to be terrorists prompted the United States to declare a war on terrorism, two manifestations of which have been the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite this close association of terrorism with the Middle East, with the notable exception of the year 2001, the majority of terrorist incidents committed worldwide and the majority of victims of terrorism have been outside of or unrelated to political conflicts in the Middle East. Nevertheless, it is true that civilians somewhere in the Middle East have been victims of politically motivated violence every year since at least 1992.
In trying to assess the significance of terrorism, the most difficult problem is the lack of an agreed-upon understanding of what the word terrorism means. Political scientists tend to restrict terrorism to acts of violence carried out by nonstate actors against civilians. Historians, sociologists, and experts in international humanitarian law, however, tend to use a broader definition that includes all premeditated acts of violence against civilians, whether carried out by nonstate political groups or by states. Governments—especially those confronting armed opposition groups—and the media generally use the political-science definition of terrorism, often expanding it to include violent acts against military as well as civilian victims. In contrast, the nonstate perpetrators of violence consider their actions to be legitimate forms of resistance to state terrorism aimed at suppressing self-determination, even though they may be directed against civilians (Kimmerling, p. 23). The notion of a legitimate right to resist state oppression is controversial, and no international legal convention addresses this matter. Nonstate groups generally cite the 1960 United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples as recognizing their right of resistance. Indeed, that resolution declares, "forcible resistance to forcible denial of self-determination . . . is legitimate," and it says that nonstate groups may receive external support from other governments.
Giving a measure of international legitimacy to resistance struggles has complicated the problem of defining terrorism because it essentially has become a political decision whether a nonstate actor is deemed a terrorist or a genuine national liberation movement fighting for independence from foreign control or occupation. During the Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States (1947–1991), such decisions tended to be based more on ideological factors than on objective assessments of the goals and motives of particular nonstate groups. For example, the Soviet Union provided clandestine support for the South Yemen independence movement (1963–1967) and for the Dhufar liberation movement in Oman (1965–1971) primarily because both areas at the time were under the control of Britain, a major U.S. ally. Similarly, the United States provided covert assistance to the Kurds in Iraq (1970–1975) and the Mojahedin in Afghanistan (1979–1989) primarily because in both cases the nonstate groups were fighting for independence from Soviet client regimes. The Soviet Union and the United States condemned as
terrorists those nonstate groups that were fighting against regimes the other country favored, and they praised as national resistance heroes those groups fighting against governments they opposed.
Over time, a special vocabulary of terrorism emerged. For instance, the term state terrorism came to be used for violent acts used by disfavored states to suppress resistance movements. The Soviet Union used this term to describe the policies of two U.S. allies: Israel, for the repression of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip after 1967; and Turkey, for the repression of its Kurdish minority after 1984. The United States, in turn, used state terrorism as early as the mid-1970s to describe the repressive domestic policies of states it considered to be Soviet allies, such as Iraq, Syria, and South Yemen. During the 1980s another term, state sponsor of terrorism, emerged to describe the support for nonstate groups provided by countries that clearly were not allied to either the Soviet Union or the United States. Iran and Libya were identified as the main state sponsors of terrorism, the former because of its assistance after 1982 to Hizbullah in Lebanon. In the case of Libya, the United States accused that country of supporting Palestinian groups that targeted U.S. and Israeli interests in Europe and of assisting several terrorist groups operating in north and central Africa.
Origins of Terrorism in the Arab–Israel Conflict
The superpower rivalry in and rhetoric about the Middle East tended both to obscure the local origins of terrorism and to frustrate efforts to address the multifaceted consequences of violence. This problem is best revealed in the Arab–Israel conflict, which began in 1948 separately from but in tandem with the Cold War and still continues unresolved even though the superpower conflict has ended. One significant legacy of the Cold War relationship to the Arab–Israel conflict has been a great volume of partisan literature, especially in the years after the formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964. The Israeli–Palestinian struggle over pre-1948 Palestine (which became Israel plus the territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1948) is the core of the Arab–Israel conflict. The literature on this aspect of the conflict illustrates the controversies in trying to achieve any relatively objective consensus on what groups merit designation as terrorists and what kinds of violent acts constitute terrorism. For this reason, it is a useful case to study.
For nearly thirty years prior to the signing of the Oslo Accord in September 1993, the State of Israel proclaimed the PLO and the various Palestinian resistance groups that comprised its membership to be terrorist organizations. Inevitably, there emerged a body of writings that supported the Israeli position, not just in Israel but also in Europe and North America. Although some of these studies were sophisticated and scholarly analyses of the PLO's goals and methods, other accounts were merely polemical denunciations of PLO tactics. Beginning in 1968 and continuing for more than a decade, armed Palestinian groups known as fidaʾiyyun (guerrillas) carried out numerous, violent operations that resulted in the deaths of civilians. Many of their actions were sensational incidents that attracted considerable media attention—a PLO objective, as the guerrillas hoped publicity would further their cause. The several international airplane hijackings, for example, culminated in September 1970 (known as Black September) with the hijacking of four planes in as many days, precipitating a civil war between the PLO and the army of Jordan. Attacks on Israeli interests abroad culminated in the seizing of Israeli athletes as hostages at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, an incident that left eleven athletes dead. Sporadic cross-border raids into Israel (from Jordan and Lebanon) culminated in the temporary seizure of buildings in the northern Israeli towns of Kiryat Shmona and Maʿalot (April and May 1974) and the deaths of thirty-eight civilians, including many children. Rather than winning sympathy for the Palestinians as the perpetrators expected, such incidents created and reinforced a public image of the PLO as a terrorist organization.
In contrast to the official Israeli and U.S. views, the PLO saw itself as a national liberation movement dedicated to achieving Palestinian rights and resisting what it termed Israeli state terrorism. Its fighters were lauded as heroes and martyrs, and its operations against Israeli civilians were justified as defense of, or reprisals for, Israeli attacks on Palestinian refugee camps and assassinations of PLO leaders. The Soviet Union, the primary international backer of the PLO after 1968, tended to remain silent about many of the more sensational acts of violence by Palestinian guerrillas, but it continued to promote the PLO as a national liberation movement. Soviet support was especially significant after 1974 when Moscow encouraged diplomatic recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Quite separate from the Soviet backing for the PLO, a few academic studies and advocacy articles appeared that were sympathetic to Palestinian claims and rights. Although these writings were scarcer than the volumes of pro-Israeli literature and never achieved a similar impact on the mainstream U.S. media, they did have some influence on intellectuals in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
The Israeli–PLO conflict affected both regional and international politics by the late 1970s. This is because the PLO used Lebanon, where a large number of Palestinian refugees had lived since 1948, as a base for operations against Israel throughout the 1970s, and Israel responded with retaliatory raids against what it termed "terrorist nests"—suspected PLO facilities in refugee camps. Many Lebanese and Palestinian civilians died in these raids, and their deaths were described officially as "collateral damage" in a larger operation against "terrorist infrastructure." The PLO condemned Israeli air strikes as further evidence of state terror and also cited them as justification for its own continuing attacks across the Lebanon-Israel border. The escalating cycle of attacks and reprisals contributed to the civil war in Lebanon (1975–1989) and also led to an Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1978. Israeli forces occupied a 6-mile-wide security strip, ostensibly to prevent attacks into Israel; this occupation lasted until 2000. A second Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 resulted in a war with the PLO, its forced withdrawal from Lebanon under international protection, and the Israeli occupation of Beirut and all of southern Lebanon. However, almost as soon as the threat from the PLO seemed to be contained, Israel faced a new source of terrorism that stemmed directly from its occupation of Lebanon (which lasted until 1985).
A Lebanese group, Hizbullah, was formed in late 1982 with the initial aim of expelling Israeli forces from Lebanon. Hizbullah's tactics, which included suicide bombings against French and U.S. military forces in 1983 and, beginning in 1984, the kidnapping of European civilians to use as hostages for the release of its members held in Israeli jails, earned it an international reputation as a terrorist organization. Hizbullah, however, neither sought nor received any support from the Soviet Union. Like the revolutionary government that assumed power in Iran in 1979, Hizbullah was equally hostile to Soviet and U.S. policies in the Middle East. Although its objectives were first and foremost political, Hizbullah also was inspired by its own interpretation of Shiʿite Islam. Its frequent use of religious rhetoric to explain or to justify its actions tended to alienate the Soviet Union even more than its direct criticisms did. Thus, Hizbullah became one of the first major nonstate groups in the Middle East to lack a superpower patron. Despite or perhaps because of this status, Hizbullah succeeded in establishing a permanent presence in Lebanon's politics and in becoming a nonstate group whose actions Israel neither could control nor ignore.
Meanwhile, the removal of the PLO to Tunisia did not end its political influence among Palestinians, and when an intifada (uprising) erupted in December 1987 among Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the PLO gradually emerged as a main coordinating force for the resistance. New groups unaffiliated with the PLO also emerged during the intifada, principally HAMAS and Islamic Jihad. Unlike the PLO, which claimed to be inspired by secular ideas, HAMAS and Islamic Jihad cited religious ideals and percepts as at least partial justification for their resistance against Israeli rule. Concern about the increasing influence of groups such as HAMAS and Islamic Jihad may have prompted the leaders of Israel's Labor Party to begin negotiations with the PLO to end the long conflict. The political rapprochement between Israel and the PLO in 1993 not only was unexpected, but it also necessitated a re-evaluation of the negative ways each side had depicted the other. However, the years of intellectual and emotional investment in the terrorism paradigm made it difficult for some people on both sides to view formerly hated terrorists as legitimate partners in peace negotiations.
Thus, from the outset of the Oslo peace process, some Israelis and Palestinians were skeptical of the agreement and even were determined to overturn it. The assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995 (by an Israeli opposed to the Oslo Accord) and the first suicide bombings undertaken in 1996 by HAMAS were significant terrorist incidents that led to multiple actions and reprisals that cumulatively undermined popular support for the peace process among both Israelis and Palestinians.
It was in this increasingly tense atmosphere that Israeli politician Ariel Sharon intervened in a manner that would have the effect (albeit at the time, unforeseen) of overturning the peace process. Sharon was one of those Israelis who distrusted and even opposed the Oslo Accord, and it is plausible that he never had changed his conviction that the PLO was a terrorist organization. When in September 2000 he led a group of Knesset members, under armed escort, into the Muslim religious complex in Jerusalem known as al-Haram al-Sharif, his intention was to assert Israeli sovereignty over a site that Jews claim is the Temple Mount—the location of their ancient temple destroyed by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago—and thus to prevent its possible return to Palestinian sovereignty, which had been proposed by some members of the Labor Party. The incident provoked clashes with Palestinian worshipers, and the next day Israeli police killed four protesting Palestinians as they emerged from Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque in al-Haram al-Sharif complex. The situation escalated rapidly as Palestinian policemen, in an effort to protect civilians, clashed with Israeli soldiers at checkpoints in the West Bank. The al-Aqsa intifada thus began, and subsequently its characteristic features included targeted assassinations of suspected Palestinian resistance leaders by Israel and retaliatory Palestinian suicide bombings at crowded civilian sites inside Israeli cities. By early 2001, Israel and its supporters were labeling all acts of violence from the Palestinian side as terrorism.
The U.S. "War on Terrorism"
Middle East terrorism, except for incidents such as the attack at the Munich Olympic games in 1972, generally has stayed within the region. However, Middle East–related terrorism acquired a global dimension with the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States by nineteen members of the al-Qaʿida network. Al-Qaʿida is a political organization founded by Saudi Arabian national Osama bin Ladin, and its objectives after 1991 were to attack the United States and its interests because it viewed the U.S. government as the main sponsor of regimes that it defined as "unjust," oppressive, and illegitimate. Ironically, bin Ladin collaborated with U.S. officials during the 1980s when he and the United States shared the same goal of forcing the Soviet Union to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. But when the United States dispatched troops to Saudi Arabia in 1990, bin Ladin viewed this development as being no different from the situation of Soviet troops in Afghanistan—in both cases the army of an "imperialist" superpower occupying a weaker and Muslim country. Furthermore, the presence of U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia meant that a non-Muslim army for the first time in more than 1,400 years was occupying the religiously sacred land in which were located Islam's two holiest sites, the cities of Mecca and Medina. Even though bin Ladin believed and practiced a very conservative interpretation of Sunni Islam, his primary objectives vis-à-vis the United States are political, not religious. Beginning with the bombing in the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center in 1993, persons close to his al-Qaʿida organization were implicated in several terrorist attacks. The most sensational incidents included suicide bombings outside the barracks housing U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia in 1996 and outside two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998. The 2001 attacks prompted the United States to declare a "war on terrorism," and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan became the first target because it provided sanctuary to al-Qaʿida and rejected requests for the extradition of bin Ladin and other leaders.
Its war on terrorism policy led the United States to focus on groups it designated as terrorist to an unprecedented extent. One consequence of this new preoccupation was that after 2001 Washington accepted the argument of Israeli prime minister Sharon that PLO chairman and Palestinian Authority president Yasir Arafat was condoning terrorist actions by groups such as HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, and his own Al-Fatah movement. When in spring 2002 the Israeli army reoccupied West Bank towns and villages that were supposed to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority, the United States effectively did not protest. Thus, the peace process between Israel and the PLO, seriously ailing since fall 2000, became an indirect but fatal casualty of the war on terrorism.
The war on terrorism is cause for concern among legal experts in the field of international humanitarian law, especially because states identified as sponsors of terrorism, such as Iraq, become legitimate targets for attack because they are thought to possess weapons of mass destruction that they might provide to terrorist groups. The experts believe that civilians, who have been the primary victims of violent conflicts since the early 1990s, will be the main victims again, and they cite statistics that demonstrate that this has been the case in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
The phenomenon of terrorism has prompted the drafting of several conventions, most notably the Rome Statute, that would make the intentional killing of civilians a war crime, no matter who is responsible (i.e., a government or a nonstate group). The intent is to criminalize violence against civilians so that individuals can be prosecuted. The European Union generally, and its member states such as Belgium specifically, have made the most progress in terms of accepting the idea that violence against civilians, whether undertaken by a state or nonstate organization, is terrorism and needs to be punished. Other states, including major countries such as China, Israel, Russia, and the United States, reject categorically the notion of state terrorism and insist that international laws pertaining to terrorism must limit definitions to nonstate groups that target civilians. Ultimately, one of the most effective ways of reducing terrorism is for states to identify and remove the causes that motivates terrorists, such as the denial of freedom and political participation, repressive political occupation, and poverty and despair.
see also aqsa intifada, al-; arafat, yasir; bin ladin, osama; black september; fidaʾiyyun; hamas; hizbullah; hostage crises; islamic jihad; palestine liberation organization (plo); popular front for the liberation of palestine; qaʿida, al-.
Davis, Joyce M. Martyrs: Innocence, Vengeance, and Despair in the Middle East. New York: Palgrave, 2003.
Falk, Richard. "Azmi Bishara, the Right of Resistance, and the Palestinian Ordeal." Journal of Palestine Studies 31, no. 2 (Winter 2002): 19–33.
Hirst, David. The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, 3d edition. New York: Thunder Mouth's Press/Nation Books, 2004.
Picco, Giandomenico. Man without a Gun: One Diplomat's Secret Struggle to Free the Hostages, Fight Terrorism, and End a War. New York: Times Books/Random House, 1999.
Ron, James. Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Shlaim, Avi. The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. New York: Norton, 2000.
Stern, Jessica. Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. New York: Ecco, 2003.
Victor, Barbara. Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers. Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2003.
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property in order to coerce or intimidate a government or the civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives.
Since the september 11th attacks on the United States in 2001, which resulted in the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City and severe damage to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the United States has changed its priorities to focus upon eradicating terrorism in the world. Terrorism involves the systematic use of terror or violence to achieve political goals. The targets of terrorism include government officials, identified individuals or groups, and innocent bystanders. In most cases terrorists seek to overthrow or destabilize an existing political regime, but totalitarian and dictatorial governments also use terror to maintain their power.
The Oklahoma City Bombing
In June 1997 the murder and conspiracy trial of Timothy J. McVeigh ended in the death sentence. The 29-year-old former Army sergeant was convicted of bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The blast, which claimed 168 lives, was the worst terrorist act ever committed on U.S. soil. McVeigh pleaded not guilty, but the elaborate case mounted by federal prosecutors led to a swift jury verdict of guilty on all 11 counts.
After a nationwide manhunt, investigators from the federal bureau of investigation (FBI) had linked McVeigh to the blast using remnants of a Ryder rental truck believed to have carried the bomb. At trial, prosecutors established further ties: telephone records and testimony by the owner of the rental office suggested McVeigh had rented the truck under an alias in Junction City, Kansas, two days before the bombing. Residue from explosives had also been found on McVeigh's clothing.
Prosecutors portrayed McVeigh as an anti-government extremist. The defendant's sister, Jennifer McVeigh, told the court that he was angry over the government's destruction of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in April 1993, and that he had hinted at taking action. Personal correspondence was introduced as evidence in an effort to round out the portrait of McVeigh as a follower of far-right politics, who was disillusioned and willing to commit acts of terror. Key testimony came from Michael J. Fortier, an Army friend and co-conspirator who had surveyed the Federal Building with McVeigh, and his wife, Lori Fortier. The Fortiers said that McVeigh wanted the bombing to start a civil war.
Led by Oklahoma attorney Stephen Jones, the defense team was critical of every phase of the prosecution. Defense attorneys attacked the methodology of the FBI in preparing physical evidence as well as the government's witnesses. In particular, they charged that the Fortiers were liars who hoped to escape prison time and to profit financially from their testimony. Maintaining that McVeigh was railroaded, the defense pointed to the existence of a human leg found in the ruins of the building to suggest that the actual Oklahoma City bomber had died in the explosion.
After the jurors returned a guilty verdict on June 2, the trial moved into an unusual penalty phase. The defense, seeking leniency, made a lengthy presentation about the Waco siege, at which McVeigh had been present, in what seemed to observers an odd effort to explain his motives in Oklahoma City. It also called to the stand William McVeigh, who made an emotionally charged appeal for his son's life. But the statements of survivors who had lost family and friends in the Oklahoma massacre apparently swayed the jurors, who decided on execution.
Gottman, Andrew J. 1999. "Fair Notice, Even for Terrorists: Timothy McVeigh and a New Standard for the Ex Post Facto Clause." Washington and Lee Law Review 56 (spring).
Hoffman, David. 1998. The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror.Venice, Calif.: Feral House.
"Responding to Terrorism: Crime, Punishment, and War." 2002. Harvard Law Review 115 (February).
Rodgers, Jim, and Tim Kullman. 2002. Facing Terror: The Government's Response to Contemporary Extremists in America.Lanham, Md.: Univ. Press of America.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, constituted the most severe terrorist attacks ever committed
on U.S. soil. However, these were certainly not the first acts of terrorism carried out against the United States by foreign terrorists, nor were they the first attacks carried out against the World Trade Center. In February 1993, a bombing of the World Trade Center killed six people and injured more than a thousand others. The bomb left a crater 200 by 1,000 feet wide and five stories deep. The federal bureau of investigation (FBI) and the Joint Terrorist Task Force identified and helped bring to trial 22 Islamic fundamentalist conspirators. The trial revealed extensive plans for terrorist acts in the United States, including attacks on government facilities.
During the 1990s, the United States also became more concerned about domestic terrorist activities carried out by U.S. citizens without any foreign involvement. Beginning in 1978, an individual who came to be known as the Unabomber targeted university scientists, airline employees, and other persons he associated with a dehumanized, technology driven society. The suspect killed three people and injured 23 others with package bombs. At the Unabomber's insistence, major newspapers published his 35,000-word manifesto describing his anti-technology philosophy. In April 1996, a suspect, Theodore Kaczynski, was arrested for crimes associated with the Unabomber. After a rather bizarre trial, in 1998, Kaczynski pled guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
However, it was the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 19, 1995, that galvanized concerns about domestic terrorism. The bombing killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others. The FBI arrested Timothy J. McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who were charged with murder and conspiracy. McVeigh and Nichols were connected to the right-wing militia movement, which opposes the powers held by the federal government and believes in the right of its members to bear arms.
In June 1997, McVeigh was found guilty of murder and conspiracy, and sentenced to death. He attempted to appeal his conviction for three years, but gave up in late 2000. On June 11, 2001, McVeigh was executed by lethal injection. Nichols faced similar charges in his 1997 trial. He was acquitted on charges of first- and second-degree murder, but was found guilty of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and involuntary manslaughter. A federal judge sentenced Nichols to life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, at the state level, Nichols faced 161 counts of first-degree murder, which could result in the death penalty. The Oklahoma state trial was scheduled to begin in March 2004.
A year after the Oklahoma City bombing, a bomb erupted at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park during the celebration of the Olympic Games in July 1996. The bomb killed one woman and injured 111 others in what President bill clinton called an "evil act of terror." The initial investigation focused on Richard Jewell, a security guard at the park. At first Jewell was considered to be a hero when he alerted authorities to a knapsack containing a pipe bomb. Shortly thereafter, however, he was considered a prime suspect. After a later investigation cleared Jewell of wrongdoing, he sued a number of media outlets for defamation.
During the next seven years, the Atlanta bombings remained largely unresolved. On May 31, 2003, authorities arrested Eric Rudolph, who is considered the primary suspect. Authorities also suspect Rudolph of bombing abortion clinics in Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama, as well as the bombing of a gay and lesbian nightclub in Atlanta.
Congress has responded to the threat of domestic terrorism with the enactment of several laws. In 1996, Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214. The law allocated $1 billion to fund federal programs to combat terrorism. The act also established a federal death penalty for terrorist murders and strengthened penalties for crimes committed against federal employees while performing their official duties. In addition, the act increased the penalties for conspiracies involving explosives and for the possession of nuclear materials, criminalized the use of chemical weapons, and required plastic explosives to contain "tagging" elements in the explosive materials for detection and identification purposes.
Following the attacks of September 11, Congress, at the urging of President george w. bush, moved swiftly to enact the Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (usa patriot) Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272. The act seeks to enhance domestic security against terrorism by setting up a Counterterrorism Fund in the U.S. Treasury, and appropriating money for combating terrorism to the FBI's Technical Support Center. It also increases the president's authority to seize the property of foreign persons, organizations, or countries that the president determines have planned, authorized, aided, or engaged in hostilities or attacks against the United States. Other provisions of the act focus on enhancing surveillance procedures used by federal law enforcement personnel, and attempts to control money laundering, which is believed to be a major source of income for terrorist organizations.
One year later, Congress enacted the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135. The act formally endorsed the establishment of the homeland security department, which had been created through executive order by President Bush in 2001. The Homeland Security Act reorganized several federal agencies to fall under the authority of the Homeland Security Department in an effort to coordinate the government's efforts. The American public has become familiar with the new department because of the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System, which indicates the likely threat of terrorist attacks against the United States. The two lowest levels are low (coded in green) and guarded (coded in blue). The other three levels include elevated (yellow), high (orange), and severe (red). Throughout much of 2003, the level was set at elevated or high due to a number of threats identified by department officials.
The September 11 attacks have been viewed as a continuation of a series of deadly terrorist activities that had taken place overseas. In the late twentieth century, terrorism became a tool of political groups in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The growth of international terrorism led to kidnappings, hijacking of airplanes, bombing of airplanes and buildings, and armed attacks on government and public facilities. In the 1980s, several countries, including Libya, Iran, and Iraq, were identified as supporting international terrorism by providing training, weapons, and safe havens.
Interests of the United States overseas were major targets of terrorism. In November 1979, a group of Islamic students overran the U.S. embassy in Iran and took many hostages. Although some of the hostages were later freed, the Iranians detained 52 American hostages for a period of 444 days until they were released in January 1981, just after the swearing-in of Presidentronald reagan. In 1983, a 12,000-pound truck bomb exploded in a U.S. compound in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 American soldiers.
By the 1990s, the terrorist organization al Qaeda (Arabic for "the Base"), led by Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden, developed as the primary culprit in terrorist attacks on U.S. interests at home and abroad. Al Qaeda is believed to be responsible for the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center and, later, the September 11 attacks. On August 7, 1998, truck bombs exploded nearly simultaneously at the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. The blasts killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured another 4,600. Four members of al Qaeda were later convicted for their part in the bombings. In October 2000, an al Qaeda operative conducted a suicide attack on the U.S.S. Cole, resulting in the deaths of 17 sailors and injuries to over 30 others.
The activities of Bin Laden and al Qaeda were well known prior to the September 11 attacks. Bin Laden had issued a religious edict, known as a fatwah, calling for attacks on U.S. troops and civilians.
Although many members of al Qaeda are Middle-Eastern, U.S. officials, in 2001, captured John Philip Walker Lindh, a U.S. citizen who had trained with terrorist organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Lindh fought for the Taliban government of Afghanistan even after the September 11 attacks. Lindh, who became known as the "American Taliban," was indicted on ten counts, including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals. He reached a plea bargain with federal prosecutors and pleaded guilty to supplying services to the Taliban. In October 2000, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The United States has responded to international terrorist organizations and the nations that support them through a variety of military actions. In March 1986, President Reagan ordered the military to conduct a strike on Libya, which was believed to have been responsible for the bombing of a nightclub in Germany as well as other terrorist acts. After the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, President Clinton ordered strikes on al Qaeda military camps in Afghanistan. However, these attacks appeared to have little effect upon the terrorist activities of the organizations that perpetrated the violent acts.
Following the September 11 attacks, the United States changed its strategy regarding terrorists significantly. President Bush announced that the United States would consider nations that harbor terrorists as equally responsible for terrorist activities. In the latter part of 2001, the United States led an international coalition that removed the Taliban regime from power in Afghanistan. In March 2003, the United States led another coalition in an attack on Iraq, which the Bush administrated asserted had supported terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda. Within weeks, Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, was removed from power.
The attacks on Iraq did not receive support from a number of nations, including traditional U.S. allies Germany and France. Moreover, the removal of the regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq did not appear to end the threat of terrorism in the Middle East or elsewhere. In May 2003, shortly after the United States declared that the active phases of its armed military operations in Iraq had concluded, terrorists bombed residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killing at least 34 people, including nine Americans. Four days after the Saudi Arabia attacks, bombs erupted in Casablanca, Morocco, killing 43 people. Authorities suspect that al Qaeda operatives were responsible.
Abrams, Norman. 2003. Anti-terrorism and Criminal Enforcement. St. Paul, Minn.: West.
Alexander, Yonah, and Edgar H. Brenner, eds. 2001. Terrorism and the Law. Ardsley, N.Y.: Transnational Publishers.
"Backgrounder: Terrorism." 2003. Federal Emergency Management Agency. Available online at <www.fema.gov/hazards/terrorism/terror.shtm> (accessed November 21, 2003).
Noone, Michael F., and Yonah Alexander. 1997. Cases and Materials on Terrorism: Three Nations' Response. Boston: Kluwer Law International.
Piszkiewicz, Dennis. 2003. Terrorism's War with America: A History. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.
Shanty, Frank, and Raymond Picquet, eds. 2003. Encyclopedia of World Terrorism. Armonk, N.Y.: Sharpe Reference.
"Terrorism." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
"Terrorism." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
Terrorism, as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), is "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."
The destruction inherent in any act of mass terrorism inevitably causes secondary environmental pollution effects, many of them serious. Acts of terrorism can also be directed against the environment itself, or specific natural resources such as freshwater, oil, or agricultural products.
Terrorist Attack on the World Trade Center
The secondary environmental effects of terrorism can often be as significant as its primary effects. The attack on the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City on September 11, 2001, had negative health consequences beyond the staggering loss of life. The collapse of the structures and subsequent fires spewed an enormous cloud of dust and toxins into the air over the city. Pulverized concrete, building materials, heavy metals, and human remains were inhaled by residents and rescue workers in lower Manhattan until a heavy rain three days later washed away most of the dust.
The immediate environmental fallout from the WTC collapse contained asbestos and fibrous glass from the building structure; mercury, dioxins, furans, and other cancer-causing toxins from the burning of fluorescent light bulbs and computer screens; heavy metals such as cadmium and lead and volatile organic compounds like benzene. Federal, state, and local agencies went right to work monitoring air quality and cleaning up dust and debris from the WTC collapse, but these actions themselves have serious environmental consequences. One in four cleanup workers at Ground Zero reportedly
suffer from asthma and respiratory illness brought about by dust inhaled at the site. Some airborne pollutants and dust were resuspended as a result of ongoing cleanup efforts.
The secondary pollution concerns include possible contamination of waterways around lower Manhattan as well as the challenge of where to dispose of the catastrophe's 1.2 million tons of waste. Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island has been accepting WTC debris, some containing asbestos and other toxic materials, despite being slated to close December 31, 2001. Since Fresh Kills was not designed to accept hazardous waste, there is concern about whether or not contaminants could leach from the landfill into surrounding groundwater.
|source: adapted from environmental health perspectives, vol. 109, no. 11, november 2001.|
|asbestos||carcinogenic. causes tissue damage in the lungs when inhaled over long periods and can lead to asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.||used as an insulator and fire retardant, applied to steel beams.|
|benzene||flammable and carcinogenic. short-term effects include dizziness, headaches, and tremors. long-term exposure can lead to leukemia.||combustion of plastics.|
|biohazards||exposure to blood and body parts can transmit infectious diseases such as hepatitis and aids.||human remains.|
|chromium||carcinogenic when inhaled at high concentrations; can cause skin ulcers.||video and computer monitors.|
|copper||can cause dizziness, headaches, vomiting, liver and kidney damage.||electrical wiring and cables.|
|diesel fumes||asthma trigger. can aggravate symptoms in asthmatics.||truck traffic and heavy machinery.|
|dioxins||chloracne is a short-term effect of exposure. strong evidence for carcinogenic, teratogenic, reproductive, and immuno-suppressive effects.||combustion of polyvinyl chloride found in electrical cables and other insulating materials.|
|freon||damages the ozone layer. when burned, can produce phosgene, a potent cause of severe and life-threatening pulmonary edema.||refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment.|
|lead||neurotoxin. damages the central nervous system, especially in children. can also cause kidney damage and reproductive damage in adults.||video and computer monitors, rustproofing paint used on steel beams.|
|mercury||neurotoxin. damages the peripheral nervous system, especially in children.||thermometers and other precision instruments.|
|particulate matter||asthma trigger. can also aggravate cardio-vascular disease.||pulverized concrete and other materials, smoke, dust and soot.|
|polychlorinated biphenyls||carcinogen. may also cause reproductive and developmental abnormalities.||electrical equipment.|
|sulfur dioxide||pulmonary toxicant. can cause severe airway obstruction when inhaled at high concentrations.||combustion.|
With the passage of time, and through the cleansing effect of rainfall and the specialized cleanup efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air quality in lower Manhattan has now returned roughly to pre-9/11 levels. However, despite reassurances from the EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), residents of lower Manhattan worry about the long-term health effects of dust and particulates deposited on rooftops and windowsills, and in the ventilation systems of nearby buildings. Only now are the long-term effects of exposure to Ground Zero being studied.
Renewed Efforts to Protect Environmental Infrastructure
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, federal and state authorities began to wonder what else might offer a tempting target for terror attacks. New York City and other large cities immediately took steps to protect their water systems by guarding the infrastructure and testing the water for known contaminants. In 2002 President George W. Bush's administration passed the Public Health and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act, which required, among other actions, that all water utilities across the country conduct security assessments to gauge possible vulnerability and take steps to protect their water.
The environment can also be a conduit for terrorism. Biological elements such as disease-causing bacteria and viruses can become potent weapons when taken out of their natural environment. Shortly after the attack on the WTC, several pieces of mail in and around Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York City tested positive for the biocontaminant anthrax. Anthrax is a bacterium that, in its most potent inhaled form, has a fatality rate of over 90 percent. Over ten thousand people may have been exposed, and five people died of inhalational anthrax before the contaminated mail was quarantined. The FBI and the Postal Service have offered a $2.5 million reward for information leading to those responsible, and medical researchers have been working on a cure. Authorities have not yet determined if the anthrax-contaminated mail is connected to al-Qaeda and the events of September 11, but the combined effect of these two attacks occurring in close proximity served to heighten the perception that America is under siege.
Biocontamination is not the only threat to safety in the United States. One of the most frightening terror scenarios that government officials must consider is the possibility of a nuclear device, or "dirty bomb," being detonated in a U.S. city. Quite separate from the direct human health consequences, the environmental effects of even a low-yield (five kiloton) nuclear weapon are severe: The shock wave will disperse radioactive fallout over a wide area, poisoning wildlife and groundwater. The heat (thermal radiation) will destroy plants and trees. And although the global nuclear winter theory (cooling of the earth's surface due to airborne fallout, thus blocking sunlight) has largely been discredited, this phenomenon can have devastating effects on local agriculture and ecosystems.
Relationship between Resource Competition and Terrorism
The United States is often a target of asymmetrical warfare , such as terrorism, because of its military superiority and worldwide economic interests. Many scholars studying peace have reasoned that, in order to defeat terrorism, we must remedy the conditions that give rise to it.
One of the most pressing American national security interests is ensuring continued global access to natural commodities such as oil, minerals, and timber. However, the United States already consumes approximately 30 percent of all raw materials consumed by humans in a given year and is perceived as a nation that seeks more than its fair share of the world's resources. One concern is that as the world population grows and resources are stretched to cover its needs, supplies will fall and prices will rise, making necessary commodities available only to wealthy countries or the upper class within a country. This means that the rich would get richer and the poor poorer, and such inequity of supply and distribution might give rise to unilateral actions on the part of those who feel they are on the losing end of this globalization gap.
To reduce this potential for conflict, developed societies are being encouraged to recognize that global resource consumption and international security are connected, and that obtaining resources cooperatively rather than competitively will enhance long-term security. International agencies can help to ensure the equitable distribution of critical resources both between and within countries. In addition, nations can contribute their relative expertise to finding new sources of natural resources, to developing substitutes for commodities such as oil and natural gas, and to enhancing conservation and efficiency technology to certify that existing resources are used to their maximum benefit. If poorer citizens can be assured they have access to the resources needed to live, they are less likely to adopt combative ideologies that lead to terrorism.
see also Ecoterrorism; War.
gugliotta, guy, and matsumoto, gary. (2002). "fbi's theory on anthrax is doubted." washington post, october 28, 2002, a1.
hawley, t.m. (1992). against the fires of hell: the environmental disaster of the gulf war. new york: harcourt brace jovanovich.
klare, michael t. (2001). resource wars: the new landscape of global conflict. new york: henry holt.
makhijani, arjun; hu, howard; and yih, katherine, eds. (2000). nuclear wastelands: a global guide to nuclear weapons production and its health and environmental effects. special commission of international physicians for the prevention of nuclear war and the institute for energy and environmental research. cambridge, ma: mit press.
nordgren, megan d.; goldstein, eric a.; and izeman, mark a. (2002). the environmental impacts of the world trade center attacks: a preliminary assessment. new york: natural resources defense council.
federation of american scientists. (2002). "special weapons primer: biological warfare agents." available from http://www.fas.org/nuke.
new york state department of environmental protection. (2001). "statement on water supply security." available from http://www.nyc.gov/html.
u.s. environmental protection agency web site. further information on the environmental and human health effects of 9/11 available from http://www.epa.gov/wtc.
Elizabeth L. Chalecki
ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE GULF WAR
Although there is some debate among scholars about the difference between war and terrorism, the retreating Iraqi army committed two particularly wanton acts of environmental destruction during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. First, they released six million barrels of oil from the Kuwaiti Sea Island offshore loading terminal, and scuttled five fully loaded oil tankers at the Mina Ahmadi terminal. They also set fire to 732 oil wells across Kuwait. These burned for months before they were extinguished. The combined oil pollution output from these acts totaled 1.5 billion barrels, or 6,000 times the amount spilled from the Exxon Valdez.
The environmental effects of these acts were clearly immense. A plume of soot and oil droplets spread over 1.3 million square miles, contaminating the air with pollutants such as nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and vast amounts of CO2. The oil lakes on land have contaminated the fragile desert ecosystem, virtually guaranteeing that it will not regenerate for decades. The oil in the Gulf itself destroyed mangrove thickets, fish, shrimp, marine mammals, and sea birds. Ten years after the war, this region is still environmentally degraded.
"Terrorism." Pollution A to Z. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/educational-magazines/terrorism
"Terrorism." Pollution A to Z. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/educational-magazines/terrorism
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Terrorism and Counterterrorism
It is important to differentiate among state terrorism, state‐supported terrorism and sub‐state terrorism.
“State terrorism” refers to the use of terror by a government, using the resources of the state—including the police, judiciary, military—against its own citizens to quell domestic opposition to its policies, as exemplified by the “dirty war” in Argentina during the 1970s and early 1980s in which an estimated 15,000 to 30,000 regime opponents were killed or disappeared. “State‐supported terrorism” refers to situations where states provide logistical, financial and training support for a terrorist organization. In 1998, the U.S. Department of State designated Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism. Sub‐state terrorism refers to acts of terrorism perpetrated by non‐state actors.
In considering sub‐state terrorism, one can distinguish between five principal varieties:
Social revolutionary terrorism, also known as terrorism of the left, includes those acts perpetrated by groups seeking to overthrow the capitalist economic and social order and was typified by the European “fighting communist organizations” active throughout the 1970s and 1980s (e.g., the Red Army Faction in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy), though social revolutionary groups have been active around the world, including the Shining Path in Peru and the Japanese Red Army Faction in Japan.
Religious extremist terrorism is characterized by groups seeking to maintain or create a religious social and political order and has included groups representing established religious doctrines as well groups representing “new religions.” Traditional groups include Christian, Jewish, and Islamic extremists, while new religions include groups like Aum Shinrikyo, responsible for the 1995 subway sarin attack in Tokyo, Japan.
Nationalist‐separatist terrorists, also known as ethno‐nationalist terrorists, includes those groups fighting to establish a new political order or state based on ethnic dominance or homogeneity. The Irish Republican Army, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka, the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) in Spain, and the various groups representing Palestinian causes are prominent examples.
Right‐wing terrorists comprise those groups seeking to maintain an extant political order or to return society to an idealized “golden age” of the past. Examples include neo‐Nazi terrorist groups and groups espousing fascist ideology.
Single‐issue terrorism, as the label suggests, represents groups acting on a single issue, such as the environment or animal rights.
The era of modern terrorism was ushered in by the dramatic slaying of Israeli athletes by the Palestinian group Black September during the globally televised 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. While terrorism prior to 1972 principally had been a domestic phenomenon, the Munich attack emphasized the expansion of tactics and targets to include exploitation of global mass communications networks and international aviation, internationalizing terrorism.
The relationship between terrorism and the media has been extensively studied (Nacos, 1994), and has been found to influence the tactics and strategies of modern terrorist groups. According to one estimate (Jenkins, 1985: 12), 95% of all terrorist attacks are designed to maximize exposure and influence through the media. The hijacking of airlines (“skyjackings”) was particularly prevalent during the 1970s and early 1980s, as were hostage taking episodes. All received extensive media coverage.
The terrorist threat to the United States has traditionally come from two distinctly different strains of political terrorism: the leftist social revolutionary terrorists of Western Europe, attacking representatives of the United States as symbols of capitalism and Western militarism in the form of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); and the national‐separatist and religious fundamentalist groups of the Middle East—especially those connected with the liberation movements in Palestine—who attack U.S. forces and civilians first as supporters of Israel and second in connection with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
The German Red Army Faction (RAF) was responsible for numerous bombings of U.S. military installations. U.S. forces have also been targeted in Italy by the Red Brigades and in Greece by the Revolutionary Organization “November 17.” Apart from bombings, European social revolutionary groups have been engaged in assassination and kidnapping attempts against U.S. military and NATO leaders stationed in Europe.
While terrorism committed by the European leftist groups against U.S. targets in Europe remained fairly localized, terrorists operating out of the Middle East, especially those organizations supported by states hostile to U.S. interests, such as Syria, Libya, and Iran, have operated on a more global setting, taking advantage of air travel and modern mass communications to pressure the United States and its allies into withdrawing support for Israel and diminishing U.S. and Western influence in the region.
America's first prolonged experience with terrorism began in 1979 with the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, and the ensuing hostage crisis in which U.S. diplomats were held for 444 days. U.S. airliners have been susceptible to skyjackings, such as the 1985 Trans World Airlines (TWA) flight 847 skyjacking by Abu Nidal terrorists resulting in the deaths of 2 Americans, and bombings, the most spectacular of which was the 1988 bombing of PAN AM flight 103 by suspected Libyan terrorists.
Terrorists operating out of the Middle East frequently target U.S. military personnel. PLO splinter groups were responsible for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 86 and wounding 100, and the car‐bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks at Beirut airport, resulting in the deaths of 241 U.S. servicemen. U.S. servicemen were targeted by Libyan terrorists in the 1986 bombing of a nightclub in Berlin, Germany. Following the Persian Gulf War in 1991, U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia have become targets of Islamic groups heavily opposing U.S.‐Saudi Arabian cooperation and the continued presence of U.S. forces on Saudi Arabian soil. The bombing of the Khobar Towers military residence in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, resulted in 19 deaths and 500 wounded.
Evidence suggests changing trends in terrorism as the twentieth century draws to a close. First, there is a trend toward fewer, but more lethal acts. Second, there are fewer claims of responsibility being made for attacks, perhaps reflecting the growing prevalence of religious extremist terrorism and transnational terrorism. Third, the collapse of the Soviet Union has raised concern that poorly guarded nuclear, chemical, and biological materials might find their way into the hands of terrorists. Finally, international terrorists have for the first time attacked targets within the territorial United States with the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the subsequent conspiracy to bomb several other New York City landmarks by Middle East terrorists. The U.S. has also experienced its most devastating case of domestic anti‐government terrorism with the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, resulting in 168 deaths.
To combat terrorism, the United States' counterterrorism policy follows three general rules: the U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists; the U.S. will treat terrorists as criminals and pursue them aggressively; and the U.S. will apply maximum sanctions upon states supporting terrorism and encourage other states to do so as well (U.S. Department of State, 1996:iv). Accordingly, the U.S. has responded to the threat of modern international terrorism with a multi‐tracked approach, including diplomatic and legal efforts and military interdiction and deterrence. The United States is a party to nine major multilateral conventions that define states' responsibilities toward countering terrorism. Among them are treaties protecting diplomatic personnel and the safety of civil aviation and maritime navigation; outlawing the taking of hostages; the physical protection of nuclear materials; and the marking of explosives for identification.
Following the passage of the “long arm” anti‐terrorism statute in 1984, the Department of Justice has been empowered to arrest foreign nationals who have committed acts of terrorism against U.S. citizens for trial in the U.S. court system. Fawaz Younis (1987) and Mohammed Al Rezaq (1995) were arrested abroad by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and successfully tried in the U.S. The Department of Defense and U.S. military forces have played a mixed role in support of the United States' counterterrorism policy. Delta Force, the United States' secretive military unit specifically designed to counter terrorism, was founded during the Carter Administration (1976–1980). Modeled on the British Secret Air Services (SAS), Delta Force is comprised of elite commandos skilled in hostage rescue and incident interdiction. However, Delta Force's first deployment, Operation Eagle Claw (1980) to rescue the U.S. diplomats held hostage in Iran, proved a disastrous failure. Delta Force was joined in 1980 by a Navy counterpart, Seal Team 6, also tasked primarily with hostage rescue.
In addition to hostage rescue, U.S. military forces have been used to retaliate against states which have sponsored terrorist attacks against U.S. targets, such as the 1986 bombing raid on the Libyan capitol Tripoli in response to Libyan involvement in several dramatic acts of international terrorism in 1985 and 1986.
In a triumph of timely intelligence and coordination with the U.S. military, the aircraft carrying the hijackers of the Achille Lauro was intercepted by U.S. warplanes and forced to land at a U.S. Air Force base in Italy in October, 1985. The standoff at the airport between Italian and U.S. forces claiming jurisdiction over the captured terrorists, however, emphasizes the difficulties of pursuing U.S. counterterrorism policies abroad.
This entry is being updated.
James M. Poland , Understanding Terrorism: Groups, Strategies, and Responses, 1988.
Alex P. Schmid and and Albert J. Jongman , Political Terrorism, 1988.
Martha Crenshaw , The Logic of Terrorism: Terrorist Behavior as a Product of Strategic Choice, in Walter Reich, ed., Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind, 1990.
Jerrold M. Post , Terrorist Psycho‐Logic: Terrorist Behavior as a Product of Psychological Forces, in Walter Reich, ed., Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind, 1990.
R. Kingston , The American Approach to Combating Terrorism, Terrorism and Political Violence, Autumn 1992, pp. 102–106.
M. Gunter , Countering Terrorism: The Reagan Record, Conflict Quarterly Spring 1994, pp. 7–10.
Brigitte L. Nacos , Terrorism and the Media: From the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Oklahoma City Bombing, 1994.
Jerrold M. Post,, E. Shaw,, and and Keven G. Ruby , From Car Bombs to Logic Bombs: Information Systems Terrorism, in John Harrald and G. Shaw, eds., Disaster and Emergency Management: International Challenges for the Next Decade, 1998.
U.S. Department of State , Patterns of Global Terrorism, 1997, 1998.
Jerrold M. Post and and Keven G. Ruby
"Terrorism and Counterterrorism." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-and-counterterrorism
"Terrorism and Counterterrorism." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-and-counterterrorism
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The study of terrorism is complicated by the fact that terrorism is a political rather than an analytical concept. The concept is closely related to major power conflicts, such as the cold war, nationalist conflicts, and—most recently—religious-political polarization; and its political use and academic definitions have changed accordingly. As a result, scholars of terrorism have not only looked at terrorism as a particular kind of political violence, such as assassinations, hijackings, or—most recently—suicide bombings, but have also been sensitive to the discursive use and impact of the term terrorism. What both lines of study have in common, however, is the notion that terror-ism—both as a practice and a discourse—is meant to terrify. Both the perpetrators of terrorist violence and those who have the power to name a particular kind of violence as terrorism do so to create fear. The study of terrorism has therefore not only focused on those branded as terrorists but also on those who do the naming, such as the media, policymakers, and academics, as well as on how the term terrorism is itself a highly contested label.
Precisely because terrorism is a political term, there is little consensus on how to define the phenomenon. According to an often-used definition, terrorism resembles guerrilla warfare to some extent while being distinctively different from it in others. Both are unconventional forms of warfare in which the state is attacked by groups of combatants lacking a fully armed military apparatus in order to bring about political change. However, whereas guerrilla fighters primarily target military objects, terrorists also attack “soft” civilian targets in order to paralyze society. According to this definition, the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh in 1995 is terrorist, whereas the suicide attack by Shi’a combatants on American and French U.N. troops in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983, killing 241 marines, is an act of guerrilla warfare. Similarly, the Viet Cong fighting the U.S. army in Vietnam or the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale fighting the French colonial army in the 1950s were guerrilla fighters, whereas the Irish IRA, the Basque ETA, or the West German Red Army Faction also attacked civilians and are therefore defined as terrorist.
Scholars who have focused on the perpetrators of “terrorist” violence have used various perspectives. Richard Rubenstein (1987), among others, analyzes terrorism as a political strategy with a particular genealogy rooted in the French Revolution’s regime de la terreur and nineteenth-century anarchism. Maximilien Robespierre and Louis Antoine Saint-Just as well as Sergej Nechaev and Michael Bakunin thus appear as the ideologues of terrorism. The thinking of the latter as to how to fight the all-powerful modern state, including the notion of the revolutionary vanguard, the provocation of the state, and the revolutionary moment, has subsequently influenced nationalist militants and left-wing revolutionaries of the twentieth century.
Another line of study has considered terrorism in relation to utopian belief systems and political eschatology. Rather than a strategy, terrorism is seen as a testimony, an act of faith, and the outcome of radical collective fantasies about ideological, ethnic, or religious purity. These studies focus on processes of radical “othering” and satanization, the political use of traditions of martyrdom and sacrifice, and the “mytho-logics” of political violence. Specific attention is given to the symbolism of the time and space of terrorism, such as the symbolism of particular days, buildings, or public spaces.
Partly in response to this, others have argued that while terrorism is usually informed by strong convictions, it should also be understood in terms of ulterior motives such as status, glamour, friendship, and money. Martha Crenshaw (1988) argues that terrorist groups can be analyzed as communities accommodating a variety of individual needs, such as the needs for recognition, excitement, and material benefits. The militant group is as much driven by the need to maintain itself as by its ideological objectives. These observations are used to argue that those militant groups whose existence is threatened by internal friction or outside aggression are usually the most violent. Others examine individual motives for joining a militant organization. Joseba Zulaika (1988) in a study on the ETA describes militant groups as the continuation of friendship in already existing peer groups. In a similar vein, recent terrorism has been explained as an attempt by religiously inspired militants to overcome existential anxieties caused by alienation, humiliation, and marginalization.
A growing body of work concerned with aspects of terrorism is the study of state terror. Michael Taussig (1984) has used the term cultures of terror to denote societies that are under constant threat of state violence and intimidation. This line of work focuses on the systematic use of torture and death squads, rumors, secret intelligence, and other forms of intimidation by state institutions, as well as on individual and collective coping strategies used by the victims of state terror. State terrorism can also include the deployment of terrorist actions by one state against another state, as shown, for example, by Libya’s involvement in the explosion of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. In terms of numbers of victims, state terror is a much more serious problem than the terrorism of revolutionary or religiously inspired militants.
The study of terrorism-related discourse focuses on the use of the terrorism concept in the media, by policy makers, and by “terrorists” themselves. Studies on the “symbiotic relationship” between terrorists, the media, and state propaganda portray terrorist violence as “spectacle,” as “theater” and “performative,” or as “ritual.” Without denying the reality of death and destruction, these studies focus on how the media frames terrorism in terms of Good and Evil, leaving little room for anything other than one-dimensional conceptions of terrorism and counterterrorism. The way terrorism was reported on during the cold war, for example, created a fear of totalitarianism and of incomprehensible technology. More recently, and especially since the attacks of September 11, 2001, terrorism discourse resonates with the fear of religious fanaticism. Most of these studies also trace the complex relations between the media and state policy. Governments often brand their enemies as “terrorist” in order to legitimize an excessive use of force and the violation of human rights. At the same time, the perpetrators of “terrorist” violence themselves evoke collective fears and fantasies associated with terrorism in an effort to become “larger than life.”
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the study of terrorism has changed significantly, not only in quantitative terms, but also substantively. Book titles like Terror in the Mind of God (Juergensmeyer 2000) and Terror in the Name of God (Stern 2003) indicate an increased interest in the relationship between terrorism and religion. Studies of religious militancy largely fall into one of three categories. A culturalist approach tries to explain recent Islamist militancy in terms of long-standing traditions of violence and intolerance in Islam. A more empirical approach examines religious extremism per se, comparing Islamist militants with, for instance, American antiabortionists and Zionist extremists. Rather than being rooted in age-old and supposedly unchanging traditions, recent religious militancy is said to draw inspiration from renewed and redefined notions of purity and holy war, fostered by anxieties and inequalities caused by globalization and political or social marginalization. A historical approach examines religious radicalism as political ideology and religious militant groups as political organizations. Such studies analyze the rise of Islamic radicalism, the history of Al-Qaeda, or the life of bin Laden against the backdrop of geopolitical developments in the Middle East and Asia since the 1980s. Gilles Kepel (2002), for instance, explains the “9–11” attacks by Al-Qaeda as a sign of disillusion and an attempt to reverse a process of decline after various failed attempts to retain political power for the Islamist ideology.
Post-“9–11” studies of terrorism not only center on religion, but also focus on the sites, the organization, and the methods of modern terrorism. Today’s terrorism is often transnational in scope, objective, and organization, and transcends the boundaries of the nation-state. Stephen Graham (2004) studies modern terrorism explicitly as an urban phenomenon, exploring the ways in which terrorism and counterterrorism are shaped by, and transform, the public life of global cities. As for the study of terrorist organizations, the emphasis has shifted from cell-structured and network organizations to the “rhi-zomatic” character of transnational terrorism. Some of the best-known terrorist phenomena like Al-Qaeda are franchises, allowing loosely connected “freelancers” to operate in their name, as much as they are organizations or networks. Finally, Walter Laqueur (1999), among others, in a book predating “9–11,” explores the ways in which terrorist methods may evolve from the traditional methods of assassinations and hijacking to new forms of chemical, biological, nuclear, and cyber terrorism.
SEE ALSO Fundamentalism, Islamic; Guerrilla Warfare; Revolution; Terrorists; Violence; Violence, Frantz Fanon on; War
Crenshaw, Martha. 1988. Theories of Terrorism: Instrumental and Organizational Approaches. In Inside Terrorist Organizations, ed. David C. Rapoport, 13–31. London: Frank Cass.
Feldman, Allen. 2002. Ground Zero Point One: On the Cinematics of History. Social Analysis 46 (1): 110–117.
Graham, Stephen. 2004. Cities, War, and Terrorism: Towards an Urban Geopolitics. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Juergensmeyer, Mark. 2000. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Kepel, Gilles. 2002. Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. London: Tauris.
Rubenstein, Richard E. 1987. Alchemists of Revolution: Terrorism in the Modern World. London: Tauris.
Stern, Jessica. 2003. Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. New York: HarperCollins.
Taussig, Michael. 1984. Culture of Terror, Space of Death: Roger Casement’s Putumayo Report and the Explanation of Torture. Comparative Studies in Society and History 26 (3): 467–497.
Zulaika, Joseba. 1988. Basque Violence: Metaphor and Sacrament. Reno: University of Nevada Press.
"Terrorism." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/terrorism
"Terrorism." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/terrorism
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Terrorism refers here to the public health consequences and the methods for prevention of the purposeful use of violence or threats of violence by groups or individuals in order to serve political or personal agendas. This article does not include what has been termed "state terrorism," the use of violence by a nation-state without clear necessity for self-defense and without the authorization of the United Nations.
EXAMPLES OF TERRORISM
Use or threat of use of violence has long caused concern among those responsible for public health. Examples include indiscriminate violence, such as the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City and the 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and targeted violence, such as attacks on facilities for the termination of pregnancy or on those who work in such facilities. The primary responsibility for response to the health consequences of such violence has resided largely in emergency medical services and the primary responsibility for prevention in agencies concerned with public order and safety, such as the police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Recent instances of use or threatened use of biological or chemical agents in terrorism have raised interest in the role of public health agencies and public health personnel in primary or secondary prevention. Documented episodes, although extremely rare, have been dramatic. In Japan, the chemical warfare agent Sarin was released by the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Matsumoto in 1994 and in the Tokyo subway in 1995. In 1984, an Oregon cult allegedly contaminated salad bars with a biological agent, salmonella. These episodes, and recent hoaxes concerning anthrax release, have led to well publicized, costly responses by public health and public safety officials. Chemical terrorism could include the purposeful contamination of water and food supplies or the aerosolization of toxicants within enclosed public spaces. Biological terrorist actions could include purposeful contamination with infectious materials, as well as the purposeful release of insects or other vectors infected with a transmissible disease.
AVAILABILITY OF CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS
Underlying concern about bioterrorism is the long history of use of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) in war. Since World War II, worldwide military forces have built up major stockpiles of such weapons and tested them at a number of sites around the world. Although the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) outlawed the development, production, stockpiling, and transfer of these weapons, large stockpiles of chemical weapons still await destruction in several nations, and it is alleged that stockpiles of biological weapons are still maintained in a few nations. Although the technical knowledge and materials needed to produce CBW are relatively available, the ability to "weaponize" and target these materials remains extremely limited. The risk of their use appears to be small, but any use constitutes a threat to public health.
TYPES OF BIOLOGICAL AGENTS
There are at least seventy types of bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, and fungi that can be weaponized, including tularemia, anthrax, Q fever, epidemic typhus, smallpox, brucellosis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, botulinum toxin, dengue fever, Russian spring-summer encephalitis, Lassa fever, Marburg, Ebola, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever (Machupo), and Argentinean hemorrhagic fever (Junin). Antibiotic resistant strains of anthrax, plague, tularemia, and glanders have allegedly been developed. Viruses and toxins can be genetically altered to heighten their infectiousness, permitting the development of pathogens capable of overcoming existing vaccines. It is estimated that no more than 20 to 30 percent of the diseases the aforementioned agents cause can be effectively treated.
RECENT HISTORY OF CONTROL
In 1994 U.S. president Bill Clinton issued an Executive Order asserting that the potential use of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons "by terrorist groups or rogue states" represents "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States." This Order, renewed annually, makes it illegal for anyone in the United States to help anyone to acquire, design, produce, or stockpile CBW. The Order was amended in 1998 to include penalties for trafficking in equipment that could indirectly contribute to a foreign biological warfare program.
In 1995 President Clinton announced a new policy against "superterrorism"—terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction. The Departments of Defense, Energy, and State, together with the FBI and the CIA, were to oversee a wide network of military and civilian agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dedicated to identifying CBW attacks and to coping with their consequences. In 1997, a $52.6 million Domestic Preparedness Program was authorized for emergency response teams in 120 selected cities, whereby police, fire departments, and public health officials were to receive special training and equipment to help them combat biological and chemical terrorism.
In 1998 President Clinton announced new initiatives to address bioterrorism. Hearings before a committee of the U.S. Senate in 1998 included witnesses who stated that such proposals were misguided because so many resources were being assigned to military rather than to medical or public health authorities. Ethical questions raised include whether such funds could be better spent on providing adequate public health measures, preventive medicine, and treatment for endemic illness to the population.
LIMITATIONS OF COUNTER-TERRORISM MEASURES
Overall, there is little evidence that specific vaccine programs or other technical defensive programs are effective or ethical preventive measures against the use or threat of use of biologic weapons. Many public health experts argue that the best defenses against use of biological weapons lie in ethical proscription of work on them by health professionals and scientists and protection of the global population against all serious infectious disease, not just diseases caused intentionally, by ameliorating poverty and inadequate nutrition, housing, and education.
As part of this effort, it is argued, industrialized countries should enable developing countries to build capacity for detection, diagnosis, and treatment of all disease by providing technical information and needed resources. Article X of the BWC, encouraging the exchange of information and materials for peaceful purposes, should be strengthened. Research organizations, professional societies, and individual scientists should pledge not to engage knowingly in research or teaching that furthers the development and use of biological weapons. Furthermore, all countries could prohibit the development of novel biological agents that do not have an unambiguously peaceful purpose, even if these activities are promoted for defensive purposes.
An important reason that a few nations, groups, or individuals may continue to develop or stockpile chemical or biological weapons, known as "the poor nation's nuclear weapons," lies in the massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons maintained by the United States and other nuclear powers. As long as these nations fail to recognize their obligations under the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to move expeditiously toward nuclear weapons abolition, biological and chemical weapons will remain a threat.
Victor W. Sidel
(see also: Arms Control; Genocide; Violence )
Alibek, K. (1999). Biohazard. New York: Random House.
Carter, A.; Deutch, J.; and Zelikow, P. (1998). "Combating Catastrophic Terrorism." Foreign Affairs (Nov/Dec):80–94.
Cohen, H. W.; Gould, R. M.; and Sidel, V. W. "Bioterrorism Initiatives: Public Health in Reverse?" American Journal of Public Health 89:1629–1631.
Lockwood, A. H. (1997). "The Public Health Effects of the Use of Chemical Weapons." In War and Public Health, eds. B. S. Levy and V. W. Sidel. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association.
Piller, C., and Yamamoto, K. R. (1990). "The U.S. Biological Defense Research Program in the 1980s: A Critique." In Preventing a Biological Arms Race, ed. Susan Wright. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Sidel, V. W; Nass, M.; and Ensign, T. (1998). "The Anthrax Dilemma." Medicine and Global Survival 5:97–104.
Tucker, J. B. (1997). "National Health and Medical Services Response to Incidents of Chemical and Biological Terrorism." Journal of the American Medical Association 278:389–395.
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
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TERRORISM is a political tactic that uses threat or violence, usually against civilians, to frighten a target group into conceding to certain political demands.
The term "terrorism" was first used to describe the state terrorism practiced by the French revolutionaries of 1789–1795. Through kangaroo courts, executions by guillotine, and violent repression of political opponents, the revolutionaries tried to frighten the population into submission. Two great terrorist states of the twentieth century, Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, also practiced the threat and use of violence to keep their own citizens in line.
In the nineteenth century, terrorist tactics were adopted by individuals and groups that used assassinations, bombings, and kidnappings to undermine popular support for what the terrorists saw as unjust policies or tyrannical governments. Terrorist acts were first committed on a wide scale in the United States during the latter part of the nineteenth century. On 4 May 1886, an anarchist bomb killed eight policemen during a demonstration in Chicago's Haymarket Square, and on 16 September 1920, an anarchist bomb hidden in a wagon on Wall Street killed thirty people and seriously injured more than two hundred.
Although anarchist violence received the most newspaper coverage during this period, the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was the most important terrorist group in the United States from 1850 to the 1960s. The KKK used marches, beatings, and lynchings to intimidate
African Americans who wished to vote or otherwise participate in the political process.
Beginning in the late 1960s, extreme-left groups like the Weathermen engaged in kidnapping and bombings to protest the Vietnam War, while groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army engaged in armed actions against civilians or the police, hoping thereby to provoke a "people's revolution." These groups disappeared in the 1970s and 1980s only to be replaced by extreme-right terrorist organizations.
On 19 April 1995 a truck bomb exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, destroying the building and killing 168 people. An act of domestic terrorism, the Oklahoma City Bombing was the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history at the time. Testifying before the U.S. Senate in 1998, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh stated that, "The current domestic terrorist threat primarily comes from right-wing extremist groups, including radical paramilitary [militia] groups, Puerto Rican terrorist groups, and special interest groups."
The period after 1960 saw the rise of international terrorist attacks on Americans in the Middle East and in Latin America. The most dramatic instance of terrorism during this period was the 4 November 1979 attack by
Iranian students on the United States Embassy in Teheran, when sixty-six diplomats were held hostage until their release on 20 January 1981. According to the U.S. State Department, seventy-seven U.S. citizens were killed and 651 injured in international terrorist attacks between 1995 and 2000.
By the mid-1970s, international terrorists began to carry out operations on American soil. On 24 January 1975, the Puerto Rican Armed National Liberation Front killed four people when bombs exploded at the Fraunces Tavern in New York City. Eleven months later, on 29 December 1975, a bomb exploded in the TWA terminal at La Guardia Airport, killing eleven. No group ever claimed responsibility. The next major incident occurred on 26 February 1993, when a truck bomb exploded in the basement of New York's World Trade Center, killing six and wounding thousands. At his 1997trial, bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef stated, "I support terrorism so long as it was against the United States government and against Israel."
On 11 September 2001, in the most murderous terrorist attack American history had yet witnessed, almost three thousand people were killed. Nineteen Middle Eastern terrorists hijacked four airplanes; one crashed into the Pentagon, two destroyed the twin towers of New York City's World Trade Center, and one, possibly headed for the White House, crashed in a wooded area of Pennsylvania. Although the hijackers left no message, they were clearly motivated by hatred of the United States and by a desire to force a change in American policy in the Middle East.
The enormity of the attack pushed terrorism to the top of the American political agenda, with President George W. Bush declaring "war on terror" in his 20 September 2001 address to a joint session of Congress. President Bush predicted that this new war could last for years or even decades. The World Trade Center attack also led to a major change in the way the United States deals with terrorism. Before 11 September 2001, the United States followed a police-justice model whereby police and intelligence agencies identified and apprehended terrorists and then turned them over to the justice system. After those attacks, however, the Bush Administration adopted a preemptive-war model, whereby the United States intends to strike at individual terrorists or terrorist groups anywhere in the world and has threatened to use all means necessary, from special forces to massive military force, to attack what it identifies as "terrorist states" that support international terrorism.
The adoption of this model led President Bush in his 29 January 2002 State of the Union address to talk about Iran, Iraq, and North Korea together as an "axis of evil" and to threaten military action against Iraq. This statement led to much uneasiness among allies of the United States, who feared that the administration's war on terrorism signaled a move toward unilateralism in U.S. foreign policy and the destabilization of international relations.
Harmon, Christopher. Terrorism Today. Portland, Ore.: Frank Cass, 2000.
Laqueur, Walter. The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Wilkinson, Paul, Terrorism and the Liberal State. New York: New York University Press, 1986.
See also9/11 Attack andvol. 9:George W. Bush, Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People (As Delivered Before Congress), 20 September 2001 .
"Terrorism." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/terrorism
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Terrorism refers to the illegitimate use of violence or intimidation to advance a group's interests. Examples include detonating explosives in public places, taking hostages, or assassinating politicians. Central to the concept of terrorism is that its objective is primarily ideological. Terrorists typically do not employ violence to gain wealth but rather to bring attention to political causes.
Because the term terrorism hinges on a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate use of violence, controversy often accompanies its use. For example, governments routinely use force to advance their interests, but do not characterize their actions as instances of terrorism. The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City is readily identified as a terrorist act because it was undertaken by a very small group of individuals and not an entire government. Yet much more violent attacks directed against large cities during World War II are not characterized as acts of terrorism. Within a single conflict use of the term "terrorist" in news reports can reveal the political sympathies of the broadcaster or the government that released information about the attack. For example, in the American press violent events undertaken by Palestinians are far more likely to be characterized as acts of terrorism than equally or more violent actions taken by the Israeli military. This political component became very clear in the United States during the Reagan administration, which aided the Contra rebels who were waging a campaign of violence against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Officials in the American government characterized the Contras as "freedom fighters" while supporters of the Sandinistas portrayed them as terrorists.
The use of violence by small groups to advance their interests is not a twenty-first-century development. The term terrorism first appeared during the French Revolution and the Jacobin Reign of Terror. Similarly, many other words associated with terrorism (i.e., thug, assassin, and zealot ) derive from groups alleged to have used violence and death to advance their political objectives.
Historically terrorism is thought to have passed through several distinct stages, from its origin among religious groups fighting to defend or advance their organization's beliefs, to secular groups, whose objectives were clearly political. Traced by some historians to the French Revolution, this process of the secularization of terrorism continued throughout the twentieth century. Modern technology's ability to expand the audience for violent actions is thought by some analysts to have fueled terrorism's appeal, making nations with a free press particularly susceptible to the quest for media coverage. Twentieth- and twenty-first-century accounts of terrorism argue that it may have moved into a new period, as new technology allows small groups of individuals the ability to wield tremendous destructive power, and permits even faster coverage of that destruction to a wide audience, as evidenced by the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Experts warn that such attacks are not limited to religiously motivated groups but can also include assaults stemming from personal grudges or psychopathological conditions.
In contrast to individual acts of violence, the use of terrorism by small political organizations is thought to serve several functions: (1) It makes the group committing the terrorist act appear large and powerful, thus intimidating outsiders and boosting morale of the terrorist group's members; (2) it reveals the vulnerability of the target, whose apparent strength is thereby placed in doubt and whose authority may become undermined; (3) it can eliminate opposition; (4) it may start a chain reaction of assaults undertaken by sympathetic political groups; and (5) it cements the terrorists to the organization because individuals who commit acts of terror cannot leave the organization very easily.
The impact of media coverage of terrorist acts is mixed. On the one hand, most Americans greatly overestimate the threat of terrorism, probably due to media coverage of the subject. In fact, the chances of being killed in an automobile accident are more than one hundred times higher than the chance of being killed by a terrorist action while overseas. On the other hand, sustained terrorist attacks can produce a backlash against the perpetrator's cause, as occurred in 1999 when bombings of Moscow apartment buildings increased the hostility of Russian citizens toward Chechens, who were thought to be responsible for the blasts.
Attempts to combat terrorism include use of metal detectors and dogs at locales thought to be likely targets for attack. While these methods are effective at reducing the frequency of terrorist acts, it appears impossible to protect targets completely against determined terrorists. Ironically, methods to offset terrorism exaggerate the public's perception of threat and thus advance one of terrorism's main objectives.
See also: Death Squads; Terrorist Attacks on America
Crenshaw, Martha. "The Logic of Terrorism." In Walter Reich ed., Origins of Terrorism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Fleming, Dan B., and Arnold Schuetz. "Terrorism, Assassination, and Political Torture." In Daniel Leviton ed., Horrendous Death, Health, and Well-Being. New York: Hemisphere Publishing, 1991.
Laqueur, Walter. Terrorism. Boston: Little, Brown, 1977.
Shurkin, Joel. "Modern Terrorists Are 'Anemic.'" Stanford Observer, 6 February 1988, 1ff.
Stern, Jessica. The Ultimate Terrorists. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Stohl, Michael. The Politics of Terrorism. New York: Marcel Dekker, 1983.
JONATHAN F. LEWIS
"Terrorism." Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
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terrorism, the threat or use of violence, often against the civilian population, to achieve political or social ends, to intimidate opponents, or to publicize grievances. The term dates from the Reign of Terror (1793–94) in the French Revolution but has taken on additional meaning in the 20th cent. Terrorism involves activities such as assassinations, bombings, random killings, and hijackings. Used for political, not military, purposes, and most typically by groups too weak to mount open assaults, it is a modern tool of the alienated, and its psychological impact on the public has increased because of extensive coverage by the media. Political terrorism also may be part of a government campaign to eliminate the opposition, as under Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and others, or may be part of a revolutionary effort to overthrow a regime. Terrorist attacks also are now a common tactic in guerrilla warfare. Governments find attacks by terrorist groups difficult to prevent; international agreements to tighten borders or return terrorists for trial may offer some deterrence.
Terrorism reaches back to ancient Greece and has occurred throughout history. Terrorism by radicals (of both the left and right) and by nationalists became widespread after World War II. Since the late 20th cent. acts of terrorism have been associated with the Italian Red Brigades, the Irish Republican Army, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Peru's Shining Path, Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Weathermen and some members of U.S. "militia" organizations, among many groups. Religiously inspired terrrorism has also occurred, such as that of extremist Christian opponents of abortion in the United States; of extremist Muslims associated with Hamas, Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, and other organizations; of extremist Sikhs in India; and of Japan's Aum Shinrikyo, who released nerve gas in Tokyo's subway system (1995).
In 1999 the UN Security Council unanimously called for better international cooperation in fighting terrorism and asked governments not to aid terrorists. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Al Qaeda on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon—the most devastating terrorist attacks in history—prompted calls by U.S. political leaders for a world "war on terrorism." Although the U.S. effort to destroy Al Qaeda and overthrow the Afghani government that hosted it was initially successful, terrorism is not a movement but a tactic used by a wide variety of groups, some of which are regarded (and supported) as "freedom fighters" in various countries or by various peoples. So-called state-sponsored terrorism, in which governments provide support or protection to terrorist groups that carry out proxy attacks against other countries, also complicates international efforts to end terror attacks, but financial sanctions have been placed by many countries on organizations that directly or indirectly support terrorists. The 2001 bioterror attacks in which anthrax spores were mailed to various U.S. media and government offices may not be linked to the events of September 11, but they raised specter of biological and chemical terrorism and revealed the difficulty of dealing with such attacks.
See B. Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (1998); M. Carr, The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism (2007); S. Nathanson, Terrorism and the Ethics of War (2010); M. A. Miller, The Foundations of Modern Terrorism (2013).
"terrorism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
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Britons became familiar with terrorist outrages—the maiming of cattle, destruction of crops, burning of houses, and murder of opponents—during the Irish agitations of the 19th cent. Great indignation was felt in 1867 at the murder of a policeman by Fenians, though the perpetrators, who were hanged, were regarded by Irish nationalists as the ‘Manchester martyrs’. The later 19th cent. saw an increase in assassinations, often by anarchists. In the USA, Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley were killed (1865, 1881, 1901); Alexander II of Russia was blown up by a bomb in 1882; the empress of Austria shot in 1898; King Humbert I of Italy murdered in 1900; and Stolypin, the Russian reformer, shot at the opera in 1911. The murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in 1914 led directly to the First World War.
After 1945, terrorism acquired new dimensions, with links between international groups, and growing disregard for the loss of innocent lives. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, President Kennedy in 1963, Aldo Moro, a former prime minister of Italy, kidnapped and murdered by the Red Brigade in 1978, Lord Mountbatten killed by the IRA in 1980, and Indira Gandhi killed by one of her own bodyguards in 1984. Car-bombs and aircraft hijacking became increasingly common and, in the Middle East, suicide-bombers proved hard to stop. In 1988 nearly 300 people died when Pan Am flight 103 was destroyed over Lockerbie; the Real IRA killed 26 people and injured 200 more with a bomb at Omagh in 1998. These atrocities were dwarfed on 11 September 2001 when the World Trade Centre at New York was destroyed by supporters of Osama bin Laden with the loss of nearly 3,000 lives. Britain joined in the coalition to root out the al-Qa'eda terrorist network in Afghanistan, and in the 2003 campaign in Iraq which overthrew Saddam Hussain. In Britain itself, international terrorism moved closer with the attack in 2005 on London's transport system, which left more than 50 people dead.
J. A. Cannon
"terrorism." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-0
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A half-century of Russian history was bloodstained by revolutionary terrorism. Its first outburst was the abortive April 1866 assassination attempt against Tsar Alexander II by Dmitry Karakozov. From then on, extremists of different ideological persuasions, with varying degrees of success, resorted to acts of terror as part of their struggle against the contemporary sociopolitical order.
Terrorist activity had a particularly strong impact on the country's life during two distinct periods. The first was the so-called heroic period, between 1878 and 1881, when the Party of the People's Will (Narodnaya Volya )—the first modern terrorist organization in the world—dominated the radical camp. Its campaign against the autocracy culminated in the assassination of Alexander II on March 1, 1881. Alexander III's government succeeded in disintegrating the People's Will; yet, after a twenty-year period of relative and deceptive calm, a new wave of terrorism erupted during the reign of Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II (1894–1917). Its perpetrators were members of various newly formed left-wing organizations, who implicated themselves in terrorist acts even when their parties in theory rejected terrorism as a suitable tactic. As radical activity reached its peak during the 1905–1907 crisis, terrorism became an all-pervasive phenomenon, affecting not only the elite civil and military circles but every layer of society. During the first decade of the twentieth century, the terrorists were responsible for approximately 17,000 casualties throughout the empire. Their attacks were indiscriminate, directed at a broad category of alleged "watchdogs of the old regime" and "oppressors of the poor."
Although terrorism subsided by late 1907, largely as a result of severe repressive measures employed by Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin, until the collapse of the imperial order in 1917 it remained a threatening weapon in the hands of extremists seeking the demise of the tsarist regime.
See also: nicholas ii; people's will the; red terror; zhelyabov, andrei ivanovich
Footman, David. (1968). Red Prelude: A Biography of Zhelyabov. London: Barrie & Rockliff.
Geifman, Anna. (1993). Thou Shalt Kill: Revolutionary Terrorism in Russia, 1894–1917. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
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- Al Fata Palestine Liberation movement’s terrorist organization. [Arab. Hist.: Wigoder, 186]
- Baader-Meinhof gang German terrorists. [Ger. Hist.: Facts (1978), 114–115]
- Black Panthers militant black revolutionists and civil-rightists. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 46]
- Gestapo Nazi secret police; executors of “Final Solution.” [Ger. Hist.: Wigoder, 211]
- IRA the Irish Republican Army; long history of terror and violence. [Irish Hist.: NCE, 1365–1366]
- Ku Klux Klan post-Civil War white supremacist organization used terrorist tactics against blacks. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1505]
- Nazis (National Socialism) spread fear and terror throughout Hitler’s Germany. [Ger. Hist.: NCE, 1894]
- Red Brigade Italian terrorist group; assassinated Aldo Moro (1978). [Ital. Hist.: Facts (1978), 133]
- Reign of Terror (1793–1794) revolutionary government made terror its means of suppression, by edict (September 5, 1793). [Fr. Hist.: EB, IX: 904]
- Symbionese Liberation Army small terrorist group that kid-napped Patty Hearst (1974–1975). [Am. Hist.: Facts (1974), 105]
- Weathermen American terrorist group against the “Establishment.” [Am. Hist.: Facts (1972), 384]
"Terrorism." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/terrorism
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ter·ror·ist / ˈterərist/ • n. a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims. DERIVATIVES: ter·ror·is·tic / ˌterəˈristik/ adj. ter·ror·is·ti·cal·ly adv. ORIGIN: late 18th cent.: from French terroriste, from Latin terror (see terror). The word was originally applied to supporters of the Jacobins in the French Revolution, who advocated repression and violence in pursuit of the principles of democracy and equality.
"terrorist." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/terrorist-0
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"terrorism." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
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"terrorist." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/terrorist
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Terrorism, whether practiced by states, substate groups, or individuals, is found throughout human history. Most historical accounts, however, focus on what they take to be forms of terrorism that are practiced by substate groups and individuals.
During Biblical times, Jewish Sicarii, known for their use of a short sword (sica), struck down rich Jewish collaborators who were opposed to violent resistance against their Roman conquerors. Later, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, a group of Shiite Moslems, called the Assassins, opposed efforts to suppress their religious beliefs in Sunni-dominated Persia. Using daggers, the Assassins killed prefects, governors, and caliphs in front of many witnesses, thus ensuring their capture and execution because they believed that by their actions they would gain entry into paradise. Eventually, the group was suppressed by the Mongols in the thirteenth century.
In India, from the eleventh century on, a group called the Thugs was active until it was destroyed by the British in the nineteenth century. The Thugs ritually strangled their victims with a silk tie. They claimed allegiance to the goddess Kali, who it is said required them to kill in order to supply her with blood for nourishment.
Following the French Revolution, the Jacobins under Robespierre gave us the very term terror, unleashing a Reign of Terror between 1793 and 1794 upon all levels of French society. During this period, those executed included not only those accused of some offense or disloyalty, but sometimes their children, parents, or even grandparents as well.
Yet, it is not clear that all of these historical examples should be regarded, as they usually are, as acts of terrorism. Without a doubt, they are all cases in which terror (intense fear or fright or intimidation) is induced in large groups of people, but terrorism, as many have come to understand it, involves more than just this. First of all, many think that terrorism must have a political purpose—that it must aim to achieve some change in a government or governmental institution or policy. Now, this is true of most of the historical examples just cited, but it is not true of the Thugs of India whose goals were personal and religious rather than political. Second, many also think that terrorism must directly target innocents, a requirement that does not really hold of any of these historical examples except that of the Jacobins. The Sicarii targeted Jewish collaborators who in virtue of their collaboration were clearly not innocent. The Assassins attacked people in positions of political leadership who were responsible for the religious persecution against Shiite Moslems and so were not innocent. So the only really clear example we have here of terrorism is that of Robespierre's Reign of Terror, directed as it was at innocents as well as at those who were considered to be guilty of some offense. However, in the case of Robespierre's Reign of Terror, what we have is an example of state terrorism, not terrorism as practiced by substate groups or individuals.
Since 1983, the U.S. State Department has defined terrorism as follows: "Terrorism is premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience." In a U.S. State Department document in which this definition is endorsed, there is also a section that discusses state-sponsored terrorism (Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism 2001). It is clear, then, that the U.S. State Department does not hold that only subnational groups or individuals can commit terrorist acts; it further recognizes that states can commit terrorist acts as well. So let us offer the following definition of terrorism, which is essentially the same as the U.S. State Department's definition once it is allowed that states, too, can commit terrorist acts and once it is recognized that it is through attempting to elicit terror (that is, intense fear, fright, or intimidation) that terrorists try to achieve their goals. The definition is: "Terrorism is the use or threat of violence against innocent people to elicit terror in them, or in some other group of people, in order to further a political objective."
Using this definition, there is no problem seeing the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., particularly the attacks on the World Trade Center, as terrorist acts. Likewise, the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 as well as the suicide bombings directed at Israeli civilians are terrorist acts.
But what about the U.S. bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan with respect to which the United States blocked a United Nation's (U.N.) inquiry and later compensated the owner but not the thousands of victims who were deprived of drugs? Or what about the United States' $4 billion-a-year support for Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands, which began in 1969 and which is illegal, that is, in violation of U.N. resolutions that specifically forbid "the acquisition of territory by force" and which has resulted in many thousands of deaths? Or to go back further: What about U.S. support for the Contras in Nicaragua, and of death squads in El Salvador during the Reagan years, and the use of terrorist counter-city threats of nuclear retaliation during the Cold War and the actual use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II resulting in over 100,000 deaths? Surely, all of these actions also seem to be either terrorist acts or support for terrorist acts according to our definition. How can we tell then, which, if any, of these terrorist acts or support for terrorist acts are morally justified?
Let us address this question from the perspective of the just war theory. In traditional just war theory, two requirements must be met in order to justify going to war. First, there must be a just cause. Second, just means must be used to fight the war. In order for there to be a just cause (1) There must be substantial aggression. (2) Nonbelligerent correctives must be either hopeless or too costly. (3) Belligerent correctives must be neither hopeless nor too costly.
Needless to say, the notion of substantial aggression is a bit fuzzy, but it is generally understood to be the type of aggression that violates people's most fundamental rights. To suggest some specific examples of what is and is not substantial aggression, usually the taking of hostages is regarded as substantial aggression while the nationalization of particular firms owned by foreigners is not so regarded. But even when substantial aggression occurs, frequently nonbelligerent correctives are neither hopeless nor too costly to pursue. And even when nonbelligerent correctives are either hopeless or too costly, in order for there to be a just cause, belligerent correctives must be neither hopeless nor too costly.
Traditional just war theory assumes, however, that there are just causes and goes on to specify just means as imposing two requirements: (1) Harm to innocents should not be directly intended as an end or a means. (2) The harm resulting from the belligerent means should not be disproportionate to the particular defensive objective to be attained. While the just means conditions apply to each defensive action, the just cause conditions must be met by the conflict as a whole.
Given the constraints imposed on just means, one might think that from the perspective of just war theory, acts of terrorism could never be morally justified. But this would require an absolute prohibition on intentionally harming innocents, and such a prohibition would not seem to be justified, even from the perspective of the just war theory. Specifically, it would seem that harm to innocents can be justified for the sake of achieving a greater good when the harm is: (1) trivial (e.g., as in the case of stepping on someone's foot to get out of a crowded subway), (2) easily reparable (e.g., as in the case of lying to a temporarily depressed friend to keep that person from committing suicide), or (3) nonreparable but greatly outweighed by the consequences of the action. Obviously, it is this third category of harm that is relevant to the possible justification of terrorism. But when is intentional harm to innocents nonreparable yet greatly outweighed by the consequences?
Consider the following example often discussed by moral philosophers: A large person who is leading a party of spelunkers gets stuck in the mouth of a cave in which flood waters are rising. The trapped party of spelunkers just happens to have a stick of dynamite with which they can blast the large person out of the mouth of the cave; either they use the dynamite or they all drown, the large person with them. Now, it is usually assumed in this case that it is morally permissible to dynamite the large person out of the mouth of the cave. After all, if that is not done, the whole party of spelunkers will die, the large person with them. So the sacrifice imposed on the large person in this case would not be that great.
But what if the large person's head is outside rather than inside the cave, as it must have been in the previous interpretation of the case. Under those circumstances, the large person would not die when the other spelunkers drowned. Presumably after slimming down a bit, the large person would eventually just squeeze out of the mouth of the cave. In this case, could the party of spelunkers trapped in the cave still legitimately use the stick of dynamite to save themselves rather than the large person?
Suppose there were ten, twenty, 100, or an even a larger number of spelunkers trapped in the cave. At some point, would not the number be sufficiently great that it would be morally acceptable for those in the cave to use the stick of dynamite to save themselves rather than the large person, even if this meant that the large person would be morally required to sacrifice his life? The answer has to be yes, even if you think it has to be a very unusual case when we can reasonably demand that people thus sacrifice their lives in this way.
Is it possible that some acts of terrorism are morally justified in this way? It is often argued that the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was so justified. President Truman, who ordered the bombing, justified it on the grounds that it was used to shorten the war. In 1945, the United States demanded the unconditional surrender of Japan. The Japanese had by that time lost the war, but the leaders of their armed forces were by no means ready to accept unconditional surrender. While the Japanese leaders expected an invasion of their mainland islands, they believed that they could make that invasion so costly that the United States would accept a conditional surrender.
Truman's military advisers also believed the costs would be high. The capture of Okinawa had cost almost 80,000 American casualties while almost the entire Japanese garrison of 120,000 men died in battle. If the mainland islands were defended in a similar manner, hundreds of thousands of Japanese would surely have died. During that time, the bombing of Japan would continue, and perhaps intensify, resulting in casualty rates that were no different from those that were expected from the atomic attack. A massive incendiary raid on Tokyo early in March 1945 had set off a firestorm and killed an estimated 100,000 people. Accordingly, Truman's Secretary of State James Byrnes admitted that the two atomic bombs did cause "many casualties, but not nearly so many as there would have been had our air force continued to drop incendiary bombs on Japan's cities" (Byrnes 1947, p. 264). Similarly, Winston Churchill wrote in support of Truman's decision: "To avert a vast, indefinite butchery … at the cost of a few explosions seemed, after all our toils and perils, a miracle of deliverance" (Churchill 1962, p. 634).
Yet the "vast, indefinite butchery" that the United States sought to avert by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was one that the United States itself was threatening, and had already started to carry out, with its incendiary attack on Tokyo. And the United States itself could have arguably avoided this butchery by dropping its demand for unconditional Japanese surrender. Moreover, a demand of unconditional surrender can almost never be morally justified since defeated aggressors almost always have certain rights that they should never be required to surrender. Hence, the United States' terrorist acts of dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki cannot be justified on the grounds of shortening the war and avoiding a vast, indefinite butchery if the United States could have secured those results simply by giving up its unreasonable demand for unconditional surrender. So, it is difficult to see how the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki could be justified acts of terrorism.
A more promising case for justified terrorism is the counter-city bombing of the British during the early stages of World War II. Early in the war, it became clear that British bombers could fly effectively only at night because too many of them were being shot down during day raids by German antiaircraft fire. In addition, a study done in 1941 showed that of those planes flying at night that were recorded as having actually succeeded in attacking their targets, only one-third managed to drop their bombs within five miles of what they were aiming at. This meant that British bombers flying at night could reasonably aim at no target smaller than a fairly large city. Michael Walzer (1992) argues that under these conditions, the British terror bombing was morally justified because at this early stage of the war, it was the only way the British had left to them to try to avert a Nazi victory. Walzer further argues that the time period when such terror bombing was justified was relatively brief. Once the Russians began to inflict enormous casualties on the German army and the United States made available its manpower and resources, other alternatives opened up. The British, however, continued to rely heavily on terror bombing right up until the end of the war, culminating in the fire-bombing of Dresden in which something like 100,000 people were killed. Nevertheless, for that relatively brief period when Britain had no other way to avert a Nazi victory, Walzer argues, its reliance on terror bombing was morally justified.
Suppose we agree with Walzer that British terror-bombing during the earlier stages of World War II was morally justified. Could there be a comparable moral justification for Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians? Israel has been illegally occupying Palestinian land since 1969 in violation of U.N. resolutions following the 1967 Arab–Israeli war. Even a return to those 1967 borders, which the U.N. resolutions require, still permits a considerable expansion of Israel's original borders as specified in the mandate of 1947. Moreover, since the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 until 2001, Israeli settlements doubled in the occupied territories. Under Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon, some thirty-five new settlements have been established in the occupied territories. In Gaza in 2001, there were 1.2 million Palestinians and 4,000 Israelis, but the Israelis control 40% of the land and 70% of the water. In the West Bank, there were 1.9 million Palestinians and 280,000 Israelis, but the Israelis controlled 37% of the water.
In addition, Israel failed to abide by its commitments under the Oslo Peace Accords to release prisoners, to complete a third redeployment of its military forces, and to transfer three Jerusalem villages to Palestinian control. Moreover, at the Camp David Meeting in 2000, Israel's proposals did not provide for Palestinian control over East Jerusalem upon which 40% of the Palestinian economy depends. Nor did Israel's proposals provide for a right of return or compensation for the half of the Palestinian population that lives in exile, most of them having been driven off their land by Israeli expansion. So the Palestinian cause is arguably a just one, and clearly the Palestinians lack the military resources to effectively resist Israeli occupation and aggression by simply directly attacking Israeli military forces. The Israelis have access to the most advanced U.S. weapons and $4 billion-a-year from the United States to buy whatever weapons they want. The Palestinians have no comparable external support. Under these conditions, is there a moral justification for Palestinian suicide bombers against Israeli civilians? Assuming that the Palestinians lack any effective means to try to end the Israeli occupation or to stop Israel's further expansion into Palestinian territories other than by using suicide bombers against Israeli civilians, why would this use of suicide bombers not be justified in much the same way that Walzer justifies the British terror bombing in the early stages of World War II?
Much depends on what Israel's intentions are. If the Israelis have the ultimate goal of confining most Palestinians to a number of economically nonviable and disconnected reservations, similar to those on which the United States confines American Indian nations, would not the Palestinians have a right to resist that conquest as best they can, even if this involves the use of suicide bombers? Of course, everything here turns on a correct assessment of Israeli intentions and on whether Palestinians (and Israelis) have sufficiently exhausted the use of nonbelligerent correctives. The 2005 political overtures from Sharon might also indicate a new beginning. Only time will tell.
Starting with the just war theory, we have seen that there are morally defensible exceptions to the just means prohibition against directly killing innocents. The cave analogy argument aims to establish that conclusion. British terror bombing at the beginning of World War II, but not the American dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of that war, seems to provide a real life instantiation of that argument. The Palestinian use of suicide bombers against Israeli civilians may or may not be a contemporary instantiation of that very same argument.
Yet, even if some acts of terrorism can be justified in this manner, clearly, most acts of terrorism cannot be so justified, and clearly, there was no moral justification for the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., particularly the attacks in the World Trade Center. For Americans, no act of terrorism compares with the September 11, 2001 (9/11), morning attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Initial estimates put the number of dead from this terrorist attack at more than 5,000, but later the death toll was reduced to around 3,000. Comparisons were made to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 where 2,403 sailors, soldiers, and civilians died. But the attack on a military outpost far removed from the American heartland is hardly comparable to an attack against targets in its largest city and in its capital. Nor was 9/11 carried out with the weapons of previous adversaries but by commandeering commercial aircraft with knives and box cutters and using them in murderous suicidal missions. So, this terrorism now faced is something new, something different, and, as a consequence, many people around the world feel vulnerable in a way they would have never thought possible before.
Even so, the question remains as to what is the appropriate response to unjustified terrorist acts. According to the just war theory, before using belligerent correctives, one must be sure that nonbelligerent correctives are neither hopeless nor too costly. The three weeks of diplomatic activity that the United States engaged in with the Taliban government of Afghanistan does not appear to have been sufficient to determine whether it was hopeless or too costly to continue to attempt to bring Osama bin Laden before a U.S court, or better, before an international court of law, prior to going to war against Afghanistan. The United States demanded that the Taliban government immediately hand over bin Laden and "all the leaders of Al Qaida who hide in your land" (Bush 2001). But was it reasonable to expect compliance from the Taliban, given that even after the overthrow of the Taliban government and the installation of a more friendly regime, the United States and its allies were still unable several years later to apprehend bin Laden and reduce the frequency of terrorist attacks sponsored by Al Qaida around the world? Was it reasonable for the United States to have expected the Taliban government, with its limited resources and loose control over the country, to have done in three weeks what it was not able to accomplish after several years? Similar and even more telling questions can be raised about the decision to go to war against Iraq as a response to the threat of terrorism.
Terrorism, whether practiced by states, substate groups, or individuals, has a long and varied history. Whereas the practice can be generally condemned, many who condemn it most strongly are themselves engaged in terrorism or support for terrorism. More significantly, in order for responses to terrorism or the threat of terrorism to be morally justified, they must meet the requirements of the just war theory by first exhausting nonbelligerent correctives, and frequently, this is not done.
See also Just War Theory.
Bell, J. Bowyer. Terror Out of Zion. New York: St, Martin's Press, 1977.
Bickerton, Ian, and Carla Klausner. A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002.
Byrnes, James F. Speaking Frankly. New York: Harper, 1947.
Crenshaw, Martha, "The Logic of Terrorism." In Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind. Edited by Walter Reich. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Henderson, Harry. Terrorism. New York: Facts on File, 2001.
Kameel Nasr. Arab and Israeli Terrorism. London: McFarland, 1997.
Laquer, Walter. The Age of Terrorism. Boston: Little, Brown, 1987.
Malley, Robert, and Hussein Agha, "Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors." New York Review of Books 48 (13), 2001.
Nash, Jay Robert. Terrorism in the 20th Century. New York: M. Evans, 1998.
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Patterns of Global Terrorism-2000, 2001.
Rappoport, David. "Religion and Terror: Thugs, Assassins, and Zealots." In International Terrorism: Characteristics, Causes, Controls. Edited by Charles Kegley, 147–149. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.
Simon, Jeffrey. The Terrorist Trap. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.
Walzer, Michael. Just and Unjust Wars, 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books, 1992
James P. Sterba (2005)
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The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property in order to coerce or intimate a government or the civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives.
Guantanamo Bay Developments
In May 2006, the Pentagon released a list of individuals who are being held in a detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under suspicion of terrorist activities. This list was allegedly the first complete list of Guantanamo detainees released to the public since the detention center was established more than four years ago, after the September 11th attacks in 2001.
The Associated Press had requested the names, photos, and other details of current and former detainees under the Freedom of Information Act in January 2006, and had filed a lawsuit in March after the Pentagon had not responded to the request.
A Pentagon spokesman said that the names had been kept classified because of the security operations and intelligence operations that occur at Guantanamo Bay, but he did not comment on why the Pentagon chose not to contest the Associated Press's request.
Although the list of names will help lawyers and human rights advocates track down detainees in order to investigate allegations of abuse at Guantanamo, the list did not include the names of some top terrorists in custody, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, who have been accused of plotting the attacks of September 11, 2001. Although the most recent list included more than 200 names that had not previously been disclosed by the Department of Defense, questions persist about the existence of a "secret prison" at Guantanamo Bay. A spokesperson from the Department of Defense has denied the existence of other detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, however.
The Pentagon had released a list of more than 500 names to the Associated Press in April 2006, when ordered to do so by a federal judge in response the Freedom of Information Act request, but the list was not complete.
"This list takes us one step closer to our goal of fully reporting who has been swept into U.S. military custody in Guantanamo, and how they and their cases are being handled," said David Tomlin, the assistant general counsel for the Associated Press.
The interest in contacting detainees stems in part from allegations of prisoner abuse that surfaced in late 2004, when agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported the use of loud music, bright lights, and growling dogs to disorient and intimidate prisoners. The agents also reported having seen prisoners chained to the floor. An ongoing, high-level military investigation was initiated once the Pentagon became aware of the reports.
"We don't want to be the world's jailer, and we certainly want to try people or release them," Rice said in the interview. "One of the misunderstandings about Guantanamo is the sense that somehow hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people have been there forever with no prospect of release. Indeed, we have released hundreds of people from Guantanamo either because we've deemed them not as dangerous as thought or because we've released them to their governments, as we did with Great Britain."
The U.S. Supreme Court addressed the question of how to manage the legal rights of the Guantanamo detainees in 2006. President Bush had used his prerogative as commander in chief during times of war and mandated that military tribunals would try the detainees, rather than civilian courts. In 2004, the Court ruled that the president could not indefinitely detain prisoners without filing charges. Later in 2004, U.S. District Judge James Robertson found that Guantanamo Bay detainees should be considered prisoners of war and therefore entitled to certain protections under the Geneva Conventions, including the right to hear the charges against them.
Many detainees have challenged their imprisonment. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to rule on whether the detainees would be tried in military or civilian courts. Without a Supreme Court ruling, "it will be difficult for military commissions and status-review panels to decide fairly whether a detainee is a prisoner of war, after top Executive Branch and military leaders have declared all of them enemy combatants, not POWs," said Eugene R. Fidell, a Washington, DC-based lawyer specializing in military justice, in an interview with the Washington Post in 2004.
In an interesting twist, four British citizens who had been held at Guantanamo Bay for three years and then released to Great Britain won the right in 2006 to sue Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, for damages. The former detainees have stated that they will seek $10 million in damages from Rumsfeld and ten other military commanders for violating their religious rights by forcing them to shave their beards, harassing them during their worship activities, and forcing them to watch a Guantanamo guard flush a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, down a toilet.
Cases Against Padilla and Moussaoui Continue
During 2005 and 2006, two terrorist suspects continued their legal disputes. Jose Padilla, who was designated by President George W. Bush as an "enemy combatant" in 2002, petitioned a federal district court in South Carolina for a writ of habeas corpus in an effort to force the U.S. government either to charge him with a crime or release him. Although the trial court agreed with Padilla, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision. In a second criminal case, Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged for the September 11th attacks in 2001, received a life sentence by a federal court in Virginia.
According to court records, Padilla, a U.S. citizen and native of Brooklyn, received training from al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001. After the terrorist attacks in 2001, Padilla was present as U.S. forces fought Taliban forces in Afghanistan. He eventually escaped to Pakistan, where he continued to communicate with al Qaeda operatives. One senior planner for the terrorist organization, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, directed Padilla to travel to the United States in order to conduct terrorist activities. Officials accused Padilla of leading a plot to set off a radioactive "dirty" bomb and of planning to blow up apartment buildings.
When Padilla arrived at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation immediately arrested him pursuant to a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Federal agents transported him to New York, where he was held at a civilian correctional facility. On June 9, 2002, Bush designated Padilla as an enemy combatant pursuant to a federal statute enacted shortly after the terrorist attacks took place. Under this directive, Padilla was held at a naval brig in South Carolina without being formally charged with a crime.
Shortly after Bush issued the directive, Padilla filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Southern District of New York. Later in 2002, Padilla's attorney, Donna Newman, successfully argued before the New York court that Padilla was entitled to speak with her. Padilla ex rel. Newman v. Bush, 233 F. Supp. 2d 564 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). The government had maintained that he would use Newman as a conduit to transmit information to terrorists. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed Padilla's petition, ruling that he had improperly filed them in New York. Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 124 S. Ct. 2711, 159 L. Ed. 2d 513 (2004). Padilla then filed a petition with the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
Bush issued his directive based on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Joint Resolution (AUMF), which was approved by Congress on September 18, 2001. Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001). This joint resolution provides as follows: "[T]he President is authorized to sue all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future attacks of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons."
In a decision issued on February 28, 2005, U.S. District Judge Henry F. Floyd Jr. determined that neither the AUMF by Congress nor powers inherently possessed by the president allowed Bush to hold Padilla. Accordingly, the judge ruled that the government must either charge Padilla with a crime or release him. Padilla v. Hanft, 389 F. Supp. 2d 678 (D.S.C. 2005). The government appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the district court's decision in an opinion issued on September 9. Padilla v. Hanft, 423 F.3d 386 (4th Cir. 2005).
The appellate court reviewed the holding of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507, 124 S. Ct. 2633, 159 L. Ed. 2d 578 (2004), where the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the detention of a U.S. citizen who fought with Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The Court in a plurality opinion in Hamdi determined that the AUMF authorized the detention of the citizen because the citizen was a combatant of war. The Fourth Circuit decided that like the citizen in Hamdi, Padilla was an enemy combatant and that the result should be the same.
About two months later, the government submitted a motion to the Fourth Circuit, asking the court to allow the government to transfer Padilla to a civilian facility. Padilla had filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court, and the apparent purpose behind the government's motion was to avoid consideration of the issues in the case by the Court. The Fourth Circuit on December 21 denied the government's motion, deciding that the Supreme Court was the appropriate body to decide whether to approve the government's request. Padilla v. Hanft, 432 F.3d 582 (4th Cir. 2005). Early in January, however, the Supreme Court issued an order that granted the government's request to transfer custody to civilian authorities. Padilla was transferred to a federal detention facility in January 2006.
Like Padilla, Moussaoui's criminal case has extended over several years, with a number of delays during the process. A self-proclaimed al Qaeda operative, the government alleged that Moussaoui was part of the original September 11th plot. Had he not been arrested weeks before the attacks on an immigration violation, he would have been the twentieth hijacker, according to the government's case. Much of the prosecution's case was based on evidence from other suspected terrorists who were in the custody of the government. In 2004, the Fourth Circuit issued a complicated ruling about which witnesses that Moussaoui's counsel could depose. United States v. Moussaoui 382 F.3d 453 (4th Cir. 2004).
Moussaoui in April 2005 pleaded guilty to six charges of conspiracy related to his alleged terrorist activities. His trial began in February 2006. Government prosecutors sought the death penalty despite reports that the government had in its possession evidence suggesting that Moussaoui was not part of the September 11th plot. On May 3, 2006, a jury rejected the imposition of the death penalty on Moussaoui, and the court sentenced him to life in prison on the following day.
Two days after he was sentenced, Moussaoui's attorneys filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea and request a new trial on the question of whether he was guilty as to the charges. The motion said that Moussaoui "did not have any knowledge of and was not a member of the plot to hijack planes and crash them into buildings on September 11." Because the motion was filed after he was sentenced, the court summarily denied the motion on May 8.
Renewal of PATRIOT Act Delayed but Finally Approved
After months of debate and negotiations, Congress in March 2006 authorized the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act, which was originally passed in 2001 at the urging of President George W. Bush and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Many Democrats charged that the statute had been used to allow the government to infringe upon civil liberties of Americans. These concerns caused Congress to delay the act's reauthorization by several months.
In response to the September 11th attacks in 2001, Congress approved the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272. The statute, which was more than 100 pages long, enhanced security and surveillance procedures and authorized the use of a number of tools that the government could use to combat terrorists. Congress approved the act by overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate in October 2001.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the statute from the time of its enactment. As the government continued implementing programs to combat terrorism, the ACLU became increasingly vocal about the potential for abuse by law enforcement. By 2005, even some conservative groups, such as the American Conservative Union, had begun to question whether the act went too far in terms of impeding individual rights.
Several of the PATRIOT Act's provisions were set to expire on December 31, 2005. Representatives of the Bush administration, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, advocated for renewal of the statute throughout much of 2005. In April, Gonzales and Mueller testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Gonzales testified that the statute "has been an integral part of the federal government's successful prosecution of the war against terrorism" and that "now is not the time to relinquish some of our most effective tools in the fight."
Just days after one of several bombing incidents in London in July 2005, the House approved a bill that made 14 of the Act's 16 provision permanent. The bill would have extended the other two provisions for an additional 10 years. The bill passed by a vote of 257 to 171, with 14 Republicans voting against it and 43 Democrats voting in favor of it. Although support for the bill was largely partisan, several top Democrats, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, voted for the legislation.
While the House was considering its proposed legislation in July, the Senate was also considering its own proposal. As the Act's expiration date neared, members of the House and Senate judiciary committees met in joint session to attempt to negotiate. On December 9, the negotiators announced that they had reached a tentative deal, though other members of Congress immediately attacked the new proposal, saying that it still did not adequately protect civil rights. The House approved the conference committee's version on December 15.
Shortly after the conference committee made its announcement, news reports indicated that Bush had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens in the months that followed the attacks in 2001. For some members of the Senate, this news signified that the government could not be trusted with all of the powers included in the PATRIOT Act. On December 16, members of the Senate successfully filibustered the bill when only 52 senators voted to cut off debate, eight fewer than necessary to end the filibuster.
The Senate blocking of the proposal left Republicans scrambling to save the act prior to December 31. Senators who opposed passage of the act said that they were willing to compromise. Those who supported the bill, however, said that they were more willing to let the statute expire than to agree to a version that they might view as less effective. After the debate continued for several more days, the Senate agreed to a six-month extension of the PATRIOT Act.
Members of the House did not agree with the length of the extension. Representative James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R.-Wis.), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said that the extension "would have simply allowed the Senate to duck the issue until the last week in June." In a nearly empty chamber on December 22, the House agreed through a voice vote to extend the act until February 3. The Senate approved this extension shortly thereafter.
Negotiation continued during January and February in 2006. Most of the debate centered on the protection of certain civil liberties. At a minimum, critics wanted to limit the government's access to library and business records. Unable to reach a compromise by the February 3 deadline, the House and Senate again agreed to an extension, this time through March 10. In both chambers, negotiators attempted to add procedural safeguards that would protect civil liberties, including the allowance of court challenges to some requests for information by the government.
On March 1, the Senate approved an amended bill that included many of these procedural safeguards by a vote of 89 to 10. About a week later, the House agreed to the proposals by a vote of 280 to 138. Supporters for the final legislation noted that negotiators had added several provisions that were designed to ensure that civil liberties would not be abused. Critics, on the other hand, continued to question whether the government could be trusted with the tools provided for in the statute. Bush signed the bill on March 9.
Millennium Bomber Sentenced
Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian man who was convicted of attempting to blow up the Los Angeles airport at the turn of the millennium, was sentenced in July 2005 to 22 years in prison.
Ressam, who came to be referred to as the "Millennium Bomber," received a lighter sentence than the prosecutors had hoped for because he had helped the federal government as an informant during the years since his arrest. However, Ressam became less cooperative in 2003, and his reluctance to talk to investigators has hamstrung cases against two individuals who have been accused of conspiring with him in the Los Angeles airport bombing plot. The sentencing for Ressam had been scheduled for April of 2005, but it was postponed in the hope of eliciting further cooperation. U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said he had hoped that Ressam would testify against Samir Ait Mohamed and Abu Doha, who were waiting to be extradited from Canada and Britain, respectively, and who had also been charged in the airport bombing plot.
Among other useful information, Ressam supplied details that led to the capture of poten-tial bomber Richard Reid, who attempted to blow up an American Airlines flight in 2001 with a bomb secreted in his shoe.
The Associated Press quoted public defender Thomas Hillier as saying that the government sentence did not sufficiently account for Ressam's cooperation. "It is a flat fact that law enforcement, the public, and public safety have benefited in countless ways" as a result of Ressam's cooperation with federal investigators, he said.
Ressam has reportedly provided detailed information about al-Qaeda terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and has helped U.S. authorities identify more than 100 individuals with suspected links to al-Qaeda.
U.S. customs agents arrested Ressam in 1999, when he was driving a car filled with bomb-making materials off a ferry that had arrived in Port Angeles from British Columbia.
The prosecutors had asked for a 35-year sentence, and lawyers for Ressam had asked for 12 and a half years. The attorneys for Ressam have said that he is willing to cooperate again and that his valuable help in the past justifies a "substantial reduction" in his sentence.
The government had offered a 27-year sentence, which Ressam accepted in exchange for cooperation. Although defense lawyers have said that the defense felt manipulated by the twenty-seven-year offer, government prosecutors said that Ressam knew that he would be unlikely to receive a shorter sentence, given that had been convicted of nine federal counts related to the Los Angeles airport bombing attempt. In August 2005, the government appealed and requested a longer prison term, but the sentence had not been changed by early 2006. The prosecutors justified their request by arguing that when Ressam stopped cooperating, he became eligible for a harsher sentence that would start at 65 years.
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Sections within this essay:Overview
Methods of Attack
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Anti-war and Nationalist
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Department of Homeland Security
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No event in American history touched the nation or the world more than the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. The destruction caused by 19 hijackers who flew three of four planes into buildings (the fourth never reached its target thanks to passengers who overwhelmed the hijackers), and the loss of more than 3,000 lives, drove home to the United States the true horrors of terrorism.
Yet, terrorism on American soil is not unknown. In fact, the same World Trade Center that was destroyed in 2001 had been the victim of a terrorist attack in 1993. Miraculously, only six people died in that attack, but the damage to the Twin Towers was significant. Moreover, not all terrorism is caused by foreign operatives. The destruction of a government office building in Oklahoma City in 1995 was the work of a former U.S. soldier. And so-called "ecoterrorists" have destroyed buildings and businesses in the name of saving the environment.
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines terrorism as "the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence to intimidate or coerce societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons." Most terrorists are determined to use force and violence almost always without warning and often indiscriminately. Most governments and societies neither condone terrorism nor capitulate to it; yet, attacks still occur. For that reason, society must find ways to protect itself. The question of how to do this is not easy to answer, but failing to address it will not make terrorism go away.
Terrorism can reach the public in a number of ways:
- Bombings. Terrorists use bombs to inflict damage on buildings or vehicles as well as to kill or injure. Some bombs are hidden by terrorists and set off with timers, while others are detonated by "suicide bombers" who have chosen to sacrifice their lives along with those of their victims.
- Bioterrorism. Chemical or biological agents are released into the atmosphere with the intent of contaminating or killing people. Examples are the attack using poisonous gas on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 and the series of anthrax-laced letters mailed in the United States in 2001.
- Kidnapping. Individuals or groups can be kidnapped and held hostage in return for some demand. Often terrorists demand the release of other terrorists from prison as a requirement for releasing their hostages. Government officials, members of the press, and foreign nationals are the most frequent victims of kidnapping.
- Assassination. Terrorists often carry out assassinations of government leaders or diplomats, with the intention of causing a government or a powerful political movement to collapse.
The element of fear is what makes terrorism so difficult to tackle. Once a community has been victimized by a terrorist attack, people become fearful that more attacks will occur. Societies that fall prey to numerous terrorist attacks often develop a sense of resignation, going about their daily business despite any potential danger. For a community that experiences terrorism for the first time, or isolated incidents of terrorism, fear comes from another key element: surprise.
Political and anti-government activism is nothing new in the United States. In 1886, eight labor radicals bombed Haymarket Square in Chicago, killing seven and injuring 70. Labor radicals in 1910 were also responsible for the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building in California, which killed 20. Anarchists were suspected when a bomb went off on Wall Street in New York City in 1920. The blast killed 34 people and injured more than 200.
Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan were infamous for terrorizing individuals during the twentieth century. In 1963, four Klan members exploded a bomb in a Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young black girls.
In 1970, anti-war protesters attacked the University of Wisconsin's campus in Madison, killing one person and damaging more than 50 buildings. During the 1970s and 1980s, Puerto Rican nationalist groups claimed responsibility for several bombings, including one at New York's Fraunces Tavern in 1975 that killed four people.
Many consider assassinations as terrorism, depending on the assassin's reason for committing the crime. Two Presidential assassinations could be considered acts of terrorism: Abraham Lincoln's assassination in April 1865 at the hands of Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, and William McKinley in September 1901 at the hands of anarchist Leon Czolgosz.
Until the September 11 bombings, the April 1993 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was the most deadly terrorist attack on American soil. The bombing killed 168 people; several victims were children because there was a day care center in the building. The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was a Gulf War veteran who claimed his act was one of revenge on the U.S. government for killing members of a fringe militia group in Waco, Texas.
There are numerous environmental groups and animal rights groups whose work and commitment to fostering better understanding about their issues is above reproach. Unfortunately, there are also extremist groups whose goal, far from fostering understanding, is to coerce the public into accepting their beliefs. Two such groups, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have engaged for several years in "eco-terrorism"—acts of arson for the purpose of destroying targets including meat-packing companies, timber companies, ski resorts, and private residences. Federal investigators estimate that groups like ELF and ALF may be responsible for as many as 1,200 such crimes for the period 1990–2004.
Typically, these groups fashion incendiary devices using flammable liquids and other fuels, which they set on timers and use to destroy buildings. Their targets are chosen on the basis of the damage they believe those targets are doing to the environment. For example, destroying the offices of a timber company could save trees, and destroying a meat-packing plant could save cattle. Destroying large private homes, they reason further, keep people from moving into pristine areas and harming the environment.
In January 2006, eleven suspected arsonists were indicted on charges of arson, sabotage, and conspiracy. They were allegedly responsible for seventeen incidents over a five-year period from 1996 to 2001. What makes suspects like these difficult to find and arrest is that they are extremely secretive. Members of groups such as ELF and ALF pledge secrecy and also pledge never to reveal the names of any of their co-conspirators.
On October 26, 2001, just weeks after the September 11 attacks, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). which gave the government greater ability to seek out for and combat terrorist activity in the United States.
The PATRIOT Act grants the Secretary of the Treasury with new regulatory powers to fight money laundering from foreign countries in U.S. banks; secures national borders against foreign nationals who are terrorists or who support terrorism; eases restrictions on interception and surveillance of correspondence and communication that may link to terrorist activity; stiffens penalties against money laundering, counterfeiting, charity fraud, and similar crimes; and creates new crimes and penalties for such acts as harboring terrorists and giving terrorists material support.
Civil liberties groups complained that the PATRIOT Act granted the federal government too much power to investigate innocent people or to track private records. Section 215 of the Act, which gives the FBI permission to examine business records for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations, has been called the "library provision" because some have read it to mean that libraries will be required to turn over lists of who has checked out which books.
As of the end of 2005 certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act were slated to sunset by February 2006, although members of Congress were planning to seek renewal or compromise on certain sections that were controversial, such as Section 215.
Efforts such as the PATRIOT Act illustrate part of the difficulty of confronting terrorism. On the one hand, people want to feel safe in their own communities, not fearful that their lives are in constant danger. Many people believe that safety is so important that putting some minor constraints on personal freedom is worth the price. On the other hand, many people feel that the short-term gains of giving up some freedom could have a long-term impact because there is no guarantee that other freedoms could not be compromised. In the end, it is a matter of striking a balance that provides safety without taking away the rights of the innocent.
After the September 11 attacks, the Bush Administration decided to take definitive domestic action by revamping its security apparatus. President George W. Bush believed that one way to make the nation safer from future attacks was to streamline the government structure by combining several departments under one umbrella cabinet-level organization, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Bush proposed the new agency in June 2002, and it was created in March 2003. The first Secretary of Homeland Security was former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.
Among the government agencies that were gathered under the Homeland Security umbrella were the U.S. Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Security Administration, the Office for Domestic Preparedness, the Environmental Measurements Laboratory, and the Nuclear Incident Research Team. The Secret Service and the U.S. Coast Guard were also located in the Department of Homeland Security, although remaining intact as agencies.
DHS developed a six-point agenda to ensure that its "policies, operations, and structures are aligned in the best way to address the potential threats—both present and future—that face our nation." The department's's agenda includes:
- Increasing overall preparedness, especially for catastrophic events.
- Creating and implementing better transportation security to move people and goods more securely.
- Strengthening border security and reforming the immigration process.
- Improve the sharing of information with other agencies.
- Making sound financial management, human resource development, and information technology top priorities.
- Making sure that the organization's structure makes the best and most efficient use of its resources.
An example of DHS's proactive agenda is its work with other cabinet agencies to make the nation's borders more secure. DHS worked with the State Department and the Department of Justice to create the Terrorist Screening Center, which coordinates terrorist watchlist information across all government agencies, thus making it harder for potential terrorists to sneak into the U.S. as ordinary tourists. Tied to this is the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center, which aims to thwart human smugglers, traffickers, and those who facilitate terrorist travel. DHS and the State Department have reached out to foreign governments to assist in creating an exchange of watchlists and other information that could curb terrorist travel. While screening terrorists out is important, so is tourism and business and educational travel. DHS has recommended extending the length of student visas from 90 days to 120 days and to allow students to enter the country 45 days before their studies begin instead of 30 days. Also DHS worked with the State department to streamline the application process for business and temporary worker visas. A new Business Visa Center helps U.S. businesses that have upcoming travel or events that require people to travel to the United States. At American embassies and consulates in more than 100 countries, DHS has worked to expedite business visas, in part wit the help of local Chambers of Commerce.
As with the PATRIOT Act, there have been critics of DHS's procedures and progress. Systems that were meant to streamline travel have sometimes made travel, even domestic travel, more problematic. The five-color Alert System, meant to let citizens know the current terror threat level based on possible terrorist activity, did not move the public to feel more secure; a disaster readiness program that advocated the use of duct tape to seal windows against poisons likewise did not encourage the public. Yet DHS also introduced US-VISIT, which screens foreign passengers through an integrated database system that spits individuals with criminal histories or possible terrorist connections. From the beginning of 2004 to the end of 2005, more than 45 million people were processed through US-VISIT, more than 970 were intercepted based on their data, and no terrorist attacks took place on U.S. soil.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation enforces antiterrorist action through its Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). As of the end of 2005 there were 100 JTTFs throughout the United States; sixty-five of them were created after the September 11 attacks. The JTTF includes more that 3,700 law enforcement and investigative specialists including FBI agents, state and local law enforcement officers, and professionals (including analysts, diplomats, and linguists) from other agencies including DHS and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Begun in New York in 1980, the JTTF program helps find and break up terrorist cells, trace sources of terrorist funding, and investigate potential terrorist threats.
The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) is in charge of integrating and analyzing counterterrorism intelligence. It works much line the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in that it comprises employees of several cabinet departments plus the FBI, the CIA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Capitol Police.
Individuals who want information about terrorism and the government's efforts at battling terrorist activities can find additional information at the DHS web site (www.dhs.gov) the FBI web site (www.fbi.gov) and the NCTC web site (www.nctc.gov)
At War with Civil Rights and Liberties, Thomas E. Baker and John F. Stack, Jr., eds. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006.
The 9/11 Commission Report: Authorized Version, W.W. Norton, 2004.
J. Edgar Hoover Building, 935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20535 USA
Phone: (202) 324-3000
Primary Contact: Robert Mueller, Director
Washington, DC 20528 USA
Phone: (202) 282-8000
Primary Contact: Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530 USA
Phone: (202) 514-2000
Primary Contact: Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General
"Terrorism." Gale Encyclopedia of Everyday Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-2
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The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property in order to coerce or intimate a government or the civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives.
New Airport Rules to Combat Terrorism
In August 2006, a sobering international news release revealed a thwarted Islamist terrorist plot to bomb ten U.S.-bound airplanes leaving London. In immediate response, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security elevated the Homeland Security Advisory System Threat Condition to High (Orange) for all inbound commercial flights from the United Kingdom, as well as all other international flights and domestic commercial aviation.
Pursuant to that announcement, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implemented changes to airport screening procedures, effective September 26, 2006, to ensure the continued safety and security of the traveling public and the national transportation system.
Travelers may now carry through security checkpoints travel size toiletries (3 oz. or less) that fit comfortably in a single, clear-plastic, zip-top bag. Moreover, after passing through security checkpoints, travelers may now bring beverages and other items purchased in the secure boarding area. This modified rule replaces the absolute ban on all liquids implemented immediately following the revealed London plot.
In addition, larger amounts of liquid prescription medications, baby formulas, and diabetic glucose treatments must be declared at the checkpoint for additional screening. Also needing to be declared are all liquids, including water, juice, or liquid nutrition or gels for passengers with disabilities or medical conditions, as well as life-support and life-sustaining items such as blood products, transplant organs, or items used to augment the body for medical or cosmetic reasons, such as mastectomy products, prosthetic breasts, bras or shells containing gels, saline, or other solutions, and gels or liquids used to cool disability or medically-related items used by persons with disabilities or medical conditions.
Other enhanced security measures are less visible to the public, including expanded mission coverage by the Federal Air Marshals Service (FAMS) and enhanced border control.
TSA also employs (since 2003)a passenger profiling system known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT. Referred to as the antidote to racial profiling, SPOT discerns extremely high levels of stress, fear, and deception through "behavioral pattern recognition." SPOT agents are situated throughout airports and observe passengers moving about, with trained TSA agents specifically looking for physical symptoms such as sweating, rigid posture, or clenched fists. A screener then engages "selectees" in conversation, looking for body language or unnatural responses. Although SPOT has successfully identified passengers with forged visas, fake IDs, stolen air tickets, and other forms of contraband, its use to combat terrorism is less promising. Professionally-trained terrorists can easily learn how to control physical symptoms and answer questions convincingly, in much the same manner as those who have mastered lie-detector machinery technology.
New X-ray machines were implemented at 12 U.S. airports that employ a state-of-the-art electronic technology referred to as digital scanning, or "backscatter" screening. While originally used to search air travelers that U.S. Customs agents suspected of drug trafficking, the machines were expanded in use to search all air passengers at London's Heathrow Airport, and TSA planned for more comprehensive use of the technology in an increasing number of airports as well. While the technology has evoked some privacy concerns among passengers, they are warned in advance, and persons other than TSA officials cannot view the resulting images.
In the wake of the London threats, House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King publicly declared his endorsement of terrorism profiling based on race, ethnicity, and religion. King reminded the public at large that, while all Muslims were not terrorists, all recent terrorists were Muslim.
Notwithstanding that endorsement, the U.S. Justice Department had issued a policy in 2003 banning racial profiling, and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales also disfavored the practice. But Marvin Badler, former head of security for Israeli airline El Al, warned that the United States was taking a big risk by not allowing racial profiling. Badler reminded CBS News correspondent Bob Orr that all 19 hijackers in the September 2001 terrorist attack were young Muslim males, and the suspects in the London bomb plot also shared the same ethnic and religious background.
Biometric technology (not based on race or ethnicity) has already been employed in the United States, Canada, and Australia. In October 2006, the use of e-Passports for all travel between Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries (primarily 27 countries in Western Europe) or travel to the United States from a VWP country was implemented. E-Passports contain electronic chips holding the same information as that found on a passport's data page, including name, date of birth, and other biographic information. Uniquely, the e-Passports are equipped with biometric identifiers. The United States requires that the electronic chip contain a digital photograph of the passport-holder as well.
All e-Passports issued by VWP countries and the United States have special security features designed to prevent the unauthorized reading or "skimming" of data stored on the e-Passport chip. The inspection process upon entry into the United States is different for holders of e-Passports than previously-issued ones, and all U.S. ports of entry are now equipped with signs and/or special personnel to direct e-Passport holders to the appropriate U.S. Customs and Border Protection booth to process through.
White House Halts Terrorist Surveillance Program
Faced with significant pressure from critics, as well as litigation over the issue, the administration of President George W. Bush in January 2007 announced that it would not reauthorize the terrorist surveillance program that had been in place since shortly after the September 11th attacks in 2001. Under this program, the National Security Agency had collected a massive amount of information about ordinary people and businesses in an effort to identify communications related to terrorist activities.
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress. At this session he announced that he would use "every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every tool of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every weapon of war" to put an end to the threat of terrorism. One program that was initiated as a tool for fighting the terrorist threat was the terrorist surveillance program. This program was designed to focus on communications where one party to the communication was outside of U.S. borders and the government had reason to believe that at least one person involved in the communication was a member of al Qaeda or another terrorist group. The President reviewed the program regularly and could reauthorize the program every 45 days.
The surveillance program began to come under attack when the New York Times reported its existence in December 2005. Members of Congress, such as Senator John Kerry (D.-Mass.), argued that the program was unlawful because it was not authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Pub. L. No. 95-511, 92 Stat. 1976 (1978). The White House countered that the program was legal because as Commander-in-Chief, the President has inherent authority to approve this type of program. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan addressed these criticisms by saying, "The NSA's terrorist surveillance program is targeted at al Qaeda communications coming into or going out of the United States. It is a limited, hot pursuit effort by our intelligence community to detect and prevent attacks. Senate Democrats continue to engage in misleading and outlandish charges about this vital tool that helps us do exactly what the 9/11 Commission said we needed to do—connect the dots."
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales also defended the program but declined to engage in an open discussion about the operational aspects of the program. In a prepared statement, he said, "The terrorist surveillance program remains highly classified, as it should be. We must protect this tool, which has proven so important to protecting America. An open discussion of the operational details of this program would put the lives of Americans at risk."
In May 2006, activities of the NSA again caused concern when reporters learned that the agency was collecting phone call records from tens of millions of Americans. Although the agency did not listen to or record telephone conversations, it collected information about calling patterns that ordinary citizens made in an effort to identify calling patterns that may suggest terrorist activity. According to one person who spoke about the program anonymously, the agency's goal was "to create a database of every call every made" within U.S. borders. The NSA was able to collect this data through agreements with AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth.
The American Civil Liberties Union and several other organizations brought suit against the NSA in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, asking the court to strike down the program due to violations with the U.S. Constitution and with statutory law. Several of the plaintiffs in the case were U.S. citizens who regularly made international telephone calls for such purposes as the practice of law, journalism, and scholarship. U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor reviewed the program in light of the provisions of the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, the Separation of Powers doctrine, and acts of Congress authorizing military force against terrorists and terrorist organizations. On August 17, 2006, Taylor issued an opinion ruling that the surveillance program violated the Constitution and had not otherwise been authorized by Congress. ACLU v. Nat'l Security Agency, 438 F. Supp. 2d 754 (E.D. Mich. 2006).
The Justice Department immediately disputed the decision and said it would appeal. The White House issued a statement indicating that "United States intelligence officials have confirmed that the program has helped stop terrorist attacks and saved American lives. The program is carefully administered, and only targets international phone calls coming into or out of the United States where one of the parties on the call is a suspected Al Qaeda or affiliated terrorist. The whole point is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks before they can be carried out." On October 4, 2006, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of the district court's decision, pending a review by the appellate court.
Before the case could be appealed, however, the administration announced that the President would not reauthorize the surveillance program. In a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales said that a judge with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had issued orders that authorized the federal government to target communications where investigators have probable cause to believe that one of the communicants is a member of al Qaeda or another terrorist group. Gonzales said in the letter that "any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."
Gonzales again came under fire in May 2007 when former U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified that Gonzales had tried to pressure former Attorney General John Ashcroft to reauthorize the warrantless domestic surveillance program. Ashcroft at the time had been hospitalized with pancreatitis. The revelation led Senator Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.) to call for Gonzales to resign.
Update on Terrorist Trials
Nearly five years after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft declared the United States had thwarted an al-Qaeda terrorist plot to detonate a "dirty bomb," trial for the man arrested and accused in connection with that attempt finally commenced in April 2007. Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was initially arrested in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and subsequently detained as an "enemy combatant" at a Navy facility in Charleston, South Carolina. He remained held as an enemy combatant for more than three years until finally charged in 2005. In January 2006, he was transferred to civilian custody and held as a criminal defendant.
However, in the trial captioned United States v. Padilla, et al, which commenced in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami, Padilla was not charged with involvement in the "dirty bomb" attempt. Instead, he and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi faced charges of conspiracy to "murder, kidnap and maim" U.S. nationals overseas, in addition to charges of providing support to terrorist groups and activities. All three were accused of being part of a North American terrorist cell that funneled money, supplies, and fighters to Islamic extremist groups fighting "jihad," or Muslim holy war in several battles across the globe.
Earlier, in March, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke denied Padilla's motion to dismiss charges based on his allegations that he had been tortured while detained as an enemy combatant. Padilla had alleged that he had been abused, threatened, administered psychotropic PCP or LSD as a truth serum, and subjected to sleep deprivation while in military custody. Judge Cooke ruled that the standards for "outrageous government conduct" were not satisfied to entitle him to dismissal of the indictment. In an earlier competency hearing in February, Padilla was found competent to stand trial, despite his claims of incompetency based on post-traumatic stress from his lengthy detention.
There was no evidence directly connecting Padilla and his co-defendants to the September 11, 2007 terrorist attack, and Judge Cooke cautioned prosecutors that she would permit only limited reference to that event. Other evidence ostensibly inadmissible was the claim by federal officials that Padilla admitted involvement with the "dirty bomb" plot as well as plans to blow up apartment buildings, and he further admitted that he trained with al-Qaeda. However, these statements/confessions were made during his detention at the Navy facility, where, as an enemy combatant, he had no lawyer present and was not read his Miranda rights.
Notwithstanding, prosecutors intended to introduce at trial a key piece of evidence: a "mujahedeen data form" that Padilla completed in 2000 to join an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Padilla's fingerprints were still on it. Additionally, Padilla's voice is heard on eight FBI wiretaps, and he is mentioned in about 20 others. One of the recordings mentions that Padilla had gone to "the area of Osama," apparently referencing bin Laden's al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.
As to his co-defendants, Hassoun allegedly acted as a South Florida recruiter and fundraiser for violent Muslim causes, prosecutors charged. Padilla, who was previously a member of Chicago's Latin Disciples street gang, became one of Hassoun's recruits and warriors after moving to Florida. He converted to Islam while serving time in a Florida prison for a 1991 weapons conviction.
The other co-defendant,Jayyousi, was responsible for publishing the "Islam Report," which was used to spread Islamic ideology and promote terror support and fundraising. Defense counsel contended that he was only reporting on global events of Muslim interest.
The Bush Administration had already suffered a major legal setback with the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 126 S.Ct. 2749 (2005), wherein the Court held that neither the U.S. Constitution (including the inherent powers of the Executive) nor any act of Congress expressly authorized the type of "military commissions" created by the Bush Administration to try detained enemy combatants for war crimes.
In response to the Court's ruling, Congress enacted the U.S. Military Commissions Act, Pub. L. 109-366, 120 Stat. 2600, on September 29, 2006 (the "Act"). (President Bush signed it on October 10, 2006.) Its stated purpose was to "facilitate bringing to justice terrorists and other unlawful enemy combatants through full and fair trials by military commissions, and for other purposes."
One of the more controversial provisions of the Act was its amendment of the federal habeas corpus statute, 28 USC §2241. The new subsection (e) prevents courts from exercising jurisdiction to consider applications for writs of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of aliens detained by the United States who have been determined to be detained as enemy combatants or those who are awaiting such determination.
Almost immediately upon its enactment, legal challenges to some of the Act's provisions were filed. On April 30, 2007, the Court denied certiorari of two more Guantanamo Bay detainees in Hamdan v. Gates, and Khadr v. Bush. These latter cases had a new twist. The same Salim Ahmed Hamdan who had prevailed in the 2005 case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, (see above) was now facing the possibility of being tried under the new Act. This time he attempted to challenge the constitutionality of Congress' decision to deny habeas relief under the Act. His lawyers unsuccessfully argued that the new tribunal system was substantially similar to the old one. As of June 2007, several cases were still pending in lower courts in which detainees were challenging their status as "enemy combatants" under the Act.
"Terrorism." American Law Yearbook 2007. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/legal-and-political-magazines/terrorism-0
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As with other forms of violent conflict, terrorism intersects with questions of sex and gender. Terrorism is the systematic and preferential targeting of civilians not directly involved in war work for essentially psychological and political effect. As such it is distinct from war crimes, government repression, and guerrilla warfare, although groups that engage in terrorism often also engage in guerrilla warfare, especially in urban areas. Although some terrorists act for social or class issues, beginning in the final decades of the twentieth century, the overwhelming majority of terrorists have acted in national, ethnic, or sectarian and/or religious causes.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN TERRORISM
Most terrorists, as with other perpetrators of organized violence, historically have tended to be young men. The individual or small-group nature of terrorism, as well as the requirement to operate in a civilian environment, creates special opportunities or even advantages for females. During the French-Algerian War (1954–1962) the Algerian Front de Libé00ration Nationale (FLN) used women (called fire carriers) to smuggle bombs out of the Kasbah. Those women exploited the gender rules of both sides of the conflict. Sometimes they hid their bombs under the flowing robes of Islamic modesty; at other times they wore fashionable European garb and distracted young French soldiers by flirting with them. One female terrorist, Jamila Bouhired (b. 1935), was lauded as the Algerian Joan of Arc after her capture. In the Palestinian struggle against Israel, Leila Khaled (b. 1944) was an early terrorist heroine.
The development of the technique of suicide bombing by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka in the 1980s and 1990s gave greater visibility to women in an organization that systematically recruited both male and female adolescents as well as female young adults, such as the "'belt-bomb girl' who assassinated Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi" in 1991 (Hudson 1999, p. 139). Female suicide bombers also became a standard part of the second, or al-Aqsa, intifada of Palestinians against Israel after November 2000. Originally the bombers were men, but after the attack by suicide bomber Wafa Idris (b. 1975) in January 2002, there were increasing numbers of women suicide bombers. The use of female suicide bombers had a number of advantages, some general and some specific, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Female bombers are harder for the Israelis to search and identify. The use of women also shames men, including male Arab governments, for their less aggressive attitude toward the state of Israel. Finally, such female fighters appear to contradict the European and North American image of Arab and Muslim women as oppressed creatures who need Israeli or Europe's and North America's help to liberate themselves.
TERRORISM AND GENDER ROLES
The entry of women into a previously male domain can threaten gender categories, especially in a symbolically fraught activity such as terrorism. Because terrorism was employed so frequently by revolutionary organizations that regardless of their specific causes also defined themselves in global-leftist terms, the participation of women could be defended as part of the universal emancipatory project. Frantz Fanon (1965) for example, argued that the involvement of women in the Algerian revolution (including their manipulation of traditional Islamic clothing) would spell the end of traditional patriarchal values and traditions.
With the Islamic revival increasingly replacing secular leftist nationalism as the chief ideological underpinning of Palestinian resistance, gender politics became more complicated. When Idris opened the path to female suicide bombers, some of her admirers were quick to compare her self-sacrifice to the superficial, beauty-oriented, and consumer-driven lives of liberated women in Europe and the North America. Most female suicide bombers have acted on behalf of the relatively more secular and Fatah-connected al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade and its offshoots.
The Islamic (and Islamist) resistance organization, Hamas, has taken a more nuanced view. It accepts women's participation in all aspects of clandestine activities, including the transport of explosives, but considers the actual act of purposefully blowing oneself up to be inappropriate. Sheik Yassin (c. 1937–2004), the spiritual and political head of the Hamas movement until his death at Israeli hands, first took the position that women could act in that capacity but only when accompanied by a chaperone, that is, the mahram (male relative) who protects a woman's virtue and reputation when she goes out into the world. Subsequently, the sheik decided that women could venture out alone if they did not expect to return but that the movement had no need for female suicide bombers for the foreseeable future.
Female suicide bombing interacts with traditional gender roles in complex ways. There is considerable evidence that many female suicide bombers, especially the earlier ones, were socially marginalized—in a sense, disposable—women. Idris, for example, was a childless divorced woman whose prospects for remarriage were limited. Other women appear to have been persuaded to sacrifice themselves to buy off shame associated with their or other family members' sexual or national improprieties, such as having family members who worked with the Israelis. Thus, at least in some cases, female suicide bombing can double as a form of honor killing, the practice in which a woman is killed so that her blood can wash away the shame to the family associated with the commission of or even the reputation for of sexual impropriety.
A lesser form of gender involvement seems to operate with the Chechen Black Widows, whose suicide terrorism has mixed explicit vengeance for their dead husbands with the national and religious cause. Both Tamil Black Tigresses and Kurdish women of the anti-Turkish Partiya Karker Kurdistan (Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK) have alleged that their actions were revenge for rape at the hands of government authorities.
SEXUAL ASSOCIATIONS OF TERRORISM
Although neo-Freudians, especially Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957), long have argued that political violence is a result of sexual repression, there are specific reasons to connect sex with the Islamic cult of suicide bombing of the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It is probably not accidental that the would-be male martyrs are promised, and appear to look forward to, sexual congress with the seventy-two virgins in Paradise (taken literally by the main Islamic backers of suicide terror). Further, martyrs and their handlers often speak of suicide operations as weddings. The resulting ritualized invocations seem to operate as a cult that brings together sex, suicide, murder, and blood (there are many references to the blood of the martyrs and that of the Jewish victims). The blood of defloration is associated with marriage in the Arab tradition as it is in other Mediterranean traditions. In the Arab mentality there is a preexisting association of the blood of the consummated marriage with that of political violence.
Douglas, Allen, and Fedwa Malti-Douglas. 1994. Arab Comic Strips: Politics of an Emerging Mass Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Fanon, Frantz. 1965. A Dying Colonialism, trans. Haakon Chevalier. London: Writers and Readers.
Hudson, Rex A. 1999. Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why: The 1999 Government Report on Profiling Terrorists. Guilford, CT.: Lyons Press.
Skaine, Rosemary. 2006. Female Suicide Bombers. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Victor, Barbara. 2003. Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers. Emmaus, PA: Rodale.
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-1
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A consensus definition of the term terrorism does not exist. Actors in conflict generally define the word according to their interests. While a government's definition may be specifically designed to implicate a particular group, the group in question may offer a counter-definition designed to rebut the government's assertion. Groups that have been designated as terrorist organizations will often argue that the government that made the designation is itself a terrorist organization. For the purposes of this article, terrorism will be defined as the deliberate targeting of ordinary people, with violence or the threat of violence, for the pursuit of political goals.
Diverse actors have historically used terrorism in Latin America. States have employed the tactic under military regimes, as in Argentina from 1976 to 1983, Brazil from 1964 to 1985, and Chile from 1973 to 1990. Forced disappearances, torture, and targeted killings have been used by these governments and others to keep internal enemies of the state at bay. Such enemies have included communists, labor unions, and student activists. Drug cartels have planted bombs in shopping malls to erode public confidence in the state, as in the case of Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel in Colombia in the 1980s. Left-wing guerrillas have kidnapped thousands. Right-wing paramilitaries have summarily executed entire villages, claiming that their victims had conspired with guerrillas. In certain cases, individuals thought by some to be "freedom fighters" have been implicated in terrorist acts. Luis Posada Carriles, a Venezuelan national convicted of involvement in blowing up a Cubana airliner in 1976, killing seventy-three people, is one such example (Moghaddam, p. 10).
TERRORISM IN CONTEMPORARY LATIN AMERICA
Terrorism is extremely uncommon in most parts of Latin America in the early twenty-first century. The majority of all terrorist acts in the region takes place in rural parts of Colombia. Cuba remains on the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, but most people believe this designation to be anachronistic. While Cuba actively supported left-wing revolutionary movements from the 1960s until the 1980s, Fidel Castro asserted in 1992 that his support for insurgents abroad had ended. Analysts generally believe this to be accurate (Sullivan, p. 3). Three terrorism hot spots in the region deserve elaboration: Colombia, Peru, and the Tri-Border area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.
Three main groups that could be deemed terrorist organizations operate in Colombia as of 2007. Each of these groups is deeply involved in the international drug trade. The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC; Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN; National Liberation Army) are left-wing guerrilla movements that began in the early 1960s. Both of these groups claim to fight what they believe is a corrupt government on behalf of Colombia's poor majority. The FARC is by far the larger, stronger, and more dangerous of the two organizations, numbering between 12,000 and 18,000 members. The ELN is also an important challenge for the government of Colombia and a threat to Colombia's rural population, with approximately 3,000 to 4,000 members. Each of these groups is known to have kidnapped, killed, and intimidated Colombian citizens in hopes of consolidating a military presence in the country. Though many Colombians believe these groups no longer retain their decades-old purported ideology of social equality, some believe that they only reluctantly employ terrorist tactics (Brittain and Sacouman, p. 1). Without kidnapping for ransom, for example, these people argue that the groups would lose an important source of revenue used to carry out their hopeful revolutions. Negotiations between these two groups and the government of Colombia have been difficult over the decades. In December 2005 the ELN and the government commenced negotiations in Havana, Cuba, for a ceasefire, but after two years no agreement had yet been reached. Possible negotiations with the FARC are even more difficult, because both sides have stipulated preconditions to talks that have not been met. The third group, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC; United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), is an umbrella organization of right-wing paramilitary groups that formed in the mid-1990s. This organization is known to have been, and in some cases is still known to be, particularly vicious and violent. According to reports from international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Human Rights Watch, the vast majority of violations of international humanitarian law in Colombia have been carried out by paramilitaries (Human Rights Watch, p. 112). The Colombian government estimates that, at its strongest, the AUC once numbered as many as 32,000 members. Since then nearly 30,000 have reportedly demobilized and some 16,000 have giv-en up arms (Rangel, p. 1). The negotiation process between the government and the AUC is ongoing.
The Shining Path is a Maoist guerrilla organization that was founded by a philosophy professor named Abimael Guzmán in Ayacucho, Peru, in 1980. The stated goal of the group is to bring about a peasant-led communist state in which all Peruvians will be equal. From 1980 until 1992 the group waged a brutal war on the people of Peru, targeting elected officials, peasants, activists, and, more generally, the civilian population at large. Having once boasted several thousand members, the group was severely weakened with the capture of its founder and leader, Guzmán, in Lima in 1992. Convicted on charges of terrorism on October 13, 2006, he began serving a life sentence in Callao. Remnants of the Shining Path remain active in the jungle and Andean region of the country, comprising fewer than 500 members (Hyland, p. 3).
Tri-Border Area (TBA)
The area surrounding the intersection of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay is not a theater of operations for any terrorist group. However, the TBA is considered an important staging ground for terrorist-related activity. The area has long been known for arms and drug trafficking, contraband smuggling, document and currency fraud, money laundering, and the manufacture and movement of pirated goods (Sullivan, p. 3). The area hosts a relatively large Muslim population, and many analysts believe that the profits gained from illegal activity in the area are destined for organizations associated with Islamic extremism, particularly the Palestinian group Hamas and the Lebanon-based group Hezbollah. In 1992 a bomb exploded at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing twenty-nine people, and in 1994 a bomb exploded at the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association, also in the Argentine capital, killing eighty-six people. While there is no hard evidence to support the claim, many believe that these bombings were the work of Hezbollah and that the group may have used the TBA for planning. Hezbollah has denied these charges.
Brittain, James J., and R. James Sacouman. "Is the FARC-EP Dependent on Coca?" ANNCOL. March 23, 2006. Available from http://www.peaceobservatory.org/388/is-the-farc-ep-dependent-on-coca.
Human Rights Watch. War without Quarter: Colombia and International Humanitarian Law. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1998.
Hyland, Frank. "Peru's Shining Path Gaining Ground?" Terrorism Focus 4, no. 28 (September 11, 2007): 3-4.
Moghaddam, Fathali M. From the Terrorists' Point of View: What They Experience and Why They Come to Destroy. Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2006.
Rangel, Alfredo. "Las elecciones menos violentas en 10 años." Fundación Seguridad y Democracia. October 29, 2007. Available from http://www.seguridadydemocracia.org/docs/pdf/conflictoArmado/eleccionesMenosViolentas.pdf.
Sullivan, Mark P. "Latin America: Terrorism Issues." CRS Report for Congress RS21049. Updated January 22, 2007. Available from http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/81364.pdf.
Joseph M. Cantey Jr.
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-1
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The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property in order to coerce or intimate a government or the civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives.
Jose Padilla Convicted On Terrorism Conspiracy Charges
The five-year legal saga involving a man once designated as an enemy combatant in the war on terrorism came to an end in a Miami, Florida federal courtroom in August 2007. A jury convicted Padilla, once designated and confined as an enemy combatant in the WAR ON TERRORISM, on terrorism conspiracy charges. Though convicted of conspiring with two other co-defendants to murder, kidnap, and maim people overseas, the government's most dramatic claim—that Padilla had sought to build a radioactive “dirty bomb” within the United States—was not part of the case. Though Padilla could have been sentenced to life in prison, U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke reduced the penalty to 17 years and four months imprisonment. She did so in part because of the way Padilla had been treated during his confinement in a South Carolina Navy brig. In her view Padilla was subjected to “harsh conditions” and “extreme environmental stresses” while there.
The Padilla case arose in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. Congress quickly enacted the USA Patriot Act and President George W. Bush ordered suspected terrorists held as enemy combatants. On May 8, 2002, Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare Airport as he disembarked from a flight from Pakistan. He was arrested on a material witness warrant issued by the federal district court in New York City. Padilla was transported to New York and held in a local correctional facility. Attorney General John Ashcroft did not announce Padilla's arrest until June 10, alleging that Padilla had traveled in the Middle East, met with senior associates of al Qaeda's leader Osama Bid Laden, and proposed stealing radioactive material to make a “dirty bomb” within the United States. Ashcroft asserted that Padilla had undergone terrorist training and had arrived in Chicago to begin his terrorist activities.
A New York federal judge appointed a lawyer for Padilla but on June 9, 2002 President Bush signed an order designating Padilla as an enemy combatant. The order directed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to take custody of Padilla, and Rumsfeld acted quickly in moving Padilla to a South Carolina military prison. On June 10 Ashcroft announced Padilla's apprehension and on June 11 the court held a hearing in which the warrant was dismissed and Padilla's lawyer filed a habeas corpus petition, demanding her client's release. The government refused
to allow the lawyer to meet or talk with Padilla, which led to a legal battle that culminated in a 2004 Supreme Court decision that allowed Padilla and his lawyer to meet but did not address the constitutionality of applying enemy combatant status to a U.S. citizen. Instead, the Court ruled that the case should have been brought in South Carolina rather than New York. The case was about to be heard on its merits by the Supreme Court in 2005 when the federal government announced that it was sending Padilla back into the criminal justice system on terrorism conspiracy.
The charges contained nothing about the alleged dirty-bomb plot, a plot to blow up apartment buildings, or even Padilla's presence in Afghanistan in late 2001. The government alleged that in the 1990s Padilla provided support to jihadists in Bosnia and Chechnya. Prior to trial Padilla's lawyers sought to have him declared mentally incompetent. For the three years when he was in the Navy brig he was subjected to extreme conditions: sleep deprivation, stress positions, and extreme temperatures. These conditions, coupled with solitary confinement and no exposure to natural light, had allegedly robbed Padilla of his mental competency. The government disagreed and claimed Padilla had never been mistreated. The judge agreed and the case proceeded to trial.
The trial lasted for three months. The government introduced recordings of the three defendants' phone conversations between 1993 and 2000, as well as an application that Padilla had allegedly filled out to attend a terrorist training camp. The defense contended that the three men were passionate Muslims who voiced their beliefs and that they had no connection to Al Qaeda. Moreover, the defense claimed the charges were politically motivated. In the end the jury convicted the three men on all charges.
At Padilla's January 2008 sentencing hearing, Judge Cooke stated that as serious as the conspiracy was, there was “no evidence that these defendants personally maimed, kidnapped or killed anyone in the United States or elsewhere.” In sentencing Padilla to 17 years in prison, the judge found that the conditions imposed on him while isolated and confined warranted consideration.
Federal District Courts Strike Down Parts of the Patriot Act
Within a three-week period in September 2007, two federal district courts struck down portions of the USA PATRIOT Act, which was originally enacted to provide law enforcement with greater tools to conduct counter-terrorism activities. In one case in a New York district court , a judge determined that parts of the act violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In a second case arising in an Oregon district court, a judge determined that the Patriot Act was unconstitutional as applied to a U.S. citizen suspected of being involved with a bombing in Madrid, Spain.
Congress originally enacted the United and Strengthening of America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act, or Patriot Act), Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 on October 26, 2001. Since its enactment, the Patriot Act has been the subject of extensive debate as well as judicial challenges. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been especially critical of the statute , arguing that many of its provisions violate a myriad of constitutional rights.
The provisions of 18 U.S.C.A. § 2709 was originally enacted in 1986 as part of the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, Pub. L. No. 99-508, 100 Stat. 1848. It was subsequently amended by the Patriot Act. This section applies to the issuance of National Security Letters (NSLs) by the Federal Bureauof Investigation (FBI) to wire and electronic communication services providers (ECSPs). Under this section, the FBI may issue NSLs to request a wide range of information about subscribers to ECSPs.
In addition to the contents of messages, the information that may be subject to an NSL can also include a user's activity logs as well as information that can provide the identity of the user. For the FBI to send an NSL, the FBI director must certify that the information sought to be obtained is “relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”
An unidentified Internet service provider, along with the ACLU, originally challenged the application of § 2709 in 2004. On September 28, 2004, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held in favor of the plaintiffs by ruling that § 2709 violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Doe v. Ashcroft, 334 F. Supp. 2d 471 (S.D.N.Y. 2004). A federal district court in Connecticut reached a similar conclusion shortly thereafter. Doe v. Gonzales, 386 F. Supp. 2d 66 (D. Conn. 2005).
While the appeals of these decisions were still pending, Congress amended the Patriot Act, including § 2709, in the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-177, 120 Stat. 192. The reauthorization made a number of substantive changes to § 2709 and also added provisions regarding judicial review of NSLs. In light of these amendments, the Second Circuit remanded the original New York case to allow the trial court to review whether the statute was still unconstitutional. Doe v. Gonzales, 449 F.3d 415 (2d Cir. 2006).
The plaintiffs proceeded with their case, arguing that § 2709, along with the judicial review provisions contained in 18 U.S.C. § 3511, were unconstitutional. The plaintiffs' primary arguments focused on free speech concerns. The court acknowledged that while NSLs serve an important investigative function, the effect that these NSLs could have on free speech carried a heavy weight. Judge Victor Marreno wrote, “In light of the seriousness of the potential intrusion into the individual's personal affairs and the significant possibility of a chilling effect on speech and association—particularly of expression that is critical of the government or its policies—a compelling need exists to ensure that the use of NSLs is subject to the safeguards of public accountability, checks and balances, and separation of powers that our Constitution prescribes.”
Of particular concern in the case was the provision that forbids the recipient of an NSL from disclosing receipt of the letter. The original version of the law contained a complete bar on disclosure, while the revised version requires the FBI to certify that disclosure may harm national security, criminal investigations, diplomacy, or someone's safety. Nevertheless, Marreno determined that the statute still curtails speech to an extent that it violates the First Amendment, noting that a recipient of an NSL is “effectively barred from engaging in any discussion regarding their experiences and opinions related to the government's use.” Because the statute did not contain adequate procedural safeguards to protect free speech rights, the court determined that § 2709 in its entirety was unconstitutional. Doe v. Gonzales, 500 F. Supp. 2d 379 (S.D.N.Y. 2007).
The case in Oregon arose from the investigation of a terrorist bombing in Madrid in 2004. Within days of the bombings, FBI agents focused their attention on Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon lawyer who is also a former Army officer. FBI agents claimed that Mayfield's fingerprints matched those found on a plastic bag that contained explosive detonators. The FBI applied to the Foreign Intelligence Security Court (FISC) for authorization to place electronic listening devices on Mayfield's home and law office, and the court granted the request.
FBI tests had allegedly supported the claims that the fingerprints were Mayfield's, but other tests performed by police in Spain negated this proof. Nevertheless, based on the faulty fingerprint tests, the FBI obtained broad search warrants, and agents seized many of the personal items of both Mayfield and his family. Mayfield was eventually arrested, and his family was not told where he was being held. After two weeks of imprisonment, though, Spanish police captured a primary suspect from Algeria. Mayfield was then released.
Mayfield sought a declaratory judgment in federal court in the District of Oregon. He claimed that the FBI's motivation for pursuing him was due to his Muslim faith. Mayfield argued that the government's actions violated the FOURTH AMENDMENT, and Judge Ann Aiken agreed. Aiken rejected the government's argument that the FISC was sufficient to guarantee constitutional rights. “In place of the Fourth Amendment, the people are expected to defer to the executive branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate,” wrote Aiken. “[The government] is asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. The court declines to do so.” Accordingly, the court granted Mayfield's motion on September 26, 2007. Mayfield v. United States, 504 F. Supp. 2d 1023 (D. Or. 2007). In 2006, the government settled Mayfield's financial claims by giving him $2 million, and allowed him to continue his challenge of the Patriot Act provisions discussed above.
United States v. Ressam
The U.S. Supreme Court in May 2008 upheld the conviction of the person known as the “Millennium Bomber” on federal explosive charges. The result of the 8-1 decision was that the defendant's prison sentence was increased by ten years. The case was noteworthy not only because it was the continuation of a well-known case on terrorism, but also because it marked the first appearance of Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey before the Supreme Court.
Ahmed Ressam was an Algerian citizen who spent time in France in the early 1990s. When he was arrested on a immigration-related charge in 1994, he obtained a passport with the name of Anjer Tahar Medjadi and moved to Montreal, Canada. He sought but was denied asylum in Canada, but was nevertheless allowed to remain there because Canada had imposed a moratorium on deportations to Algeria.
After he was recruited by an operative named Abderraouf Hannachi in 1998, he arranged to travel under the assumed name of Benni Antoine Noris to Pakistan and to Afghanistan to be trained by the al Qaeda as a terrorist. During a six-month period, he received training in using firearms and explosives. He also learned how to destroy certain infrastructure targets, including power plants, military installations, railroads, and airports.
In 1999, Mokhtar Haouari recruited Ressam to carry out a scheme to commit terrorist acts on United States soil. Also recruited as part of the plot was Abdel Ghani Meskini, a resident of Brooklyn, New York. One of the plots that the group planned to carry out was the bombing of Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve in 1999. This plot earned Ressam, its mastermind, the nickname “Millennium Bomber.”
Ressam returned to Canada in February 1999. When he returned to Montreal, he continued to work on the plot to bomb the L.A. airport. In November 1999, he and Abdelmajid Dahoumane traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia. The rented a car, and on December 14, 1999, loaded the trunk with explosives, electronic timing devices, detonators, fertilizer, and aluminum sulfate (these items were hidden in the spare tire well). Ressam and Dahoumane then boarded a ferry at Tswassen, British Columbia. Ressam thereafter boarded another ferry headed for Port Angeles, Washington, while Dahoumane returned to Vancouver. Ressam used his passport with the name Benni Noris, and customs officials searched his vehicle, including the trunk, but did not find the explosives hidden in the tire well.
When the ferry arrived at Port Angeles, Ressam was stooped by inspector Diana Dean. He acted nervous and agitated, and so Dean asked Ressam to fill out a customs declaration form, which Ressam signed as Benni Noris. Upon their search of the vehicle, officials found the substances that could be used to make bombs. This included ingredients for primary explosives, which were contained in a pill bottle and a zinc lozenge case. The bombs that Ressam had planned to detonate at the L.A. Airport would have been twice as strong as normal TNT and would likely have killed and/or injured hundreds of people.
Ressam was indicted in 2001 on charges that he planned to commit acts of international terrorism against the United States. He was also charged with lying to customs officials as well as smuggling explosives. Prosecutors sought to impose the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 844(h)(2), which punishes a person who “carries an explosive during the commission of any felony which may be prosecuted in a court of the United States” for a mandatory period of ten years in prison. The government argued that the felony that Ressam committed was lying on his customs form. Ressam argued that the section should not apply to him because his act of carrying the explosives did not play a part in making a false statement on the customs form. The trial court overruled Ressam's objection, and the court convicted Ressam on all counts.
Ressam had cooperated in the trial of Haouari, who was convicted of terrorist activities in 2002. Ressam's sentencing had been delayed because of his cooperation, but he stopped cooperating early in 2003. In 2005, four years after his conviction, the trial court imposed a sentence of 22 years in prison. Because of the relatively minimal sentence, the United States appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ressam, in turn, cross-appealed, arguing that he should not have been convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 844(h)(2).
The Ninth Circuit asked, rhetorically, “Does [the statute] criminalize carrying an explosive during the commission of another felony, or does it criminalize carrying an explosive during and in relation to that other felony?” The court then stress that “[t]he answer matters in this case because the government offered no evidence that Ressam's carrying the explosives in any way facilitated his falsifying the customs declaration form.” On previous occasions, the Third Circuit and the Fifth Circuit courts of appeals had declined to hold that the explosives had to be carried in relation to the underlying felonies. Nevertheless, the Ninth Circuit disagreed with the other circuits and held that the statutory language implied that carrying the explosive had a relationship with the underlying felony for the second to apply. The court thus set aside Ressam's sentence. United States v. Ressam, 474 F.3d 597 (9th Cir. 2007).
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and in an 8-1 decision, reversed the Ninth Circuit. According to the majority opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the legislative history of § 844(h)(2) supported a conclusion that Congress did not intend for the government to have to prove a relationship between the explosive that was carried and the underlying felony. According to Stevens, “There is no need to consult dictionary definitions of the word ‘during’ in order to arrive at the conclusion that respondent engaged in the precise conduct” that that federal statute described. United States v. Ressam, No. 07-455, 2008 WL 2078505 (2008).
The case gained as much attention for one of the lawyers arguing the case as it did for the substance. Mukasey, who assumed office at Attorney General in November 2007, argued the case on behalf of the United States. He admitted to reporters that he was nervous before his appearance, but he reportedly performed in a manner expected of a someone with more experience before the Court.
"Terrorism." American Law Yearbook 2008. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/legal-and-political-magazines/terrorism
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Terrorism is one of today's most contested terms. It is widely used polemically to delegitimate both state-sponsored violence as well as counter-state insurgencies. Although there is as yet no scholarly consensus in defining and theorizing about the subject, there is some agreement that terrorism involves the threat and actual use of violence against civilians to bring about political, social, and economic change. During the late twentieth century, political elites, state intelligence agencies, the establishment media, and an array of experts (qualified and unqualified) began to use the term to describe the militant tactics of various movements and organizations, none more than those connected with Islam. The subject is considerably more complicated, however.
Origins and Meanings of the Term
The origin of the word "terror" in Latin-derived languages is the French terreur, which assumed its modern meaning in the context of the French Revolution. Following the overthrow of the monarchy in 1789, the new government established its laws and its authority through a "reign of terror," which inspired in the population a constant fear of arrest and execution. In this context, terrorisme was understood as fear created by the state, or government rule through the specter of violence. This definition also applies to the totalitarian states of the twentieth century. More contemporarily, however, terrorism has become synonymous with violence perpetrated by non-state actors.
In Arabic, the term irhab is commonly used today as the equivalent for "terrorism," its meanings largely affected by the use of the latter term in Western languages, particularly English and French. Irhab, derived from arhaba ("to frighten," "to strike with fear," or "to terrify"), never appears in the Qur˒an, though its imperfect verbal form occurs once. The Qur˒an states, "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to terrify (yurhibuna) thereby the enemies of God, your enemies, and others whom you do not know, but God knows" (8:60). The historical context for this command is that of the early battles of Muhammad and his followers against their Meccan enemies; it has had limited use subsequently in the context of discourses on jihad. Other variations of the same root appearing in the Qur˒an refer to humanity's awe of God, particularly as an appellation for Christian monks (ruhban). Since the 1980s, irhab has been widely used in Arabic political rhetoric to condemn Israel's use of military force. Egyptian political elites and government-controlled media usually use the term to describe violence committed by anti-state Islamist groups.
More Recent Usages
After the Second World War, movements countering colonialism and imperialism grew in strength and influence in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In the Middle East (for example, Israel/Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, and Iran), nationalist and Islamic movements engaged in active and, at times, violent opposition to Western powers and the emergent client regimes they supported. Then, as now, the means of resistance differed within and among the many groups at work, regardless of whether or not this resistance was articulated in terms of national struggle and liberation, as with many early resistance movements, or in religious terms through the concept of jihad, a concept that acquired greater salience in the 1970s. At that time, revisionist formulations of classical Islamic jihad doctrine by Islamist ideologues such as Abu l-A˓la˒ al-Maududi (1903–1979) and Sayyid Qutb (1903–1966) were adapted by radical Islamic groups to legitimate the use of violence, first against agents of secular, pro-Western nation-states, and subsequently against civilian populations.
Groups as diverse as the European anarchists, Viet Cong, Irish Republican Army, Nicaraguan Sandinistas, and Nelson Mandela's African National Congress have been branded with the terrorist label. In Middle Eastern contexts, terrorism has been used generically to characterize incidents of violence such as the attacks by Jewish guerillas against the British during the Mandate Period; the 1972 killings of Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich at the hands of Palestinian Liberation Organization gunmen; violence committed by agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran at home and abroad since 1979; the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat by the Jihad group in 1981; the 1983 bombing of a United States Marine barracks in Beirut and the kidnappings of westerners in Lebanon; the Islamist insurgency against the Algerian government since the mid-1990s; and attacks against Israeli forces and civilians. While anti-Soviet Muslim combatants in Afghanistan received moral, economic, and military support from the United States from 1979 to 1988 as "freedom fighters" (a loose translation of mujahidin), spin-off organizations such as al-Qa˓ida and the Taliban have come to epitomize what many now call terrorism.
In the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the administration of George W. Bush placed the war against terrorism, known officially as Operation Enduring Freedom, at the top of its foreign and domestic political agendas. This new anti-terrorism policy led to large-scale military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as implementation of stringent security measures in the United States, including mass deportations, detentions, and curtailment of the civil rights of immigrants and visitors to the country—especially those coming from the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia and who may be Muslims.
The way in which the international community—including Western and Arab states—interpreted these events has had a profound effect on how terrorism is identified today. The incidents described above reflect many different contexts and many different kinds of violence. What links them analytically is that various actors have described each as terrorist activity. When attempting to identify terrorism, however, the term's broad use offers little guidance in describing or understanding a particular situation.
Defining Terrorism Today
How we define "terrorism" creates the intellectual framework that delimits the explanations available to us in working to understand an event or series of events. Most states, and much of the international community, now define terrorism as the use of force by non-state actors, a definition that focuses analytic attention on the violence of resistance at the expense of attention to violence perpetrated by the state. The analytic and conceptual shift in the meaning of terrorism in the last decades of the twentieth century has had important consequences. Rather than focusing on the causes that lead to violent resistance, discussions of terrorism are often limited to questions about the legitimate use of force to eliminate it.
Brought into greater relief, the modern meaning of terrorism comes out of the use of violence to justify and preserve a regime of law, relations of power, or, more broadly, a way of life. While all states use violence to protect the authority of the law and the state itself, those using violence to resist state authority do so in order to undermine that authority. Both kinds of violence aim at a similar end: creating and maintaining a system that orders the world. In fact, when seen in a broader context, state terror and non-state terror legitimize each other, marginalizing alternatives to that violence.
Defining terrorism in terms of "essential meanings" of Islam—or of any religious tradition—provides little help in understanding how violence functions. Violence is not particular to a specific religion, or to religion in general, or to a particular kind of socio-political organization, though it is indelibly part of both. The term "terrorism" used to describe any and all violent activity unsanctioned by a sovereign state or by international authority is insufficient to arrive at a nuanced understanding of events. As a result, the term "terrorism" should be limited to a heuristic role, and should not be used as an explanatory tool in analyzing specific incidents of violence or patterns of violence.
Crenshaw, Martha, ed. Terrorism in Context. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.
Falk, Richard. The Great Terror War. New York: Olive Branch Press, 2003.
Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the Mind of God: The GlobalRise of Religious Violence. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
Walzer, Michael. Just and Unjust War. New York: Basic Books, 1977.
Juan Eduardo CampoCaleb Elfenbein
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
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Terrorism became an issue of worldwide concern in the last third of the twentieth century. Terrorist tactics were not new; they had been used for centuries before being defined as terrorism. The word "terror" entered the political lexicon during the French Revolution's "reign of terror." In the late nineteenth century, at the beginning of the twentieth, and again in the 1920s and 1950s—all periods between major wars on the European continents—terrorism became a technique of revolutionary struggle. Stalin's regime in the 1930s and 1940s was called a reign of terror, but from the late 1940s to the 1960s the word was associated primarily with the armed struggles for independence waged in Palestine and Algeria, from which later generations of terrorists took their inspiration and instruction. After World War II, "terror" emerged as a component of nuclear strategy; the fear of mutual destruction that would deter nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union was referred to as a balance of terror.
In the 1970s, "terrorism" became a fad word, promiscuously applied to a wide spectrum of conditions and actions. Bombs in public places were one form of terrorism, but some people asserted that oppression, poverty, hunger, racism, gang violence, spousal or child abuse, environmental destruction, and even medical malpractice were also forms of terrorism. Some governments labeled as terrorism all violent acts committed by their opponents, while antigovernment extremities claimed to be, and often were, the victims of government terror.
In an effort to get a firm hold on a slippery subject, those studying the phenomenon of terrorism were obliged to define it more precisely. Terrorism could be described simply as the use or threat of violence to create an atmosphere of fear and alarm and thus bring about a political result. But making this definition operative in political debate, rules of war, or criminal codes was anything but easy. Is all politically motivated violence terrorism? How does terrorism differ from ordinary crime? Should terrorism be considered a crime at all, or should it be seen as simply another form of armed conflict that is no less legitimate than any other form of war? Is the term properly reserved for those trying to overthrow governments, or can governments also be terrorists?
Definition was crucial because it ultimately determined the way in which terrorism has been studied. A major problem was that terrorism almost always has a pejorative connotation and thus falls in the same category of words as "tyranny" and "genocide," unlike such relatively neutral terms such as "war" and "revolution." One can aspire to objective and dispassionate research, but one cannot be neutral about terrorism any more than one can be neutral about torture. Thus, defining terrorism became an effort not only to delineate a subject area but also to maintain its illegitimacy. Even the most clinical inquiry was laden with values and therefore political issues. The very study of terrorism implied to some a political decision.
Terrorism can be defined objectively by the quality of the act, not by the identity of the perpetrators or the nature of their cause. All terrorist acts are crimes, and many also would be war crimes or "grave breaches" of the rules of war if one accepted the terrorists' assertion that they wage war. All terrorist acts involve violence or the threat of violence, sometimes coupled with explicit demands. The violence is directed against noncombatants. The purposes are political. The actions often are carried out in a way that will achieve maximum publicity, and the perpetrators are usually members of an organized group.
Terrorist organizations are by necessity clandestine, but unlike other criminals, terrorists often but not always claim credit for their acts. Finally—the hallmark of terrorism—the acts are intended to produce psychological effects. This introduces a distinction between the actual victims of terrorist violence and the target audience. The connection between the victim and the target of terrorism can be remote. The identity of the victims may be secondary or even irrelevant to the terrorist cause. "Pure terrorism" is entirely indiscriminate violence.
Terrorism differs from ordinary crime in its political purpose and its primary objective. However, not all politically motivated violence is terrorism, nor is terrorism synonymous with guerilla war or any other kind of war.
Terrorist techniques can be used by governments or those fighting against governments: however, scholars generally use the term "terror" when discussing fear-producing tactics employed by governments and "terrorism" when referring to tactics used by those fighting against governments. The distinction is primarily semantic. Both groups may use threats, assassinations, or abductions, but government terror also may include arbitrary imprisonment, concentration camps, torture, mind-affecting techniques, and the use of drugs for political purposes. Antigovernment terrorists generally lack the infrastructure for such tactics. Government terror produces more victims than terrorism does. Terrorists tend to seek more publicity than do governments.
Although a prerequisite to empirical research, the attempt to define terrorism inevitably lent greater coherence to disparate acts of violence than did any analysis offered by the terrorists themselves, few of whom thought of assassinations, bombings, kidnappings, and airline hijackings as elements of a unified tactical repertoire, let alone the basis of a strategy. Ironically, in an effort to understand a phenomenon, researchers ran the risk of attributing to terrorists a level of strategic thinking they may not have possessed.
The term "international terrorism" refers to terrorist attacks on foreign targets or the crossing of national frontiers to carry out terrorist attacks. It was the dramatic rise in international terrorism—especially in the form of attacks on diplomats and commercial aviation in the late 1960s—that caused mounting alarm on the part of governments not directly involved in those local conflicts.
Although terrorist tactics were centuries old, contemporary terrorism, especially in its international form, emerged in the late 1960s from a unique confluence of political circumstances and technological developments. The political circumstances included the failure of the rural guerrilla movements in Latin America, which persuaded the guerrilla movements to take their armed struggles into the cities, where, through the use of dramatic actions such as kidnappings, they could be assured of attracting national and international attention. Their actions also provoked terrorist responses by governments that resorted to using "disappearances" of suspected guerrillas and their supporters, torture, and other tactics of terror.
In the Middle East, the failure of the Arab armies in the Six-Day War in 1967 caused the Palestinians to abandon dependence on Arab military power to achieve their aims and rely more heavily on the tactics of terrorism with the approval of some Arab governments. Israel retaliated with both military attacks and assassinations of suspected terrorist leaders.
The third political root of contemporary terrorism grew from widespread antigovernment demonstrations in universities in western Europe, Japan, and the United States that were provoked in large measure but not exclusively by the war in Vietnam. By no stretch of the imagination could these antigovernment protests be called acts of terrorism, but the mass marches spawned extremist fringes that were inspired by third world guerrilla movements to carry on an armed struggle even after the student movements subsided.
Technological advances were equally important. Developments in communications—radio, television, communication satellites—made possible almost instantaneous access to global audiences, which was critical for a mode of violence aimed at publicity. Modern air travel provided terrorists with worldwide mobility and a choice of targets. Modern society's dependence on technology created new vulnerabilities. Global weapons production guaranteed a supply of guns and explosives.
Once the tactics of terrorism were displayed worldwide, they provided inspiration and instruction for other groups, and terrorism became a self-perpetuating phenomenon.
The 1980s saw a new form of international terrorism: state-sponsored terrorism. Some governments began to use terrorist tactics or employ those tactics as a mode of surrogate warfare. Unlike government-directed terror, which is primarily domestic, state-sponsored terrorism is directed against foreign governments or domestic foes abroad. International diplomacy, economic sanctions, and in some cases, military actions brought about a reduction in this type of terrorism in the 1990s.
Despite great differences in political perspectives and outlook toward armed conflict, the international community gradually came to accept at least a partial definition of terrorism and prohibited certain tactics and attacks on certain targets. This approach reflected that of the academic community, focusing on the terrorist act and rejecting judgment based on the political objective or cause behind an act. Thus, by 1985, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously condemned international terrorism, including but not limited to acts covered by previous treaties against airline hijacking, sabotage of aircraft, attacks at civil airports, attacks against maritime navigation and offshore platforms, attacks in any form against internationally protected persons (i.e., diplomats), and the taking of hostages.
By 1998, there were ten multilateral counterterrorism agreements that covered roughly half of all incidents of international terrorism but omitted primarily bombings of targets other than airlines or diplomatic facilities. One difficulty in delineating this type of terrorist act was distinguishing between terrorist bombings and aerial bombardment, which is considered a legitimate form of war. The rules of war prohibit indiscriminate bombing, thus providing at least a theoretical distinction between war and terrorism, although even with modern precision-guided munitions, collateral civilian casualties from aerial bombing in populated areas may fastly exceed casualties caused by the deliberate, indiscriminate bombs of terrorists.
In 1998, an International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings attempted to address this lacuna. Unable to draw a clear distinction between terrorist bombings and other types of bombings, the treaty stated that the "activities of armed forces during an armed conflict . . . and the activities undertaken by military forces by a state in the exercise of their official duties, inasmuch as they are governed by other rules of international law, are not governed by this Convention."
Terrorism is a subject matter, not a discipline. It has been approached by scholars from various academic perspectives with political scientists in the lead. Psychologists and psychiatrists have examined individual and group behavior, while jurists have formulated international legal approaches. Sociologists have not played a major role in research focusing specifically on terrorism but have addressed it in the broader context of deviance or social control.
Much research on terrorism has focused more narrowly on the topic. In part, this reflects the desire of researchers to avoid the murky, politically loaded area of underlying causes, where any discussion might be seen as condemnation or rationalization of terrorist violence. Nonetheless, there have been excellent case studies of individual groups and their tactics.
Defining terrorism in terms of the act has enabled researchers to maintain a theoretically objective approach and conduct at least some primitive quantitative analysis. Event-based analysis has enabled them to discern broad patterns and trends and chart the growth of terrorism and its diffusion around the globe. They have been able to demonstrate statistically that as terrorism has increased in volume, it has also become bloodier. Researchers were able to illustrate a clear trend toward incidents of large-scale indiscriminate violence in the 1980s and infer that terrorists tend to be more imitative than innovative in their tactics. Event-based analysis also has permitted researchers to distinguish the operational profiles of specific terrorist groups, and these profiles have been useful in identifying changes in a group's modus operandi.
At the same time, event-based analysis has led the analysts into some methodological traps. An exclusive focus on terrorist actions, for example, resulted in terrorists being viewed first as if they were all part of a single entity and second as if they were almost extraterrestrial. While there are connections and alliances among some terrorist groups, the only thing the terrorists of the world have in common is a propensity for violence and certain tactics. Moreover, each group is rooted in its own social, political, and cultural soil, and cross-national comparisons are difficult. This has led to the question of whether there is such a thing as a terrorist-prone society.
It is, however, dangerous to attribute the actions of a few to perceived political defects or cultural flaws of a society as a whole, and researchers' attempts to discern deeper causes or conditions that lead to high levels of terrorism in certain societies have produced meager results. Terrorism is not demonstrably a response to poverty or political oppression. The liberal democracies of western Europe have suffered high levels of terrorist violence, while totalitarian states are virtually free of terrorism. Overall, countries with perceived terrorist problems tend to be comparatively advanced politically and economically. They are more highly urbanized and have higher per capita incomes, larger middle classes, more university students, and higher rates of literacy. One may ask whether political and economic advancement simply brings a more modern form of political violence.
One obstacle to linking high levels of terrorism with environmental factors is the problem of measuring terrorism. For the most part, this has been done by counting terrorist incidents, but international terrorism was narrowly and, more important, artificially defined to include only incidents that cause international concern, a distinction that has meant very little to the terrorists. Counting all terrorist incidents, both local and international, is better but still inadequate. Terrorist tactics, narrowly defined, represent most of what some groups, particularly those in western Europe, do but for other groups, terrorism represents only one facet of a broader armed conflict. In civil war situations, such as that in Lebanon in the 1970s, separating incidents of terrorism from the background of violence and bloodshed was futile and meaningless. And what about the extensive unquantified political and communal violence in the rural backlands of numerous third world countries? Broad statements about terrorist-prone or violence-prone societies simply cannot be made by measuring only a thin terrorist crust of that violence, if at all. The problem, however, is not merely one of counting. Although terrorists arise from the peculiarities of local situations, they may become isolated in a tiny universe of beliefs and discourse that is alien to the surrounding society. German terrorists were German, but were they Germany? In the final analysis, one is forced to dismiss the notion of a terrorist-prone society.
If terrorism cannot be explained by environmental factors, one must look into the mind of the individual terrorist for an explanation. Are there individuals who are prone to becoming terrorists—a preterrorist personality? Encouraged by superficial similarities in the demographic profiles of terrorists—many of them have been urban middle and upper class (not economically deprived) males in their early twenties with university or at least secondary school educations—researchers searched for commmon psychological features.
Behavioral analysts painted an unappealing portrait: The composite terrorist appeared to be a person who was narcissistic, emotionally flat, easily disillusioned, incapable of enjoyment, rigid, and a true believer who was action-oriented and risk seeking. Psychiatrists could label terrorists as neurotic and possibly sociopathic, but they found that most of them were not clinically insane. Some behavioral analysts looked for deeper connections between terrorists' attitude toward parents and their attitudes toward authority. A few went further in claiming a physiological explanation for terrorism based on inner ear disorders, but these assertions were not given wide credence in the scientific community. The growing number of terrorists apprehended and imprisoned in the 1980s permitted more thorough studies, but while these studies occasionally unearthed tantalizing similarities, they also showed terrorists to be a diverse lot.
Much research on terrorism has been government-sponsored and therefore oriented toward the practical goal of understanding terrorism in order to defeat it. While social scientists looked for environmental or behavioral explanations for terrorism, other researchers attempted to identify terrorist vulnerabilities and successful countermeasures. They achieved a measure of success in several areas. Studies of the human dynamics of hostage situations led to the development of psychological tactics that increased the hostages' chances of survival and a better understanding (and therefore more effective treatment) of those who had been held hostage. In some cases, specific psychological vulnerabilities were identified and exploited. With somewhat less success, researchers also examined the effects of broader policies, such as not making concessions to terrorists holding hostages and using military retaliation. The conclusion in this area were less clear-cut.
Another area of research concerned the effects of terrorism on society. Here, researchers viewed terrorism as consisting of not only the sum of terrorist actions but also the fear and alarm produced by those actions. Public opinion polls, along with measurable decisions such as not flying and avoiding certain countries, provided the measure of effect.
Some critics who are skeptical of the entire field of terrorism analysis assert that the state and its accomplice scholars have "invented" terrorism as a political issue to further state agendas through manipulation of fear, the setting of public discourse, preemptive constructions of "good" and "evil," and the creation of deliberate distractions from more serious issues. "Terrorism," a pejorative term that is useful in condemning foes, has generated a lot of fear mongering, and the issue of terrorism has been harnessed to serve other agendas, but one would have to set aside the reality of terrorist campaigns to see terrorism solely as an invention of the hegemonic state. While such deconstructions reveal the ideological prejudices of their authors, they nonetheless have value in reminding other analysts to be aware of the lenses through which they view terrorism.
Over the years, research on terrorism has become more sophisticated, but in the end, terrorism confronts people with fundamental philosophical questions: Do ends justify means? How far does one go on behalf of a cause? What is the value of an individual human life? What obligations do governments have toward their own citizens if, for example, they are held hostage? Should governments or corporations ever bargain for human life? What limits can be imposed on individual liberties to ensure public safety? Is the use of military force, as a matter of choice, ever appropriate? Can assassination ever be justified? These are not matters of research. They are issues that have been dictated through the ages.
Barnaby, Frank 1996 Instruments of Terror. London: Satin.
Hoffman, Bruce 1998 Inside Terrorism. London: Gollancz.
Kushner, Harvey W. (ed.) 1998 The Future of Terrorism: Violence in the New Millennium. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
Laquer, Walter 1977 Terrorism. Boston: Little Brown.
Lesser, Ian O. et al. 1999 Countering the New Terrorism. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.
O'Sullivan, Noel (ed.) 1986 Terrorism, Ideology and Revolution. Boulder, Colo: Westview.
Schmid, Alex P., and Albert J. Jongman 1988 Political Terrorism. Amsterdam: North Holland.
Simon, Jeffrey D. 1994 The Terrorist Trap: America's Experience with Terrorism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Stern, Jessica 1999 The Ultimate Terrorists. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Thackrah, John Richard 1987 Terrorism and Political Violence. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Wilkinson, Paul, and Alasdair M. Stewart (eds.) 1987 Contemporary Research on Terrorism. Aberdeen, Scotland: Aberdeen University Press.
Brian Michael Jenkins
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-0
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Sociology. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-0
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Violence against civilians for the purpose of intimidation, revenge for perceived grievances, or the achievement of political goals. No definition of terrorism exists in international law. The application of the term to a violent and sometimes spectacular act is subject to debate because persons who perform such acts claim justification by invoking their right to defend themselves against an identifiable oppressor. There are often no objective criteria by which to determine whether a given act constitutes terrorism or legitimate resistance.
For example, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has been perceived by Israelis and by most of the world as a terrorist group, whereas it sees itself as an idealistic national liberation movement and was so viewed by allies such as the Soviet Union. Attempts have been made to establish international conventions that criminalize intentional violence against civilians whether a government or a nonstate group is responsible; but major nations, including both Israel and the United States, insist that the definition
of terrorism must be limited to nonstate groups that target civilians. Whether or not a consensus is ever reached on what constitutes terrorism, violent acts perceived by their victims as terrorism are likely to continue.
"Terrorism." Dictionary of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/terrorism
"Terrorism." Dictionary of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/terrorism
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Terrorism was first used to define a systematic policy of violence during the French Revolution and has since undergone important transformations that have been topics of both scientific investigation and efforts at technological control. What is now called terrorism is an old practice that has acquired new dimensions as a result of science and technology in at least three respects: rationale, publicity, and weapons (and other means). Any adequate ethical or policy assessment of terrorism requires consideration of all three aspects of the problem.
Terrorism is an ill-defined but ethically charged term, which generally refers to the highly public, calculated use of violence, destruction, or intimidation to gain political, religious, or personal objectives. Yet in this sense many wars and even some police actions might be described as terrorist insofar as they seek to induce or exploit fear. Some observers also argue that there is little principled difference between official U.S. definitions of terror and counterinsurgency measures described in U.S. armed forces manuals (Atran 2003).
From certain Roman emperors to the Spanish Inquisition (beginning in the fifteenth century) and the French Revolution's Reign of Terror (1793–1794), early forms of terrorism were primarily conducted by the state or other parties with high political power such as the Catholic Church. The nineteenth century, however, witnessed the development of complementary efforts by individuals or small groups such as the small band of Russian revolutionaries known as Narodnaya Volya (People's Will) who grew impatient with the slow pace of tsarist reforms. Members of this group are among the few to refer to themselves as terrorists, and, aided by the development of powerful and affordable explosives, they assassinated Tsar Alexander II in 1881. The Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish-American group, planted explosives around London in the mid-1800s to protest the British occupation of Ireland, thus demonstrating one of the main objectives of many terrorist organizations, namely, to attempt to reacquire territory that they feel is legitimately theirs. On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Serbian nationalist terrorist organization called the Black Hand, assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, thus triggering the social and political upheavals of World War I.
World War II witnessed the uses of state terrorism by both the Allied and Axis powers. After the war, terrorism continued to broaden beyond the assassination of political leaders. Terrorist movements developed in certain European colonies to both pressure colonial powers and intimidate indigenous populations into supporting a particular group. After colonialism had waned in the 1950s and 1960s, terrorism continued in several areas and for a variety of purposes. These attacks often targeted civilians, as in the case of the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.
Although suicide terrorism has deep historical roots (Atran 2003), it has played a major role in Middle East politics since the early 1980s. Since at least 1993, suicide attacks by groups such as the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) have continually thwarted peace efforts between Israel and Palestine. Although Islamic religious extremism is involved in many of these terrorist attacks, it should be noted that other religious groups have committed acts of terror. The same holds true for secular groups, such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.
In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden, a member of a wealthy Saudi family, rose to prominence as the leader of al-Qaeda (the Base), an Islamist terrorist organization. Determined to resist Western influence in Muslim countries, members of this group killed hundreds in bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. Al-Qaeda members have been able to create a complex, networked organization capable of transcending national borders. Such capabilities allowed them to hijack commercial airplanes and crash them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on September 11, 2001. Passengers onboard a fourth plane forced it to crash in a Pennsylvania field. These attacks caused approximately 3,000 deaths and extensive social, psychological, and economic damage, and set off major political changes around the world, much of which bears on the use of science and technology both as potential security threats and as sources of counterterrorist measures.
The justifications that terrorists give of their actions are perhaps even more difficult to consider than the definition of the actions themselves. It is easier—and initially appears more accurate—to describe terrorists as cowards or insane. But such a reaction runs the danger of misconstruing the phenomena and feeding into counterproductive responses.
Works by al-Qaeda and Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber) suggest that a major underlying rationale for some contemporary forms of terrorism is a condemnation of the dangers and depravity of modernity, including liberalism, capitalism, and a technological materialism divorced from spiritual or ethical guidance. Paul Berman (2003) traces much of the ideological impetus of al-Qaeda back to Egyptian Islamic fundamentalist groups and their "intellectual hero," Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966), who presented an extended critique of the modern world and the tyranny that technology holds over life. Qutb traced the source of error back to a split between the spiritual and material realms, which put humans out of touch with their own nature. He did not lament science but did decry the alienating effects of scientific "progress" (and the attendant consumerism) divorced from spirituality. The split between the secular and the sacred, he argued, was the fatal error that rendered the modern world inhospitable to a meaningful human existence and relationship with God.
Qutb's cultural critique also offered a revolutionary program to save humankind by calling for a small vanguard to establish sharia, the religious law of Islam, for all of society. Competing interpretations of the Koran and the meaning of Islam have created conflicts along the spectrum of liberal and extremist Muslims. For Berman Islamic terrorists are heirs to modern European fascism, with their ideals of submission, absolutism, and "the one instead of the many." William A. Galston (2003) suggests that such an interpretation erases key distinctions such as that between the meaningless self-annihilation of nihilists and the politically motivated acts of suicide terrorists. Furthermore, the thesis of liberalism versus totalitarianism reinforces the belief that terrorists "hate us for what we are, not what we do," which curtails critical scrutiny of policy decisions.
Kaczynski developed a related rationale in his manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future (published by the New York Times and Washington Post in 1995). Whereas Qutb placed the problems of modernity in religious history and sought solutions in religious texts, Kaczynski appealed to human evolutionary history to explain modern social and psychological problems and relied on Western philosophers to buttress his critique. Nonetheless, both provided similar justifications for taking radical steps to undermine modern techno-industrial society. Alston Chase (2003) argues that (just as with Qutb) Kaczynski's writing cannot be simply dismissed as fringe lunacy or simple-minded Luddism. His ideas were shaped by real experiences as a mathematician at Harvard University in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
First, Kaczynski was subjected to dehumanizing psychology experiments at the hands of Henry A. Murray. Second, the climate of academia (and the wider culture) was saturated by the tenets of logical positivism, which held that ethical claims are meaningless, because science cannot prove them either true or false. Ethical and other values are purely matters of private emotion. As with Qutb, Kaczynski saw this separation of private (moral) and public (material) and other such fundamental schisms in modern industrial society as the root cause of unethical science and technology, vacuous consumerism, and massive human indignities and feelings of meaninglessness. Finally, Kaczynski held that science and technology had become servants of a military-industrial complex in ways that echoed the arguments of other critics such as the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894–1964). Such an argument justifies Kaczynski's rejection of the combatant/civilian distinction, because virtually all academic scientists and engineers could be perceived as caught up in a web of culpability. There is no doubt that acts of terror are objectionable, but this does not erase the possibility that their underlying rationale may at least be intelligible.
Although one major way to avoid considering the reasons that terrorists give for their actions is to reject terrorists themselves as irrational, another is to propose a sweeping historical thesis such as Samuel P. Huntington's "clash of civilizations" (1996). In response, Amartya Sen (2002) has argued that the "clash thesis" dangerously oversimplifies the heterogeneity of motives and objectives behind terrorist acts by reducing complex people and organizations to one dimension. Huntington's thesis paints a patina of coherence over the messy reality—that rationales for terrorism are diverse, complex, changing, and poorly understood. Context matters and terrorism cannot be reduced to a single "root cause" such as poverty, political conflict, or the intrusion of Western values on other cultures.
As an alternative to reliance on a large-scale historical thesis, it would perhaps be useful to undertake more detailed psychological and social scientific studies of terrorists and terrorist organizations. According to Scott Atran (2003), for instance, suicide terrorists have no appreciable psychopathology and are at least as educated and economically well-off as their surrounding populations, although there is a fairly strong negative correlation between civil liberties and suicide terrorism. In their studies attempting to uncover the causes of terrorism, Alan B. Krueger and Jitka Maleckova (2003) conclude that "any connection between poverty, education, and terrorism is, at best, indirect, complicated, and probably quite weak" (p. B10). They suggest that terrorism is a response to political conditions and feelings of indignity and frustration that are only weakly linked to economic circumstances. Marc Sageman (2004) similarly claims that people join terrorist organizations to escape a sense of alienation.
Atran also notes a correlation between U.S. involvement in international situations and terrorist attacks against the United States. Adolf Toben˜a and Scott Atran (2004) suggest that understanding terrorists' motivations requires research both on social conditions and individual traits. Hector N. Qirko (2004) proposes a model from evolutionary psychology to explain suicide terrorism. He suggests that this non-kin altruistic behavior can be explained in terms of inclusive fitness, because institutions that train suicide terrorists essentially create "fictive kin."
Contemporary terrorists are usually young males who feel that they have no alternative path to influence and power and that their voice will otherwise be ignored. Humiliation, despair, and loss of economic or social advantage are factors that often play into motivations to join terrorist movements. In many Muslim areas, expanding youth populations cannot find opportunities because of rigidly authoritarian regimes. For many, the allure of martyrdom becomes a strong case for carrying out suicide missions. Indeed Nasra Hassan (2001) reports that there is an excess of young recruits hoping for martyrdom.
A primary terrorist objective is the creation of fear in a targeted population in order to use the psychological impact of actual or threatened violence to effect political change. The capability to cause terror has been multiplied not just by more powerful weapons, but also by the expanded media coverage of terrorist acts made possible by innovations in communication technologies. Knowledge of terrorist acts is much more immediate, vivid, and widely disseminated than ever before.
Before the advent of mass media and modern communication technologies, acts of terror were committed in crowds in order to gain publicity. This led Brian M. Jenkins (1974) to describe "terrorism [as] theatre," which was vividly confirmed by the September 11 attacks, designed in part to provide billions of television viewers with images symbolizing the weakness of the United States. Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, chose that target for the open space surrounding it, which allowed for extensive television coverage. The Colombian leftist terrorist group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has its own radio broadcasts, and there are more than 4,000 terrorist websites (Wright 2004). Terrorists have adapted strategies with the emergence of satellite networks such as the Arabic news network Al Jazeera and the video capabilities of the Internet to expand their abilities to gain publicity.
Brigitte L. Nacos (1994) has explored the relationship between terrorism and the media, and suggested that the media unintentionally help terrorists achieve goals of publicity, recognition, instability, and respect. Focusing on the Iranian hostage crisis (1979–1981) and the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 (1988), Nacos argued that terrorists successfully manipulated the linkages between the news media, public opinion, and presidential decision-making by staging spectacles of terror. The opposite view is that media attention harms terrorist causes. Images of death and destruction focus attention not on the group's message but on its method, which can delegitimize its cause and alienate potential supporters.
What is not controversial, however, is the fact that media attention can and often has shaped the outcome of terrorist activities. It can disrupt counterterrorist operations and influence the dynamics of hostage situations. Terrorist groups increasingly target the media, which attracts attention and shapes coverage. The decision by managers of two U.S. newspapers (as urged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation) to publish the Unabomber's manifesto led to his identification and capture. Nacos argued, however, that this was a shameful act of government acquiescence to mass-media pressure, which might eventually encourage more terrorism. The mass media holds wider powers too, in the sense that its public representations partially define what counts as terrorism and what counts as legitimate acts of violence.
Such issues raise questions about the responsibility of the media in covering terrorism. Excessive coverage may further terrorist causes and encourage more attacks, but it is also true that too little coverage would not fulfill the media's goal of informing the public. One specific example of this dilemma is posed by the occasional audio and videotapes released by bin Laden. How much coverage should he be granted? An example of self-imposed limits on media coverage emerged in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, when the major media organizations declined to air images of beheadings performed by terrorists. But the explosion of media outlets, especially on the Internet, makes it easier for terrorists to publicize their message.
Media coverage of terrorism also raises the important ethical issue of tradeoffs between freedom of the press and security interests. Democratic governments must walk a fine line to find the proper balance for controlling media actions. In the 1980s the British government banned the broadcasting of statements by members of terrorist organizations and their supporters. Margaret Thatcher, the then prime minister of Britain, justified this policy by claiming that the surest way to stop terrorism was to cut off "the oxygen of publicity." Some argue that coverage of vulnerabilities in U.S. national security (e.g., the susceptibility of nuclear power plants to terrorist attacks) might also help terrorists prioritize future acts.
Finally, the publicity received by Islamic fundamentalist groups has given the impression that they commit the majority of suicide terrorist acts. But Robert A. Pape (2003), in a quantitative study of the 188 documented acts of suicide terrorism from 1980 to 2001, concluded that this impression was false. The leading instigator of suicide attacks was the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a secular Marxist-Leninist group that was responsible for seventy-five of the incidents.
Weapons and Other Means
As in many other areas of interaction between science, technology, and society, the most dramatic transformation in contemporary terrorism is new technological means. These means come in two forms: means of communication among terrorists that facilitate their planning and execution, and means in the form of weapons. The thousands of deaths resulting from the September 11 attacks signal terrorists' abilities to manipulate modern technologies to cause ever greater devastation. Contemporary terrorist attacks highlight the fact that not just the use of individual technological instruments is at stake. Developed societies' dependency on centralized, complex technological systems looms as a source of vulnerability that gives terrorists enormous power.
Lawrence Wright (2004) uses the March 2004 Madrid train bombings by al-Qaeda to detail the importance of the Internet to terrorist organizations. He argues that the Internet serves two interrelated purposes. First, it is a vehicle for strategic and tactical goals such as planning and organizing attacks, raising funds, and training recruits. The Internet and other communication technologies (e.g., cell phones and satellite phones) allow for highly coordinated international attacks. Al-Qaeda even publishes two online magazines that feature how-to articles on kidnapping and other terrorist tactics. Coded communications are used, and web sites are continually moved in order to avoid detection.
The second purpose served by the Internet is more fundamental. Muslim immigration in Europe is creating massive social and psychological disruptions. Many young Muslims have trouble adapting to their new situations and are confused about whether their adopted homelands are part of "the land of believers" or "the land of impiety." The Internet provides a virtual community and a compassionate, responsive forum that "stands in for the idea of the ummah, the mythologized Muslim community" (Wright 2004, p. 49). This virtual community strengthens feelings of common identity and provides mutual emotional support to combat feelings of alienation. Arabic satellite channels are being replaced by the Internet as the main conduit of information and communication among a growing global "jihadi subculture."
Marc Sageman (2004) sees further implications of the new Internet culture. Al-Qaeda, for example, is a nonhierarchical network, which increasingly uses bottom-up, self-selected recruitment strategies (rather than top-down selection) as a result of emerging Internet communities. Various levels of adherents form according to different interpretations of the ideology and purpose of al-Qaeda. Top-down control is diminished, as leaders no longer approve all attacks. After losing its Afghan sanctuary, the leadership of al-Qaeda is more reliant on such semi-independent cells in diverse regions. Sageman sees such local cells as the wave of the future, a theory supported by the Madrid bombings, which were carried out by a semi-independent cell. Because of the Internet, al-Qaeda is becoming a virtual community (not dependent on any one geographical locale) in the global space of the Internet. It is a "virtual Islamist state that is trying to find a place for itself in the actual world" (Wright 2004, p. 53). The cohesiveness of this virtual community presents fundamental questions about its legitimate recognition in the international arena.
The use of the Internet and other communications technologies has sparked a technological arms race as government entities develop their own innovations to track and monitor terrorist activities. Government intervention such as shutting down web sites that are judged to support terrorism has sparked controversies about the proper limits to free speech (e.g., should instructions on bomb making be available online?).
Terrorists also use technologies in the form of weapons, which span the spectrum from simple to complex. Nasra Hassan (2001) explains that the materials used to build suicide bombs (nails, gunpowder, light switches, acetone, etc.) are not only readily available but so affordable that the most expensive part of some Palestinian suicide missions is the transportation to the site of the attack. Similarly, very little expertise or high-tech equipment is needed to make effective agricultural bioterrorist weapons (Wheelis, Casagrande, and Madden 2002). Timothy McVeigh used an ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO) bomb, which was composed of many simple and readily available components (e.g., fertilizer) but was most likely fairly complicated to construct. So-called dirty bombs (combinations of TNT or ANFO explosives with highly radioactive materials) are similar in that radioactive materials are relatively easy to procure (significant quantities have even been found in scrap yards), but constructing and deploying an effective dirty bomb capable of widely dispersing radiation is difficult (Levi and Kelly 2002).
Nuclear weapons are extremely difficult to build and nuclear material is rare and hard to refine, but political unrest in nations possessing them has increased fears that terrorists could acquire existing nuclear weapons. The term loose nukes refers to nuclear weapons, materials, or knowledge that could fall into terrorist hands. The black market in uranium and plutonium and poorly paid Russian scientists are of special concern. Al-Qaeda has repeatedly attempted to purchase highly enriched uranium, and states that sponsor terrorism continually try to build nuclear weapons. The threat of nuclear terrorism raises the old "nuclear dilemma" former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower noted in the 1950s, namely, how to ensure atomic power is used to promote peace rather than threaten war. Fear surrounding these possibilities also spreads rumors of new weapons, such as "red mercury," which could make nuclear fusion weapons easier to build. Controversy surrounds the nature and very existence of red mercury, however (Edwards 1995).
Biological and chemical agents have also been used to kill and terrorize targeted populations. At least one British officer gave blankets used by smallpox patients to Native Americans during the French and Indian War (1754–1763), and reports exist of similar acts by land speculators and settlers. In 2001 an unidentified terrorist mailed letters laced with anthrax to U.S. senators and media icons. Five people died as a result. In the late 1980s Saddam Hussein used a combination of chemical agents including sarin, mustard gas, and possibly VX to kill as many as 5,000 and wound another 65,000 Kurds in northern Iraq.
In addition to both simple and more complex weapons, terrorists have adapted other technologies to serve as weapons. The most dramatic example is the use of commercial airplanes and skyscrapers by terrorists on September 11, 2001. It could also be argued, however, that terrorists even use television as a psychological weapon by creating images that induce fear.
Perhaps the most frightening reality raised by contemporary terrorist acts is the inherent vulnerability of complex sociotechnical systems. As Langdon Winner (2004) argues, life in modern civilization increasingly depends on large-scale, complex, geographically extended, and often centralized technological systems. The Y2K scare vividly raised the specter of vulnerability, as citizens, governments, and businesses alike realized how fragile such highly integrated and tightly coupled systems are. Examples include information and computer networks, dams and water purification systems, nuclear power plants, the energy transmission and distribution infrastructure, the communications infrastructure, chemical plants, gas pipelines, railroads, the mail system, food supply chains, huge fields of monoculture crops, and the containerized cargo system.
The human demands and material costs of policing these systems are, in the long term, unsustainable. Totalitarian societies have "hardened" their technologies to provide the necessary surveillance and protection, but this destroys civil freedom. Reliable engineering can solve only some of the problems. The only alternative left for free, democratic societies, Winner argues, is to embrace an attitude of trust. Citizens expect that key technologies will always work reliably. The relationship is reciprocal as it informs the structure and operation of technological systems themselves. The upshot is that "Many key components are built in ways that leave them open to the possibility of inadvertent or deliberate interference" (p. 156).
When this attitude of openness and trust is undermined by a sense of vulnerability and dread, rights and democratic institutions are threatened. Fears of cyber-, bio-, eco-, and other terrorist plots lead to a society that begins to treat all citizens as suspects, because anyone could potentially cause massive damage given the vulnerability of high-density populations dependent upon tightly integrated systems of all sorts.
Winner speculates that "Although seldom mentioned in the mass media, the ultimate fear driving public and private policies in the post 9/11 [era] is an awareness that seemingly secure, reliable structures of contemporary civilization are, taken together, an elaborate house of cards" (p. 167). This taps into our deepest fears about technology: that the powers we seek to control will come back to destroy us. Winner presents a suite of options based on the premise of designing technical systems that are more loosely coupled and "forgiving." Environmental design and bioregionalism provide models for shifting to locally available resources and decentralized systems.
The vulnerability of sociotechnical systems presents a curious reversal of the technological and power asymmetries in the relationship between terrorists and the groups they attack. The latter are generally regarded as privileged in terms of technology and power, whereas the former must take recourse to terrorist tactics precisely because of their position of weakness. Certainly, many of these groups are oppressed. But power in this dynamic is revealed as a two-way, nonhierarchical affair. The massive vulnerability of technological systems (and the fact that many technologies are becoming easier to manufacture on small scales partially because of the wide dissemination of knowledge) gives to individuals and small groups an inordinate amount of power to inflict damage and spread terror.
ADAM BRIGGLE CARL MITCHAM
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"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism
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American Psychological Association
Terrorism is the preplanned use of force or violence against innocent civilians to make a statement about a cause and influence an audience. Terrorist action is staged for maximum surprise, shock, and destruction. Its goal is to so terrorize or alarm individuals, groups, or governments that they give into the demands of the terrorists.
Terrorists are individuals or groups who plan and carry out violent acts to achieve their goals. While victims see them as murderous criminals, terrorists see themselves as heroes for their cause. The U.S. intelligence community further defines terrorist groups as subnational, not a recognized government or official agency of any country, and as operating in secret. The actions of a country's military or police are not considered terrorist acts.
Global terrorism continually impacted nations in the twentieth century and into the early 2000s. Europe, the United States, the Middle East, South America, Asia, and African countries all experienced violent unexpected terror acts. This chapter describes the different types of terrorism, the techniques used to spread fear by injury, murder, or the destruction of property, and measures taken by the U.S. government to combat terror and protect American citizens.
Terrorists and terrorist groups differ widely in their behavior and goals. Terrorism can generally be placed into six main categories: nationalistic; religious; state-sponsored; political-social; environmental; and individual.
Nationalistic terrorism is an outgrowth of an unwavering devotion and loyalty to a specific group that believes they have been suppressed, treated unfairly, or persecuted by the ruling majority of the country in which they live. Groups are defined by ethnicity (racial or cultural background), language, religion, or customs. Nationalist terrorism calls attention to the plight of the group. The goal is to eventually secure a separate independent homeland or country for the group. The following are examples of groups who engage in terrorism for nationalistic reasons.
Arabs living in the land known as Palestine from which the Jewish nation, Israel, was created in 1948 began nationalistic terrorist activities around 1970. The most active Arab Palestinian terrorist organizations in the early 2000s were HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement) and Hezbollah (Party of God). HAMAS cells (small units serving as part of or the center of a larger political movement) are based in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel. Hezbollah (also spelled Hizbollah) cells are based in Lebanon and worldwide. Other active Arab Palestinian groups include Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Hoping to convince the Spanish government to create an independent Basque homeland, Basque terrorists of northern Spain carry out activities within Spain. The largest Basque terror group is Basque Fatherland and Liberty, or Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA). Because their goal is to separate the Basque people from Spain, ETA is also commonly referred to as the Basque Separatists.
Kashmir, an area between India and Pakistan, is populated by people of the Islamic faith. Those who follow the religion of Islam are called Muslims. The predominant religion of India is Hinduism although many Muslims also live there. India has no official religion. Pakistan's population is Muslim, and Islam is its official religion. Both Pakistan and India have long clashed over the control of Kashmir. The people of Kashmir, however, want to be an independent Islamic state.
Major Islamic terrorist groups fighting to create that independent state are Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LT), meaning "Army of the Pure," Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), and Harakat ul-Mujahideen (HUM). Although the terrorists of Kashmir are predominately thought of as nationalistic terrorists, their struggle is an example of a nationalistic cause interlocked with a religious struggle.
The Irish Catholic population of Northern Ireland, ruled by Britain, wants independence from Britain and to be part of the Republic of Ireland. The Protestant population of Northern Ireland resists the movement away from Britain. The major nationalistic terrorist group in 2004 working for separation from England is the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA). Again, the RIRA's nationalist struggle has religious overtones.
Religious beliefs and the willingness of people to die for these beliefs rather than compromise have led to wars fought in the name of religion for centuries. Modern day devotion to religion follows the same pattern. Many believers are intensely committed to their specific religion. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Islamic religious terrorism is the most serious form of all terrorism worldwide.
Radical Muslims call for a pan-Islamic Caliphate, which is an ancient government system based entirely on Sharia, Islamic law, and led by one individual, a Prince of Believers. Pan simply means to be located everywhere, throughout the world. The enemy is any Islamic government that does not strictly adhere to the Sharia and all unbelievers—Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims. The term Christian and non-Muslim describe the majority of the people of the Western world, including western Europeans and the United States. According to Islamic radicals, God wants them to kill the "unbelievers."
The most infamous Islamic terrorist group is Al Qaeda. Its leader, Osama bin Laden, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in February 1998 calling for a worldwide Islamic jihad (holy war) to kill Christians and Jews. Bin Laden's key targets appear to be U.S. citizens and U.S. property. He is infuriated by the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia and by the influence of Western culture on Islamic nations. The United States is also Israel's strongest supporter, an enemy of bin Laden and his followers who favor the Palestinians.
Al Qaeda, formerly based in Afghanistan until U.S. military forces disrupted their stronghold there in late 2001, has loosely affiliated but independent cells operating in Europe, East Africa, the Middle East, Southeast and Central Asia, and North America. They are financed by bin Laden's inheritance from his wealthy Saudi Arabian family (once estimated by U.S. officials to be between $250 and $300 million), by Islamic charities that funnel donations to Islamic terrorists groups, and by legal and illegal businesses.
Al Qaeda is responsible for the destruction of Khobar Towers residence in Saudi Arabia (1996), the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (1998), the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen (2000), the Bali Indonesia nightclub bombing (2002), and the September 11, 2001, (9/11) attacks on New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Since 9/11 the U.S.-led war on terrorism has resulted in over three thousand Al Qaeda terrorists arrested or killed. Bin Laden, however, had not been captured as of the summer of 2004. Al Qaeda cells remain active and are difficult to detect since they operate independently giving few clues of impending attacks.
Many Islamic groups adhere to the same beliefs as Al Qaeda but there are other modern non-Islamic religious terrorist groups. The Japan-based Aum Shinrikyo is a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, and believes its leader to be the "enlightened one." They believe the world will soon come to an end and only their members will go to paradise. Aum Shinrikyo was responsible for the sarin poisonous gas attacks in a Tokyo subway in 1995.
In the United States a militia group known as the Christian Patriots is armed and carefully watched by the FBI. Some believe it was linked to the Oklahoma City bombing on a government building in 1995.
Two forms of state-sponsored terrorism exist at the beginning of the twenty-first century: governments that carry out terrorism acts against their own citizens, and government support of groups who carry out terrorism against other governments. Amnesty International, a human rights overseer organization based in London, estimates that about one hundred countries use terrorist activities against their own citizens. These activities include jailing and torturing dissidents (persons with opposing political views to those in power or the government), and sponsoring death squads who seek out, kidnap, and murder dissidents. Countries known to terrorize their own citizens are Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Sudan. Iraq, when under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, was notorious for such terror tactics.
Genocide, attempting to kill a whole minority population within a country, is the extreme form of state-sponsored terrorism. In addition to the extermination of Jews by Germany in World War II (1939–45; war in which Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allied forces defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan), genocides have taken place in the Southeastern Asian nation of Cambodia, Rwanda in Africa, and Bosnia (part of the former Yugoslavia).
According to the U.S. State Department's official list, the second form of state-sponsored terrorism was practiced in 2003 by Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. For example, Iran has long supported HAMAS and Hezbollah, Arab Palestinian groups who have carried out terrorist attacks on Israel. The Sudan has allowed terrorist group members to hide within its country.
The most famous terrorist to spend time in the Sudan was Al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden following his expulsion from his native Saudi Arabia for activities against his own government. Terrorist leaders are also allowed to live within Cuba by its longtime leader Fidel Castro (1926–). Following the U.S.–Iraq war of 2003–04, Iraq will presumably be coming off the state-sponsored terrorism list.
Terrorist acts have long been used to call attention to political and social causes. Political terrorists attempt to make their views known by violent actions in an effort to influence others. Terrorists with social causes seek to change a specific policy or behavior. Social terrorists attempt to force their beliefs on the general population.
One of the most violent American political terrorist organizations of the second half of the twentieth century was the Weather Underground, active between 1969 and 1975. The Weather Underground, whose members were called Weathermen, split off from a larger organization called Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
The SDS, made up of mostly college students, first formed in 1960 to help with the nonviolent Civil Rights movement of black Americans in the United States. As more and more young people were sent off to fight in the unpopular Vietnam War (1954–75; a controversial war in which the United States aided South Vietnam in its fight against a takeover by Communist North Vietnam) in the 1960s, SDS became active in protests hoping to halt the war. SDS was considered part of the "New Left," or liberal, element of the American political scene that strongly supported civil rights and peaceful solutions to conflict.
Some SDS members believed their actions were making no difference as the United States continued to escalate the war. A small group formed the Weathermen and declared a "State of War" on the U.S. government. They were responsible for about twenty-four bombings, including those at the New York City police headquarters (1970), a U.S. army base and courthouse in San Francisco (1970), and a New York City Bank of America and courthouse (1970). They planted bombs in the U.S. Capitol (1971) and inside the Pentagon (1972). As the Vietnam War wound down in the mid-1970s, the Weathermen who had escaped arrest went into hiding and the Weather Underground dissolved.
On the other side of the political spectrum are groups on the far right, known as ultraconservatives. They too oppose the U.S. government but for different reasons. Called the "militia movement," they began to form in the early 1970s and remain active into the 2000s. Members generally hate the U.S. government believing it is too big and powerful. They oppose taxes and arm themselves against the perceived risk that the U.S. government will take away their possessions.
Another major element of their philosophy is white supremacy, which insists those of white or Caucasian background are superior to minorities such as Jews, black Americans, and more recently homosexuals. The Aryan Nation, Posse Comitatus, and Christian Patriots are examples of heavily armed groups capable of terrorist activities in the American homeland. These groups tend to be located in the Midwest and western states.
The worst terrorist action carried out in the United States prior to 9/11 was the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. McVeigh, although not a member of a militia group, strongly agreed with their beliefs and was considered a political terrorist. McVeigh was convicted on eleven counts of murder, conspiracy, and using a weapon of mass destruction. He was later sentenced to death and executed in June 2001. Nichols was convicted first in federal court, then again in state court but was spared the death penalty in 2004. He received life in prison for his role in the bombing.
An ongoing example of a social terrorist group in the United States is the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). First formed in 1866, the KKK remains active in the early 2000s. The KKK is a white supremacy group associated with brutal activities against black Americans for almost 150 years. The Klan also expresses hatred of Jews and Catholics. The KKK's most recent major period of activity occurred against black Americans during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
The most radical and violent social terrorism to occur in the United States from the 1970s into the 2000s involves antiabortion or "Pro-Life" activists. Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy by a medical procedure. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1973 case Roe v. Wade that any woman could choose to end a pregnancy by abortion performed by medical doctors at abortion clinics.
This ruling sparked intense debate over when a fetus (unborn child) becomes a child able to sustain life outside the mother's body, thus having the right to live. Abortion is considered the murder of an unborn child by many Americans. Pro-Life terrorist groups have used bombs, arson, and murder to target abortion clinics and their personnel. Starting in the early 1980s, abortion clinics and staff were the targets of about two thousand violent actions in a twenty-year period. In the 1990s at least eight people—doctors, receptionists, a guard, and a policeman—were killed in abortion terrorist actions.
Environmental terrorism is commonly referred to as "ecoterrorism," a combination of the terms ecology and terrorism. An environmental protection movement began in the 1970s when Congress passed a number of environmental protection laws (see chapter 9, Environmental Crime). By 1980 some environmentalists believed little progress was being made to halt developers and industries destroying wilderness areas for profit.
Some environmentalists decided to take action and used ideas from two books, The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) by Edward Abbey, a former forest ranger, and Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching (1985) by Dave Foreman. These books discussed environmental protection "techniques" such as driving large stakes into trees scheduled for logging (which can destroy logging equipment) or setting fire to construction equipment and property. These techniques became environmental terrorist tools.
Foreman founded the terrorist group Earth First! in 1979. Its members successfully used the tree stake method, which does not hurt the trees, in California and the Pacific Northwest to slow logging. Earth First! members also set fires and cut livestock fences in protest of overgrazed grassland. Another ecoterrorist group, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), formed in the late 1990s when Earth First! began backing away from violent activities. The FBI considers ELF one of the major terrorist groups within the United States.
ELF's terror act of choice is setting fires. Claiming a Vail, Colorado, ski resort negatively impacted the habitat of the lynx (a type of wild cat), ELF set fire to a portion of the resort on October 18, 1998, resulting in $12 million damage. In the 2000s ELF was responsible for burning sport utility vehicles (SUVs) on car lots as well as mansions under construction in Southern California.
The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) carries out terrorist activities directed at university research centers that use animals in experiments. They also target industries that they believe harm animals. Examples of businesses hit by ALF are mink breeders, trapping supply companies, and biological supply companies that provide dead animals for research and biology classes.
The FBI reported that environmental and animal rights terrorists groups committed fifty-nine criminal acts in the United States in 2003. It also reported that ELF openly claimed that it caused about $55 million in damages to industries in 2003.
Occasionally individuals acting on their own undertake terrorist activities. Their goal may be tied to causes of other terrorist groups even though they do not belong to the group. Although generally considered a political terrorist, some put Timothy McVeigh in this category. Another example of an individual terrorist in the United States is Theodore "Ted" Kaczynski (1942–), known as the "Unabomber."
Between 1978 and 1995 Kaczynski sent sixteen bombs through the mail. They went mostly to science professors and businessmen dealing in computers. Kaczynski believed modern technology, especially computers, were ruining the world. In all, three people were killed and twenty-nine injured. On a tip from his brother, the FBI arrested Kaczynski in April 1996 at the tiny cabin in Montana where he had lived since 1979. In January 1998, Kaczynski pled guilty to being the Unabomber and was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in prison.
Always unexpected, terrorist attacks are meant to instill fear. Since such acts usually attract media attention, details of an attack can reach millions, which is exactly what the terrorists desire. Actions used by terrorists in the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century included kidnapping and assassination, bombings, and airline hijackings. The U.S. government treats all of the actions as criminal activities.
Kidnapping and assassination
Kidnappings and assassinations have always been tools for terrorist groups. Historically, the assassination of a country's leader has been a way to gain maximum notoriety and attention. Assassination of a country's leader, however, rarely brings about the kinds of change terrorists seek. Someone else takes over in the government, and problems carry on.
In the 1970s and 1980s terrorists turned to the kidnapping and assassination of diplomats or government officials. U.S. diplomats were kidnapped and assassinated in Guatemala (1968), Brazil (1969), Uruguay (1970), Sudan (1972), Cyprus (1974), Afghanistan (1979), and Lebanon (1984). By the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s U.S. victims abroad were more likely to be military personnel, agency workers, business executives, and missionaries than diplomats.
On January 23, 2002, protesting Pakistan's cooperation with the United States, terrorists kidnapped and later killed Daniel Pearl (1963–2002), a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. In February, Pakistani officials received a videotape of Pearl's murder. Four suspects in the murder, including Saeed Sheikh, were apprehended and tried. Sheikh had belonged to Jaish-e-Muhammad, a Kashmir separatist group. Sheikh was sentenced to death and the others received life imprisonment.
Another form of kidnapping and assassination involves taking hostages. One of the most infamous hostage dramas occurred in Iran on November 4, 1979. Iranian terrorists seized sixty-six American hostages from the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Thirteen were released quickly but fifty-three were held until January 20, 1981. The hostages were taken in protest of the United States admitting the former shah of Iran into the United States for medical treatment.
Another famous hostage incident occurred on October 7, 1985, aboard an Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Four Palestinian Liberation Front terrorists took more than seven hundred passengers hostage and killed one wheelchair-bound U.S. tourist before the Egyptian government negotiated the release of the passengers.
Many types of bombing incidents have been used by terrorist groups during the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Every year bombing incidents account for the most lives lost and property destroyed at the hands of terrorists. Types of bombings include planting bombs in structures such as embassies, government office buildings, and hotels. Cars and trucks with bombs planted inside are frequently used to kill and destroy property. Beginning in the 1990s, suicide bombings—individuals with bombs strapped to their bodies—became common in the Middle East.
The following are examples of major structural bombings impacting the United States. On April 15, 1983, members of Islamic Jihad terrorist organization drove a truck holding a 440-pound bomb into the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. The suicide truck bombing killed 63 people, including the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's director of Middle East operations, and injured 120. Another Islamic Jihad attack in Beirut came on October 23, 1983, when a suicide truck bomber armed with a 12,000-pound bomb blew up a marine barracks within a U.S. compound. The attack killed 242 Americans.
A car bomb planted by Islamic terrorists detonated in the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City on February 26, 1993. Six people were killed and one thousand injured. The deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, up to that point, occurred in April 1995 when extremists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blew up the U.S. federal building in Oklahoma City. The attack killed 166, many of them young children at a daycare center, and injured hundreds more.
On June 25, 1996, a bomb-rigged fuel truck exploded at the Khobar Towers housing facility in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. service personnel and injuring 515 others, including 240 U.S. citizens. Several Islamic terrorists groups claimed responsibility.
Two bombings of U.S. embassies took place at approximately the same time on August 7, 1998, in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In Nairobi, 291 people including 12 U.S. citizens were killed and over 5,000 were injured. In Dar es Salaam, eighty-seven people including one U.S. citizen were killed. Both U.S. embassies were severely damaged. Osama bin Laden's Islamic terror organization, Al Qaeda, was responsible.
A new twist on bombing occurred on October 12, 2000, when a small boat full of explosives ran into the USS Cole docked in Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed and thirty-nine injured. Al Qaeda was also responsible for the USS Cole bombing.
Suicide bombings. Reports of suicide bombings began about 1996 and were frequent in the early 2000s. At first they were a specialty terrorist action of the Arab-Palestinian terror group HAMAS. By 2002 in addition to HAMAS, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad all regularly claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Israel. Killing themselves and those around them, suicide bombers strap bombs to their bodies and detonate them in crowded shopping areas, cafés, or on buses.
Chemical and Biological Terrorism
In 2004 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) listed chemical and biological agents that could potentially be used to harm whoever comes into contact with them. The CDC has an emergency preparedness and response plan in place so it can coordinate effective actions to counter a chemical or biological attack.
Two chemicals associated with terrorist activity that were in the news worldwide in the late 1990s and early 2000s were sarin and ricin. Sarin is a manmade chemical warfare agent that acts rapidly against the nervous system, making breathing difficult or impossible. Sarin is a clear, colorless, tasteless liquid that does not smell and tiny amounts are deadly. It can be evaporated to a poisonous gas that will spread rapidly when released. Sarin nerve gas was used in a Tokyo, Japan, subway station on March 20, 1995, killing 12 people and injuring 5,700. Japanese terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo claimed responsibility.
Ricin is a natural poison found in castor beans. Ricin can be used in a variety of ways to harm people. It can be breathed as a mist or powder, be swallowed when placed in water or food, and can be injected in liquid form into a person's body. Tiny amounts of ricin can kill an adult. On October 15, 2003, an envelope with a sealed container and a note was found at a Greenville, South Carolina, mail processing and distribution facility.
The author of the note threatened to contaminate water supplies if his or her demands were not met. The CDC confirmed the container held ricin. No ricin-associated poisoning cases developed and no further environmental contamination was found. The FBI and local law enforcement officials were investigating to find the source of the ricin.
By the early twenty-first century governments feared that terrorist groups would find a way to obtain deadly biological agents. Three biological agents of concern are anthrax (a disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis), smallpox (a viral disease), and botulism (a deadly poison made by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum).
Very small amounts of anthrax can be spread in the air and produce upper respiratory problems and even death if inhaled. Inhaled anthrax is the deadliest form of the disease. For example, the U.S. Congress estimates that if two hundred pounds of anthrax was sprayed over Washington, D.C., up to three million people could die.
In October and November 2001 anthrax was used in terrorist activities. Following two deaths in October in Florida, anthrax was sent though the mail to a New York network news journalist and to the Washington, D.C., office of Senate majority leader Tom Daschle. The U.S. Senate building where Daschle's office was located was closed for weeks. Post office machinery used to sort mail was also contaminated. Post offices were closed for inspection and cleaning.
In all, twenty-three people fell ill and five died, including postal workers and individuals whose mail had been contaminated. As of the summer of 2004, the individual or group responsible for the anthrax deaths had not been apprehended.
Arab-Palestinian youngsters are taught from an early age that dying for the cause of eliminating Israelis from Palestine is an honorable action. Suicide bombers are generally young adults, either male or female. By carrying out a suicide bombing the terrorists believe they become martyrs, a person who suffers death for a cause and is rewarded in heaven or paradise.
By the middle of 2004, the United States had not experienced any suicide bombings by an individual terrorist. The 9/11 attacks, however, involved nineteen suicide bombers who boarded and hijacked four U.S. commercial airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania countryside.
Terrorist activities involving airlines
Using various approaches, terrorists have commandeered commercial airplanes full of passengers. The earliest form of terrorist use was to merely hijack (to take control of by using force, especially in order to reach a different destination) an airline and have it fly to a country the hijacker wanted to go. Individuals desiring to go to Cuba from the United States were responsible for a number of these hijackings in the 1960s. At the time, there were no regular airline flights between the United States and Cuba. The first U.S. aircraft hijacked was on May 1, 1961, when Antuilo Ramirez Ortiz, a Puerto Rican, forced pilots at gunpoint to fly to Havana, Cuba. As with subsequent hijackings, hijackers would leave the plane once in Cuba and the airliner would return to the United States without injury to passengers.
By the middle and late 1980s, several dramatic terrorist attacks involved blowing up loaded airliners. Kashmiri were blamed for the 1985 destruction of an Air India Boeing 747 over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 329 people on board. In December 1988 Pan American Airlines Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 on board and 11 people on the ground. In 1991 two intelligence agents from Libya were charged with the act (one was later found guilty and sentenced to life in prison while the other was found not guilty). Yet another bombing by Libyans in September 1989 killed all 170 on board UTA Flight 772 over the Sahara Desert.
The most deadly air hijacking involved the nineteen Al Qaeda terrorists who hijacked four U.S. airliners on September 11, 2001. They then used the fully-fueled airplanes as bombs when two were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The fourth crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers fought the hijackers. The fourth plane was on course for Washington, D.C. A total of 3,047 people died in the attacks—2,823 at the World Trade Center including law enforcement officers and firemen responding to the attack, 184 at the Pentagon, and 40 aboard the airliner that went down in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
The attack led President George W. Bush (1946–; served 2001–) to declare a "War on Terror." He first ordered attacks on Afghanistan where Al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden were headquartered. They were supported and hidden by Afghanistan's Taliban government. The Taliban government fell within weeks but bin Laden was not captured. He was still at large in 2004. President Bush next sent American troops into Iraq in March 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein (1937–) from power and stop Iraq's support of terrorist groups.
The term "counterterrorism" as used by government law enforcement agencies means to fight and stop terrorism. Countering terrorism in the United States post-9/11 falls to many government agencies that must coordinate their efforts and intelligence information, much like putting together the pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle. To oversee homeland security coordination President Bush established the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in October 2001. The president directed DHS to produce the first National Strategy for Homeland Security, which was finished and presented in July 2002. It serves as an overall policy statement for the U.S. government's counterterrorism efforts.
The DHS has the tremendous responsibility of ensuring that the U.S. government's protection and response policies for future terrorist activities are coordinated and effective. In the early 2000s more than one hundred different government organizations had various responsibilities for homeland security and reported to the DHS. The names of only a few of those agencies are the FBI Counter-Intelligence Division, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the National Security Council, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the intelligence departments of the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, army, navy, air force, and marines. In addition, states and local law enforcement agencies have special counterterrorism units that work together with federal agents to identify and neutralize ongoing national security threats.
Terrorist Threat Integration Center
On May 1, 2003, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) began operation in northern Virginia. The entire national counterterrorism divisions of the FBI and CIA relocated to the single facility. FBI and CIA agents and analysts from every major agency in the U.S. intelligence community work side by side, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week analyzing intelligence data. These analysts receive a steady stream of intelligence data gathered in states and cities across the nation and from worldwide sources.
The FBI maintains fifty-six field offices and many smaller offices across the nation. In 2004 sixty-six of these offices had Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs). JTTFs are teams of FBI special agents and state and local law enforcement officers who work together to investigate potential terrorist activity. Local law agencies are considered the "eyes and ears" of intelligence gathering. All leads are funneled immediately to the TTIC for analysis.
The TTIC also receives and sends out continuous information to U.S. intelligence offices worldwide. For example, the FBI maintains forty-five Legal Attaché, or "Legat," offices and four sub-Legat offices around the world. FBI special agents, experts in the foreign country to which they are assigned, help prevent terrorism across international borders that might impact the U.S. homeland.
After one year of operation the TTIC reported in 2004 that another prime source of intelligence information came from questioning captured terrorists. The TTIC gives direction to those sessions and analyzes the information gained. Everyday the TTIC analyzes five to six thousand pieces of information and produces a daily report for the CIA and FBI directors, the president, and senior policymakers. TTIC also sends daily analysis reports to the 2,600 specialists in every major federal agency responsible for counterterrorism activities.
In fall of 2001 following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government established four lists of terrorists and terrorist-related groups. The goal of the lists is to prevent terrorism and halt support of terrorists. The lists are: (1) State Sponsors of Terrorism; (2) Executive Order 13224—Terrorist Financing; (3) Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL) within the USA Patriot Act; and, (4) Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).
The State Sponsors of Terrorism list includes any government that consistently supports groups who carry out international terrorism. Restrictions are placed on these countries for as long as they remain on the list. Restrictions can include a ban on sales of arms to the listed countries, no U.S. economic assistance, and trade restrictions. In 2003 seven countries were on the list: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.
Executive Order 13224 issued on September 23, 2001, enables the U.S. government to block any assets (money) held in any U.S. financial institution that supports designated terrorist groups. Tens of millions of dollars headed for terrorist support have been blocked by the United States and other countries worldwide. The complete Executive Order 13224 list can be found on the U.S. Treasury Web site.
The Terrorist Exclusion List was created within the USA Patriot Act. President Bush signed the Patriot Act, or Public Law 107-56, into law on October 26, 2001. The Patriot Act is the first comprehensive counterterrorism bill since the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The TEL lists organizations known to provide material assistance (money or supplies) to or solicit funds for the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) identified by the U.S. State Department.
The secretary of state compiles a FTO list each year. The FTO list has existed since 1997 but took on a new sense of urgency since the 9/11 attacks. The FTO list provides legal authority for the U.S. government to prosecute U.S. citizens or foreign persons within the United States who financially, materially, or physically aid any FTO. The U.S. government may freeze any FTO assets in U.S. financial institutions, and it may deny entry into the United States to any member of a FTO.
The May 2004 FTO list included thirty-six terrorist organizations and forty-one organizations under Other Terrorist Groups. Those under Other Terrorist Groups are assumed to be less active in terrorist activities than the thirty-six FTOs. The FTOs, including their base country of operation and type of terrorist group, were:
- Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)—Iraq, religious
- Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)—Philippines, nationalistic
- Al Qaeda (The Base)—cells worldwide, formerly
- Afghanistan until fall 2001, religious
- Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade—West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel, nationalistic
- Al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamic Jihad)—originally Egypt, religious
- Ansar al-Islam—northern Iraq near Iran border, religious
- Armed Islamic Group (GIA)—Algeria, religious
- Asbat al-Ansar—Lebanon, religious
- Aum Shinrikyo—Japan and Russia, religious
- Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), Northern Spain and southwest France, nationalistic
- Communist Party of Philippines/New People's Army (CPP/NPA)—Philippines, political
- Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group)—Egypt, religious
- HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)—West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel, nationalistic
- Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)—Pakistan, nationalistic
- Hezbollah (Party of God)—Lebanon and cells worldwide, religious
- Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)—South Asia, Iran, Tajikistan, religious
- Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM)—Pakistan, nationalistic Jemaah Islamiah (JI)—Southeast Asia, religious
- Kahane Chai (Kach)—West Bank, Israel (Jewish group), religious
- Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT)—Pakistan-Kashmir, nationalistic
- Lashkar I Jhangvi (LJ)—Pakistan, religious
- Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE)—Sri Lanka, nationalistic
- Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO)—Iraq near Iran, political
- National Liberation Army (ELN-Columbia)—Columbia, Venezuela, political
- Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel, nationalistic and religious
- Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)—Iran, Lebanon, West Bank, nationalistic
- Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)—Syria, West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Israel, nationalistic
- Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)—Syria, nationalistic
- Real IRA (RIRA)—Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Irish Republic, nationalistic
- Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC)—Colombia, political
- Revolutionary Nuclei—Athens, Greece, political
- Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17 November)—Athens, Greece, political
- Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (RPLP/F)—Turkey, political
- Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)—Algeria, religious
- Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path or SL)—Peru, political
- United Self-Defense Forces/Group of Columbia (AUC)—Columbia, political and economic
(Note: many groups have elements of several types of terrorism such as religious, nationalistic, and political.)
For a complete up-to-date FTO list and more information about each terrorist group, go to the U.S. State Department Web site at http://www.state.gov or Center for Defense Information (CDI) Web site at http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/terrorist.cfm.
For More Information
McGeary, Johanna. "Who's the Enemy Now?" Time, March 29, 2004.
Center for Defense Information (CDI).http://www.cdi.org (accessed on August 19, 2004).
Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control.http://www.cdc.gov (accessed on August 19, 2004).
"Significant Terrorist Incidents, 1961–2003: A Brief Chronology." U.S. Department of State.http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/pubs/fs/5902.htm (accessed on August 19, 2004).
"Terrorism." Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).http://www.fbi.gov/terrorinfo/terrorism.htm (accessed on August 19, 2004).
U.S. Department of Homeland Security.http://www.dhs.gov (accessed on August 19, 2004).
U.S. Department of the Treasury.http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/sanctions/terrorism.html (accessed on September 1, 2004).
"Terrorism." Crime and Punishment in America Reference Library. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-1
"Terrorism." Crime and Punishment in America Reference Library. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-1
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Louis J. Freeh
. . .188 U.S. State Department
. . .201 Al Qaeda
. . .214
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack (known as 9/11) on the United States, the U.S. government named its number one mission as protecting the homeland from future terrorist actions. Prior to 9/11 there was no comprehensive plan for such a mission; immediately after the terrorist attacks the government began developing a plan and the practical steps needed to achieve it.
President George W. Bush (1945–; served 2001–) declared a "War on Terrorism." The American people, industry, and government leaders and agencies focused and cooperated to a degree not seen since World War II (1939–45). Congress passed the USA Patriot Act on October 25, 2001, to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute terrorists and those who gave them support.
An unprecedented coordinated effort between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, and private industry to share information improved protection for the nation's infrastructure. This infrastructure includes both physical and virtual or electronic networks. Physical networks include airline transportation, energy production facilities, seaports, highways, pipelines, railroads, and private industry and government buildings. Virtual networks include complex computer systems and the cyberspace of the Internet.
Many infrastructures function nationwide across the borders of every state and in many cases worldwide. In doing so they operate in multiple law enforcement jurisdictions (areas in which specific agencies have legal authority to make arrests) overseen by many different agencies.
Since the United States operates under a federal system, state governments share power with the federal government. In turn, state governments share power with local governments. The country has more than 87,000 different law enforcement jurisdictions at all levels. Examples of local and state law enforcement agencies are city, county, and state police, and district attorney (government lawyers) offices. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a federal law enforcement agency. Intelligence agencies include the Central Intelligence (CIA), FBI Counterintelligence Division, National Security Agency (NSA), and intelligence departments of the army, navy, air force, and marines.
President Bush created the Office of Homeland Security within the White House in October 2001. The office grew into the cabinet level Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which became fully functional in early 2003. The mission of DHS is to connect, streamline, and unify homeland protection efforts among law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Protection of the homeland also relies by necessity on a global effort against terrorists. After 9/11 a global antiterrorism coalition was created to fight terrorism. This coalition involves countries in every corner of the world. As the first international action in the War on Terrorism, the U.S. military and coalition forces went to Afghanistan and forced out the oppressive Taliban government. The Taliban had been in close collaboration with Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for 9/11.
The first excerpt in this chapter, "Speech by Louis J. Freeh, Director of the FBI" provides insight into U.S. worries about national security in the late 1990s before 9/11. The director of the FBI interestingly describes national security matters as on the "back burner," not law enforcement's number one priority. Freeh states the American people do not feel "imminently threatened with the collapse of infrastructures" and are "not seeing intrusions (attacks) that would alarm them."
Freeh's speech focuses on potential terrorist crimes against computer systems and warns of the potential for future terrorist actions. His heightened concern over criminals carrying out terrorist activities became apparent to all Americans on 9/11.
The next two excerpts, both post-9/11, illustrate how and why U.S. national priorities shifted dramatically by late 2001. "Patterns of Global Terrorism" is the 2002 U.S. State Department report on terrorism. "Patterns of Global Terrorism," the department's annual world terrorism assessment report, describes U.S. policy toward terrorism post-9/11. The third excerpt, "The Al Qaeda Training Manual," provides in chilling detail procedures on how to be a successful al Qaeda terrorist.
"Terrorism." Crime and Punishment in America Reference Library. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-0
"Terrorism." Crime and Punishment in America Reference Library. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-0
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American Citizen Charged in al-Qaeda Plot to Kill President
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, age 23, was charged in late February 2005 in a Virginia federal court for his alleged plot to assassinate President George W. Bush. He was also charged with providing support to al-Qaeda. Abu Ali, an American citizen, allegedly joined al-Qaeda while in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested in Saudi Arabia in June 2003 and was in custody there for more than one and a half years before charges were brought against him.
The United States government has designated al-Qaeda as a foreign terrorist organization. It is illegal to knowingly provide material services or support for the organization, or to attempt or conspire to do so.
Abu Ali's parents moved to the U.S. from Jordan in the 1970s. Ali was born in Houston but was raised in Virginia. His father has worked for many years at the Saudi Embassy. Abu Ali graduated from a private Muslim school in Virginia in 1999, where he was the valedictorian of his class. The school, the Islamic Saudi Academy, is subsidized by the Saudi Arabian government.
Abu Ali traveled to Saudi Arabia to study in 2000. He returned to the U.S. that same year and then visited Saudi Arabia again in the fall of 2002. He was arrested in June 2003 while taking final exams at the Islamic University of Medina.
Authorities searched Abu Ali's Virginia home after his arrest. They seized Arabic tapes promoting jihad and the killing of Jews, an undated document praising the September 11 attacks, a subscription to a handgun magazine, and other items.
The six-count indictment alleges that Abu Ali wanted to "become a planner of terrorist operations like Mohamed Atta and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, well-known al-Qaeda terrorists associated with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001." It charges that Abu Ali provided material support for terrorism and that he trained overseas with al-Qaeda. Eleven unnamed coconspirators are used to support the indictment. The indictment also alleges that Abu Ali discussed shooting President Bush or detonating a car bomb to kill the president, and that one of the co-conspirators gave him a religious blessing for his plans.
Authorities contend that the plot to assassinate the president did not move beyond the discussion stage. They do believe, however, that the threat was serious.
According to FBI agent Barry Cole, Abu Ali told him about various plots during a four-day interrogation in September 2003 in Saudi Arabia. In addition to the assassination plot, Cole testified that Abu Ali told him about other possible plots, including plans to hijack planes and to use them on U.S. targets, a plan to free Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and to destroy U.S. naval ships in port in the United States. Cole said a captured al-Qaeda leader has confirmed the charges against Abu Ali and that the cell leader gave Abu Ali money to purchase books, a cell phone, and a laptop computer. Abu Ali allegedly made those purchases.
The U.S. government charges that Abu Ali also received forgery instruction and weapons training, including instruction in the use of hand grenades and other explosives. According to the indictment, he allegedly wanted to travel to Afghanistan to participate in violence against American military personnel but was unable to obtain a visa to do so.
Cole testified at the detention hearing that Abu Ali had initially asked to have a lawyer present during his interrogation. Ali allegedly backed down from that request when told that he could face Saudi charges or be held as an enemy combatant. Abu Ali's family claims that this was coercion to force him to talk.
After hearing Cole's testimony, U.S. Magistrate Liam O'Grady ordered Abu Ali to be held without bail pending trial. O'Grady called Abu Ali "a grave, grave danger to this community and this nation."
The magistrate indicated that he would reconsider the bail issue if the defense could provide further evidence about certain statements made by FBI Assistant Director Michael Mason. Mason told a Virginia audience in 2004 that he thought that Abu Ali might soon be released—that the government had no interest in prosecuting him.
Defense attorney John Zwerling argued that Abu Ali's confession had been obtained via torture and that Abu Ali had scars on his back from the mistreatment. In a December 2004 ruling, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates indicated that "at least some circumstantial evidence exists" that Abu Ali had been tortured and that U.S. officials had knowledge of this. Saudi and American authorities denied at the February hearing that Abu Ali had been tortured.
Zwerling further contended that Abu Ali had only been charged after Abu Ali's parents had brought a civil suit to seek further information about his detention in Saudi Arabia. Abu Ali's family claimed that the United States was behind his arrest and detention by Saudi officials. The family tried unsuccessfully to have Abu Ali returned to the United States. Eventually, in an unannounced move, the U.S. government secretly brought him back and indicted him. Judge Bates ordered the government to explain the role that the United States played in his detention.
At his arraignment in mid March, Abu Ali pleaded not guilty and sought "immediate access to medical, psychological and forensic experts to examine and evaluate" his claims that his confession had been obtained through torture. He claimed that Saudi authorities had whipped him across his back, and he offered affidavits from people who claimed to have seen the scars. The court ordered that Abu Ali be given an independent medical exam to corroborate or refute his claims of torture.
The charges could result in Abu Ali's imprisonment up to 80 years. An August 2005 trial date was set.
Congress Approves Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act
On December 17, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, Pub. L. No. 108-458, 118 Stat. 3638, into law. The new statute created a director to oversee U.S. intelligence gathering and to make other changes that were recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. While some lawmakers said that the legislation was necessary, other members of Congress said that the statute did not go far enough to achieve effective reform.
The September 11th attacks on the United States left many people concerned about the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence operations. Intelligence duties often fell under several different agencies within the U.S. government, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In 2002, Congress approved the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, Pub. L. No. 107-306, 116 Stat. 2383, which included a number of provisions related to the funding of U.S. intelligence efforts. Title VI of the statute established the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, better known as the 9/11 Commission.
Congress charged the commission with examining and reporting on the facts related to the September 11th attacks. The commission was required to gather, evaluate, and report on information related to the attack that had been collected by existing government agencies. The commission was then required to "make a full and complete accounting of the circumstances surrounding the attacks, and the extent of the United States' preparedness for, and immediate response to, the attacks…." The commission was required to submit its findings, conclusions, and recommendations in a report to Congress and the President.
The commission consisted of ten members, including five Democrats and five Republicans. The commission thoroughly investigated the events leading up to the attacks released its final report 21 months later, and made a number of discoveries about the causes of the attacks. According to the commission's executive summary of its final report, "The most important failure was one of imagination. We do not believe leaders understood the gravity of the threat. The terrorist danger from [Osama] Bin Laden and al-Qaeda was not a major topic for policy debate among the public, the media, or in the Congress. Indeed, it barely came up during the 2000 presidential campaign."
Additionally, the commission determined that a series of failures had led to the success of the attacks. These failures involved diplomacy, the intelligence community, the FBI, immigration control, aviation security, homeland defense, emergency response, and Congress. The report indicated that the U.S. is safer now than it was prior to 9/11, but it noted, "[W]e are not safe."
The commission made a series of recommendations designed to provide greater protection against future terrorist attacks. Some recommendations included attacking terrorists and their organizations, preventing the continued growth of Islamic terrorism, and protecting the U.S. against terrorist attacks. As to the specific means by which the U.S. could protect itself, the commission recommended a reorganization of agencies responsible for combating terrorism and collecting intelligence.
More specifically, the commission recommended the establishment of a National Counterterrorism Center and a new cabinet official with the title of National Intelligence Director. The new cabinet member would oversee the National Counterterrorism Center and would have three deputies. One deputy would be the head of the CIA and would oversee foreign intelligence efforts. Two other deputies would administer defense and homeland intelligence efforts. The commission's goal in recommending these changes was to unify the efforts of the federal government in protecting against future attacks.
In response to the commission's report, both the Senate and House of Representative considered bills that would implement the commission's proposals. Senator Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) introduced S. 2845, which passed by a vote of 96-2 on October 6, 2004. During the same period of time, the House considered H.R. 10, which was introduced by J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). The House approved this bill by a vote of 282-134 on October 8, 2004.
The House and Senate disagreed as to the level of authority to give to the new director of national intelligence. On October 16, the chambers appointed a conference committee to resolve the differences. In December 2004, the House and Senate received the conference committee report. Despite misgivings by some members of both chambers, the bill passed the House and Senate on December 7 and December 8, 2004, respectively.
The new legislation followed most of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The statute established the position of Director of National Intelligence and established a National Counterterrorism Center. The act further doubled the number of border patrol agents over a five-year period, allowed officials to wiretap certain terror suspects, and imposed new standards related to information that must be contained in driver's licenses.
Much of the criticism of the new statute was directed at the position of intelligence director. During negotiations between the House and Senate, the chambers agreed that the new official would not be a member of the president's cabinet. Bush's statements when he signed the legislation indicated that the basic structure of the current intelligence agencies would remain intact. "The new law will preserve the existing chain of command and leave all our intelligence agencies, organizations, and offices in their current departments," Bush said. "Our military commanders will continue to have quick access to the intelligence they need to achieve victory on the battlefield, and the law supports our efforts to ensure greater information sharing among federal departments and agencies, and also with appropriate state and local authorities."
One significant difference between the commission's recommendations and the final legislation was that the intelligence director does not oversee the National Counterterrorism Center. Instead, this center has own director who reports directly to the president. Several commentators noted that the new intelligence director's effectiveness will depend upon the power given to him or her by the president. According to retired Navy Admiral Stansfield Turner, who served director of the CIA under President Jimmy Carter, "Unless the president really gets behind the new director and, in effect, tells the [agency heads] they've got to cede authority" to the new director, then the intelligence director will likely have problems.
In February 2005, Bush nominated John D. Negroponte to serve as the new intelligence director. Negroponte had previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. The Senate confirmed Negroponte in April 2005, and he took office later that month. By the first week of May, he had hired several deputies and dozens of staff members. One of Negroponte's more significant tasks has been to brief the president on intelligence efforts, a task formerly handled by the director of the CIA.
Saudi Arabian Computer Scientist Acquitted of Patriot Act Violations
In June 2004, a Saudi Arabian computer science expert was acquitted of charges that he had used the Internet to help terrorists raise money and to recruit followers. Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, a 34-year-old Ph.D. candidate in computer science at the University of Idaho, was charged under the Patriot Act, which makes it illegal to provide expert advice or assistance to terrorists. Following a seven-week trial, a federal jury in Idaho acquitted Al-Hussayen on three terrorism charges, one count of making a false statement, and two counts of visa fraud . The terrorism charges carried a potential imprisonment of 15 years for each count.
Congress passed the Patriot Act in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. In addition to making it a crime to help terrorists, the act broadens the government's powers of surveillance and detention. Critics have charged that the Patriot Act infringes upon First Amendment rights and that in this case Al-Hussayen was targeted not for his own speech but for passing along the speech of others.
Authorities arrested Al-Hussayen in February 2003. He remained in jail until his trial, where he worked on his doctorate in his cell. Prosecutors charged that he had used his computer expertise to set up and run web sites that contained religious edicts that justified suicide bombings. The web sites also sought financial assistance for the militant Palestinian organization Hamas, and attempted to recruit new Muslim terrorists, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors linked Al-Hussayen to more than a dozen web sites that praised suicide attacks in Chechnya, Israel, and other places. Al-Hussayen contended that the web sites also contained postings that decried the violence. He also said that he was personally opposed to violence and that he condemned the attacks of September 11.
In his defense, Al-Hussayen said that his involvement with the creation of the material posted had been minimal; he had only been a volunteer who had maintained the web sites, but had had little, if anything, to do with the content posted on them. Moreover, his attorneys argued that freedom of expression, under the First Amendment, protected the material and that the information was not intended to raise money or to recruit extremists.
Al-Hussayen's attorneys called just one witness, Frank Anderson, a former CIA agent who had worked in covert operations in the Middle East for many years. Anderson testified that the web sites had little to do with the recruitment of terrorists. He said that recruitment relied upon a charismatic type who could build a personal relationship with a potential terrorist. He said that relationship was crucial in order to convince people to go against their normal inclinations and to be convinced to kill women and children. In response, prosecutors maintained that Anderson's experience with terrorists had ended when he left the CIA in 1995—just as the Internet was poised to take on a much larger role in disseminating information throughout the world.
Anderson testified that much of the material, including the religious edicts, could be found in many places on the Internet and elsewhere. He told jurors that some it was available through the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, operated by the U.S. government. He said that one of the web sites categorically condemned the use of terror.
The prosecution introduced hundreds of documents that showed the provocative nature of the material posted on the web sites. Defense attorneys argued the material failed to establish that Al-Hussayen actually supported terrorism.
Over objection by the defense, the trial judge granted jurors permission to view the web sites in question. In making his ruling, Judge Edward Lodge agreed that the material was prejudicial, but he said that it was up to the jury to weigh its evidentiary value. Prosecutors argued that Al-Hussayen knew that the information posted on the web sites encouraged people to become terrorists or to provide monetary support. Trial testimony established that the material had been posted to the Internet from Al-Hussayen's home computer, although others might have had access to the computer as well.
The jury deliberated nearly a week before reaching its decision. After the verdict was announced, one of the jurors commented on the government's lack of hard evidence to convince the jury that Al-Hussayen was a terrorist. The juror said that the prosecution's case was based on inference.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict on three other false-statement charges and five counts of visa fraud. The judge declared a mistrial on those charges. In lieu of a retrial, Al-Hussayen agreed to be deported to Saudi Arabia. His wife and children returned to Saudi Arabia earlier in 2004, instead of contesting deportation. Al-Hussayen reportedly is the son of Saudi Arabia's retired education minister and comes from a prominent Riyadh family.
After the trial, Al-Hussayen's attorneys claimed that the government's zeal in prosecuting him could have resulted in inspiring more enemies of the United States. The Idaho U.S. Attorney's Office responded that an acquittal did not mean that the charges should not have been brought at all.
Conviction of Attorney Lynn Stewart
Long known for representing unpopular defendants, attorney Lynn F. Stewart found herself on the wrong side of the bench when she became a federal felon in February 2005 and was automatically disbarred from practicing law. After a widely followed, seven-month trial, the public defender was convicted by a federal jury in Manhattan of providing material aid to Islamic terrorism, conspiracy, defrauding the government, and making false statements to the government (technically, two counts of conspiring to provide material aid to terrorists, and three counts of perjury and defrauding the government). She faced up to 30 years in prison for the five felony counts.
Having practiced law in New York for 30 years, the 65-year-old Stewart was a self-proclaimed "radical human rights lawyer" who publicly professed her belief in armed revolutionary struggle. She legally defended controversial clients such as the Black Panthers, various accused terrorists, drug dealers, and police killers. Her troubles began after her legal defense
of Sheik Abdel Rahman in a 1995 trial that resulted in his conviction. He is now serving a life sentence for inspiring a thwarted 1993 plot to bomb the United Nations building, the FBI building in Manhattan, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and other New York landmarks. He also promoted the assassination of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak. Following his conviction and imprisonment, his followers issued a series of threats against the United States, demanding his release.
Stewart and two other defendants, Ahmed Abdel Sattar and Mohammed Yousry, were accused of scheming to obtain Rahman's release. Following his conviction, Rahman was placed in solitary confinement in a maximum-security facility in Colorado. Special prosecutorial administrative rules prohibited Rahman from communicating with anyone outside of prison except for his wife and his lawyers. As his attorney, Stewart signed several documents pledging to obey the federal rules that barred her client from communicating with his followers.
Instead, she was accused of trying to cover up secret conversations between Rahman and his followers and of smuggling messages to and from him during her visits with him. Secret government audio recordings and videotapes confirmed Stewart's role in the message-relaying. At one point, she took a message from Islamic Group members to Rahman, and later received a message from Rahman in response. She then called a media reporter and read him the statement, hoping to make a public announcement that the sheik did not support the cease-fire between the Egyptian government and the Islamic Group, a fundamentalist organization that carried out terrorist attacks on tourists and police officers.
Stewart did not deny her actions. There was little dispute over the facts, and Stewart readily acknowledged that she had violated government regulations. However, proving the commission of the acts was only half of the prosecution's case. The other half was proving that she had committed a crime.
According to defendant Stewart, her conduct represented nothing more than the zealous representation of her client. The difficult issue that the jury had to assess was the extent to which an attorney could aggressively represent a convicted terrorist client without crossing the line into criminal behavior.
In the case before U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl, jurors concentrated on evidence that went to the question of whether Stewart intended to help the sheik's terrorist disciples. They also focused on evidence showing that Stewart knowingly violated the prison rules aimed at preventing Rahman from communicating messages of violence to the outside world. (Stewart's co-defendant, Fattar, later issued a fatwa urging followers to kill Jews everywhere.) In addition to over 1,300 exhibits presented by prosecutors (mostly transcripts of the audio and video recordings), jurors were shown a videotape of Osama bin Laden vowing to "spill blood" unless Stewart's client, Rahman, was released from prison. While on the witness stand during the trial, Stewart sometimes appeared deaf to questions about the violent anti-American preachings of her client. Testifying on her own behalf, she told jurors that she was acting within a lawyer's "bubble" to defend her client as she saw best.
Because of the terror charges at trial, the chosen jury (consisting of eight women and four men) served anonymously and were identified by number only. After 12 days of deliberation, the jury concluded that by becoming the conduit for communications between Rahman and his terrorist Islamic guerrillas, Stewart had crossed the line. Stewart, on the other hand, later told students at NYU School of Law that "[t]he government moved the line." (She had been released on bail pending her sentencing hearing scheduled for September 2005.)
Stewart's conviction on five counts of aiding terrorism raised many questions among legal scholars and practitioners about the line between vigorous defense of a client and conspiring with terrorists. As Steven Lubet, director of Northwestern University's program on advocacy and professionalism, stated in an article for the Washington Post, "There is nothing about 'vigorous defense' that requires a lawyer to facilitate her client's political goals. This case has nothing to do with zealous defense." Said Peter Margulies, law professor at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island who studies terrorism cases, "I think the evidence suggested that Lynn Stewart had crossed the line."
As for Stewart, she vowed to appeal her conviction. Tearful and pale at the rendering of the verdict, she became indignant and unrepenting shortly thereafter, offering no apologies and telling a group of reporters outside the courtroom that she would do it again. "I see myself as a symbol of what people rail against when they say that civil liberties are eroded," she told them.
"Terrorism." American Law Yearbook 2005. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/legal-and-political-journals/terrorism
"Terrorism." American Law Yearbook 2005. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/legal-and-political-journals/terrorism
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American Psychological Association
TERRORISM.TERRORISM AND COMMUNIST REVOLUTION
MIDDLE EAST TERRORISM
AL QAEDA AND ITS AFFILIATES
Terrorism has a well established placed in modern European history. Although scholars argue over the precise definition of terrorism, most agree that it involves the use of violence to spread fear and so compel individuals, groups, or a government to behave in a certain way. Terrorism targets not only those whom it kills and maims but also those who observe the mayhem as well. While states have historically been the main and the most extensive employers of terror, primarily to keep their own people in line, the term terrorism has generally been reserved for nonstate actors. The very illegitimacy of the perpetrators shapes the popular perception of terrorism, as does the targeting of innocent civilians. Although terrorists do not care whom they kill, their choice of targets is far from random. Terrorists deliberately choose highly symbolic targets to achieve the maximum psychological effect when they strike.
THE MADRID BOMBINGS
On 11 March 2004 Spain suffered the worst terrorist attack in European history since the 1972 Munich Olympics. During morning rush hour 10 bombs exploded on 4 commuter trains killing 177, mortally wounding 13, and leaving nearly 1,500 injured. The perpetrators had not been suicide bombers. Instead they had placed back packs filled with explosives on the trains, disembarked, and detonated the bombs using cell phones.
No one doubted that the explosions had been carried out by terrorists, but two groups immediately emerged as suspects. Prime Minister JoséMaria Aznar quickly blamed Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom), known to the rest of the world by its initials, ETA. Other than the explosives used in the bombs, however, nothing about the attacks bore the signature of the Basque separatist group that had plagued Spain for decades. ETA espoused Marxism and so would be unlikely to attack trains packed with working-class Spaniards. Like most insurgent groups, ETA avoided inflicting mass casualties. ETA had also declared a truce.
These factors and evidence that later emerged led experts to conclude that the attacks had been perpetrated by an Al Qaeda affiliate. Al Qaeda specia lized in multiple, near-simultaneous attacks designed to produce mass casualties. Because of its contribu tion to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, Spain became a legitimate target and its proximity to Morocco made it a tempting one. An attack launched on the eve of a Spanish election also fit Al Qaeda's preference for striking on symbolic dates.
Any doubt as to the affiliation of the terrorists disappeared on 3 April when Spanish security forces raided a Madrid apartment building. Faced with cer tain capture the five Moroccans, one Tunisian, and one Algerian in the apartment detonated their remaining explosives, killing themselves along with a Spanish policeman. In the rubble of the building, the authorities found a video in which three men issued an ultimatum to the Spanish government demanding its withdrawal from Iraq. Ironically, the newly elected socialist government, swept into power by anger over Aznar's handling of the Madrid bombings, announced its decision to with draw Spanish troops from the coalition. Al Qaeda then issued a statement proclaiming that Spain would no longer be attacked. The United States in turn criticized the Spanish government for "knuck ling under to terrorism."
Beneath this twisted and largely inaccurate interpre tation of events loomed a disturbing new reality. The terrorist group named in the captured video, the Al Mufti and Ansar Al Qaeda brigades, had been virtually unheard of before the attack. Created by Serhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, a convicted drug dealer who had been radica lized in prison, the group apparently existed solely to carry out the Spanish bombings. It funded itself and neither received nor needed much direction from Al Qaeda, although the umbrella organization certainly approved its actions. The ability of a terrorist organization that had morphed into an ideological movement capable of gen erating new cells and organizations with limited or no direction from the central organization represented a new threat that would manifest itself in London sixteen months after Madrid.
The attack had one positive effect. Madrid shook the European Union out of its lethargy. After 11 March, the European Union began to take the terrorist threat seriously. The attacks led to The Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism.
What the historian Eric Hobsbawm calls "the short twentieth century" (Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991) actually began with one of the most infamous acts of terrorism in European history. On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip (1894–1918), a member of the Serbian secret society the Black Hand, assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand (1863–1914), the heir
THE LONDON BOMBINGS
At 8:57 a.m. on 7 July 2005 terrorists detonated three bombs on rush-hour commuter trains in the central London Underground. Fifty minutes later a fourth bomb ripped apart a double-decker bus, erasing any remaining doubt that the explosions represented a well-coordinated attack. Fifty-six people died in the incident, including all four suicide bombers, and seven hundred were injured. Two weeks later another terrorist cell attacked the London Underground again. This time the bombs failed to detonate. Initially, the attacks seemed to provide further evidence of Al Qaeda's irrepressible commitment to violence and its unlimited resource fulness in carrying it out. Closer examination of the attacks, however, reveals a more complex picture and the British response seems far more impressive than terrorist success. Nonetheless, the terrorists did plan and execute a complex operation. Analysis of this attack reveals a great deal about the evolving nature of the Al Qaeda threat and the importance of effective response to mitigate the consequences of an incident.
In many respects the terrorist cell launched a carefully planned and well-executed attack. The cell kept its identity and intentions hidden from Britain's superb intelligence services during the months of planning that preceded the operation. Al Qaeda had evolved into a highly decentralized organization in which local cells form for a specific mission and disappear in carrying it out. They required little direction or support from the umbrella organization. Surveillance camera foot age examined after the incident revealed that the suicide bombers carefully rehearsed the strike well in advance. On the day of the attack three of the terrorists detonated their bombs at almost the same time. The fourth bomber may have improvised a plan because he found his target Underground station closed for repairs. In addition to causing ser ious loss of life, injury, and economic dislocation, the terrorists timed the attacks to coincide with the G-8 Summit that was being held in Scotland at the time and the attacks immediately followed the announce ment that London had been chosen as an Olympic venue for 2012.
The success of the operation does not, how ever, hide some very amateur mistakes made in planning and carrying it out. As deadly as the attacks proved to be, they might have been much worse. The terrorists detonated two of their bombs in "cut-and-cover" underground tunnels. In these older lines dug very near the surface, trains pass each other moving in opposite directions on parallel tracks. The adjacent empty track allowed the two blasts to dissi pate, thus reducing their effect. The one bomb deto nated in a deep, single-track tunnel accounted for twenty-six of the fifty-six fatalities. The terrorists, who lived in the English Midlands, probably lacked accu rate information on the construction of different Underground tunnels. They also left behind a great deal of physical evidence, including their car contain ing more bomb materials.
Terrorist mistakes notwithstanding, the London Metropolitan Police and emergency responders deserve a lot of credit for mitigating the conse quences of the attack. They quickly cordoned off the affected area, rapidly evacuated the central London Underground, effectively triaged the wounded and sent them to several hospitals (to avoid overloading any one of them), and promptly shut down the cell phone network to prevent the possible use of mobile phones to detonate a bomb. Without such an effective response, devel oped and constantly improved through years of practice during the Irish Republican Army's campaign of terrorism in the United Kingdom, many more people might have died.
The subsequent investigation by the security services (police, Scotland Yard, and British intelli gence) proved to be equally impressive. The authorities quickly developed an accurate picture of the terrorist cell and its connection to the Al Qaeda organization. Such detective work paid divi dends following the 21 July attacks, when the authorities rolled up the cell that tried to bomb the Underground on that day, and will probably aide future operations against Al Qaeda. In the final analysis though, the terrorists received their big gest setback from the citizens of London, who, refusing to be cowed by the violence, got up, dusted themselves off, and got on with their lives. In their banner headlines, the evening newspapers delivered the final blow to Al Qaeda, declaring what the terrorists had hoped to avoid: "London is open for business."
apparent to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The terrorist organization believed that the province, which had been annexed by the Habsburg Monarchy, rightfully belonged to Serbia. The assassination unleashed a chain of events that sparked the First World War, but it would not have done so had not years of rising militarism, entangling alliances, and diplomatic crises made the Great Powers receptive to war as necessary and perhaps inevitable. Without these preconditions, the murder of the archduke would have been no different from the assassinations of Tsar Alexander II (r. 1855–1881) of Russia in 1881 or President William McKinley (1843–1901) of the United States twenty years later: shocking but wholly ineffective at producing lasting change. Viewed in this light, Gavrilo Princip should be considered the last of the nineteenth-century anarchists, not the first of the twentieth-century terrorists.
The ineffectiveness of individual terrorist acts, no matter how dramatic, led Vladimir Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov; 1870–1924) to reject them explicitly. In his 1901 essay, "Where to Begin?" Lenin explained that while he did not reject terror per se, violence independent of revolutionary organization and propaganda would accomplish nothing. For the father of Soviet communism, timing was everything. Isolated acts of violence perpetrated before the proletariat had been prepared for true revolution were at best futile and at worst self-serving acts of petit-bourgeois gratification that could actually delay communism because of the repression that they inevitably provoked.
Terror in the service of revolution, however, was another matter. Lenin willingly used terror to obtain and maintain power, and his successor Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) took state terrorism to an unprecedented level. Stalin ruthlessly suppressed opposition and then turned repression on the general population, sending hundreds of thousands to certain death in the forced labor camps of the gulag system and summarily executing tens of thousands more. Terrorism became so pervasive that the secret police received quotas of "counterrevolutionaries" to apprehend, a grim reminder that states have historically been the worst perpetrators of terror.
Another use of terror Lenin would have approved had he lived to see it was in support of "wars of national liberation." Contrary to current notions, insurgency and terrorism are not synonyms. Insurgents will make use of terror as one weapon in an arsenal, but they do not engage in terror for terror's sake. Insurgency, as practiced during the first half of the twentieth century, was a revolutionary movement to gain control of a state from within. Through a combination of propaganda, guerrilla warfare, and terrorism, insurgents sought to attack the both the legitimacy of a government and its ability to function. Building on discontents within a population, insurgents used propaganda to persuade people that government could not meet their needs and that regime change was necessary. Insurgents also organized guerrillas, bands of irregular fighters operating out of uniform and in loose formations, to attack police and small military units in hit-and-run raids. After an attack, insurgent guerrillas melted back into the general population in which they hid. Such attacks often sought to provoke the government into conducting indiscriminate reprisals that encouraged more support for the insurgency. Insurgents used terror both to spread fear among those who supported the government and to keep their own supporters in line. Because insurgents begin from a position of relative weakness, insurgency is by definition protracted war.
Because guerrillas have traditionally lacked the legitimacy of regular forces, threatened states have often labeled them as "terrorists." The same label as has been applied to partisans or resistance fighters. Like insurgent guerrillas, partisans operate out of uniform and hide within the general population. Rather than support a revolutionary movement, however, they seek to repel an invader occupying their country and often coordinate efforts with their own regular forces and/or those of their allies. During World War II, resistance movements and partisan bands sprang up all over Nazi-occupied Europe. On the eastern front the retreating Soviet army left stay-behind bands to harass German forces, interdict supply lines, and attack the enemy wherever possible. These units often operated in forested areas of Ukraine and Byelorussia.
In more urbanized western Europe, resistance groups operated in towns and cities, maintaining regular jobs and devoting off hours to fighting the occupation. Although resistance fighters would carry out military missions and assassinate German officers, their real contribution lay in the intelligence they provided allied forces massing in England. This intelligence proved valuable to the planners of Operation Overlord, the June 1944 invasion of Normandy. In preparation for the landings, resistance groups conducted diversionary raids and interdicted supply lines along the French coast and into the Low Countries. For the remainder of the war they harassed the retreating Germans and helped liberate Europe.
Resistance to Nazi occupation, however, came at a steep price. The Germans practiced a policy of schrechlichkeit (terror) throughout occupied Europe. They tortured captured agents for information and summarily executed one hundred hostages for each German killed by the Resistance. In retaliation for the assassination of SS Lieutenant General Reinhardt Heidrich by Czech partisans in 1942, the Nazis destroyed the entire village of Lidice and murdered its inhabitants, men, women, and children. Such brutal repression limited the effectiveness of many resistance movements.
Those considered terrorists by the Nazi occupiers have gone down in the histories of their respective countries as freedom fighters. Without equating World War II resistance fighters with Al Qaeda, the experience of occupied Europe serves as a reminder that whether one is or is not labeled a terrorist depends at least to some degree on the perspective of the labeler.
The end of World War II saw many resistance groups morph into insurgent revolutions. In former Yugoslavia, partisans associated with Josip Broz Tito (1892–1980) seized power in the wake of retreating Axis armies. Throughout Europe's colonial empires but particularly in Asia, Marxist-Leninist ideology blended with anticolonial nationalism to produce highly effective insurgencies. Many insurgent leaders sought to emulate Mao Zedong (1893–1976), who seized control of China using his own brand of communist insurgency, the "People's War." In a decades-long struggle Mao gained support among China's impoverished peasants, gained control of ever expanding rural areas, and then used these areas as a base to "drown the cities" in a sea of mobilized peasants. Mao described his insurgents as fish swimming in this sea of peasant support. He proposed a strategy evolving through four phases from propaganda through conventional war. Variations of his approach would guide communist insurgents for decades to come.
One such practitioner was Ho Chi Minh (1890–1969) of Vietnam, then called "French Indochina." Having fought to expel the Japanese for four years, Ho was not about to hand his country back to the French. His Vietminh organization conducted a highly effective Maoist insurgency, assassinating pro-French village leaders, while the colonial forces lay cooped up in cities and fortified garrisons, out of touch with the Vietnamese people. Like Mao, Ho bided his time until his forces could challenge the French in open battle. His opportunity came in 1954 when the French established a remote fortified outpost at Dien Bien Phu. By interdicting an important Vietminh supply route, the French hoped to draw the insurgent general Vo Nguyen Giap's (b. 1912) forces into battle and destroy them with superior French firepower. Instead Giap besieged the outpost, overran its airstrip, and forced the garrison to surrender. This humiliating defeat led to French withdrawal from Indochina, which was divided into communist North and democratic South Vietnam. Determined to check the spread of communism in Southeast Asia, the United States backed the South, first with supplies and advisors and then with American forces. A long, costly, and demoralizing war ended with American withdrawal in 1973 and the unification of Vietnam under communist rule in 1975.
While insurgents drove the French from Indochina and the Dutch from the East Indies, the British in Malaya and Singapore fared better. Faced with a communist insurgency after retaking the colonies from the Japanese, they devised a comprehensive strategy to defeat the insurgents and establish a democratic, pro-Western government. Based on the concept of winning the hearts and minds of disaffected people, this strategy combined economic, political, and social reform with limited military force. The British improved living conditions for the Chinese peasants among whom the insurgents operated, offered them citizenship, and promised Malaya independence. These improvements encouraged many to support the government and even to provide intelligence on the insurgents operating in the jungle. This low-cost, long-haul approach took twelve years to succeed, but it produced decisive results. Building on their success in Malaya, the British defeated the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya during the 1950s. In the period 1970–1975 they helped the government of Oman defeat a communist insurgency in Dhofar province.
Elsewhere in their empire, the British had less success. A three-year insurgency spearheaded by the Irgun Zvai Leumi but tacitly backed by the Jewish Agency led them to withdraw from Palestine in 1948. During the conflict the Irgun perpetrated one of the most dramatic terrorist acts of the postwar period, the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Despite a warning to evacuate the building, some ninety people died in the attack. In combating the insurgents, the British found that tactics that had worked well in the Malayan jungles proved less effective in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Political pressure from the administration of U.S. president Harry Truman (1884–1972) on behalf of the Zionists restrained the British from being firmer than they might have been. At the end of the day, however, they saw little in Palestine worth the cost of a protracted struggle and handed the League of Nations mandate over to its successor, the United Nations.
As the Palestine campaign illustrated, urban insurgency is far more challenging than its rural counterpart, a lesson reinforced by the British campaign in Cyprus (1954–1959) and the French campaign in Algeria (1954–1962). In both cases the security forces had more success in the countryside than they did in the cities. The British achieved a limited victory, never actually defeating the insurgents but preventing them from gaining control of the island. The French responded to insurgent terror with state terror of their own, using torture to gain intelligence on the insurgent organization and its members. Public condemnation of such tactics made the campaign untenable, as did the realization that France had little to gain from continued hostility. The government of Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970) bowed to the inevitable and gave Algeria independence.
While most national liberation movements ended with the demise of European empires by 1970, two campaigns persist in the early twenty-first century. A separatist movement in the Basque region of Spain demands independence from Madrid and creation of a new state out of Basque provinces in Spain and France. In Northern Ireland, Catholic insurgents have revived the dream of reuniting the six counties of the North with the twenty-six counties of the Irish Republic, created in 1921. Both movements have made extensive use of terror to achieve their objectives.
"Basque Fatherland and Liberty," better known as "ETA" from the acronym formed by its Basque name, began its campaign of violence in the 1960s. ETA drew support from a Basque population deprived of its language, culture, and institutions by the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1892–1974) and sympathy from a Spanish population unhappy with the regime. Initially, ETA violence followed the insurgent pattern of attacks on police and government institutions within the Basque region itself and in the Spanish capital. The insurgents achieved their greatest success with the assassination of Admiral Louis Carrero Blanco, Franco's hand-picked successor, in 1973. This crowning achievement also began the decline in ETA's fortunes. A return to democracy followed Franco's death in 1974. A new Spanish constitution granted the Basque provinces limited autonomy. Basque language and culture revived, and still the violence continued. A bombing that killed twenty-one in Barcelona in 1987 produced widespread outrage and national protests against what most Spaniards now considered mere terrorism devoid of any reasonable political objectives. An extradition treaty with France deprived ETA of its safe haven in Basque territory across the Pyrenees, and a government crackdown reduced the organization's effectiveness. ETA declared a ceasefire in 1998, and many considered the organization finished. However, the Madrid train bombings of 11 March 2004 raised the disturbing possibility that a new generation of ETA members had joined forces with Al Qaeda.
Conditions in Northern Ireland during the 1960s had much in common with those in Spain. A Catholic minority population suffering systematic discrimination in what had become a Protestant-dominated apartheid state rose up in the summer of 1969. What began as a civil rights movement quickly transitioned into a nationalist insurgency, as a revived "Provisional" Irish Republic Army (PIRA) gained control of Catholic neighborhoods. PIRA launched a systematic campaign of terror that would last thirty years. Beginning with attacks on police and British soldiers in the province, it expanded to the British mainland and even attacked the United Kingdom's NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces on the Continent. Protestant paramilitaries responded to the PIRA threat and launched their own terrorist campaign against the Catholic community. After a rocky start marked by horrific blunders such as the Bloody Sunday massacre (1972), the British security forces developed effective counterinsurgency methods and fought PIRA to a draw by the early 1990s. This stalemate created the opportunity for a political settlement. Sinn Féin, PIRA's political wing, and the British government agreed to a cease-fire in 1994, which led to the 1998 Good Friday Accords. With a few setbacks a fragile peace has been maintained ever since.
Not all postwar terrorism served national liberation or anticolonial movements. Some organizations committed acts of terror in the service of broad ideological agendas rather than specific, attainable political goals. A wave of such terror swept Europe during the 1960s, perpetrated by a generation of disillusioned middle-class youth. In Germany the Red Army Faction (RAF), better known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang for two colorful leaders (Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof), launched a campaign based on Marxism and aimed to rid Germany of perceived Nazi influences. The RAF assassinated industrial leaders, staged bombings, and perpetrated bank robberies. Sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, the group forged links with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) with whom it hijacked an Air France flight to Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976. With abstract ideology and broad, diffuse goals, the movement failed to attract enough new followers to stay in business. The movement also suffered a serious setback with the suicide of Baader in 1977 but continued sporadic attacks until 1991. With most of its leaders dead or in prison, the RAF officially dissolved itself in 1998.
Italy's Red Brigades followed the pattern of Baader-Meinhof, racking Italy with a campaign of bombings and assassinations in the 1970s. For both groups, terror became not a means to an end but an end in itself. With little real prospect of success, which they could hardly even define, attacks seemed to validate a heroic if hopeless struggle. Like their German counterpart, the Red Brigades perpetrated a series of bombings and assassinations to which the Italian government responded half-heartedly. The situation changed dramatically with abduction and murder of the former prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978. The heinous act outraged the Italian people and raised the Red Brigades from a nuisance to a serious threat. The assassination prodded the government into decisive action. A concerted counterterrorism campaign by the Carabinieri led to a series of arrests that left the organization shattered by 1982.
The Dutch faced a brief but intense episode of terrorism in 1977, when South Moluccan immigrants living in the Netherlands launched a campaign to prevent annexation of their homeland by Indonesia. They wished to publicize their cause and seemed to believe, rather oddly, that the Netherlands could still influence events in its former colony. The campaign reached a climax in June, when terrorists seized a Dutch commuter train and school. Dutch Royal Marines stormed the train, killing all six terrorists and freeing the hostages, while another unit liberated the school, freed the hostages, and captured the terrorists without loss of life.
Greece has faced more than its share of terrorist attacks, most from domestic groups entwined in the country's complex politics. Two organizations, the 17 November Group and the Revolutionary People's Struggle (ELA) have operated since the 1970s. The groups have since concentrated on attacks aimed at forcing Greece out of NATO and NATO forces out of Greece.
Greece's NATO ally and sometime adversary Turkey has also faced considerably more terrorism than other European nations. By far its greatest threat comes from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Marxist ethnic separatist movement seeking independence for the Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey and its eventual union with adjoining Kurdish regions in Syria, Iran, and Iraq. Formed in 1974, PKK has conducted an insurgent campaign in Kurdish areas and terrorist attacks throughout Turkey and against Turkish targets abroad. The Turks have long maintained that some European governments turn a blind eye to PKK activities on their soil and accuse Greece of actually abetting the organization. Islamist extremist groups, some linked to Al Qaeda, compound Turkey's security concerns. One or more of these organizations launched a horrific series of attacks against synagogues and banks in November 2003.
The Russian Federation has seen a local insurgency largely of its own making turn into a nasty terrorism campaign with international ramifications. A badly handled counterinsurgency campaign to prevent secession of Chechnya in the north Caucasus led the rebels to form links with Al Qaeda. The terrorists took the war into the Federation with attacks on Moscow apartment buildings (1999), a Moscow theater (2002), and a school in Beslan (2004). In both the theater and school incidents the terrorists took hostages, scores of whom were killed.
Terrorist groups often defy easy classification, but those in the Middle East are particularly difficult to pin down. A series of terrorist organizations have arisen directly or indirectly connected to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. These organizations often combined elements of insurgent movements and purely terrorist organizations motivated by political, ideological, and/or religious agendas. Founded in 1959, the Al Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat (1929–2004) carried out attacks against Israel from the West Bank during the early 1960s. Following Israeli occupation of the territory during the Six-Day War in 1967, Arafat moved to Jordan and from there to Lebanon and finally Tunisia, each of which served as base for terrorist activities. In 1974 Arafat gained control of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), an umbrella under which terrorist groups like the PFLP and the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) could gather.
Other organizations developed out of the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians. In an effort to route the PLO out of Lebanon, the Israeli Defense Forces invaded the country in 1982. Operation Peace of Galilee forced Arafat to leave for Tunisia, but it also gave rise to another even more militant organization, the Shiite Hezbollah group supported by Iran. Hezbollah attacked Israeli forces in southern Lebanon and northern Israel, contributing to final Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. An even more troubling organization arose in the occupied territories themselves. Demonstrations marking the twentieth anniversary of the Israeli occupation in 1987 turned violent and gave birth to Hamas, an Arabic acronym for "Islamic Resistance Movement." While they do not endorse some of its methods, Palestinians and their supporters consider Hamas to be a legitimate resistance movement struggling to end an illegal occupation. Israelis consider it a mere terrorist organization.
Zionism has also spawned its share of terrorist organizations. The Jewish Defense League founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane (Martin David; 1932–1990) in 1968 conducted numerous terrorist attacks against alleged anti-Semites. In 1971 Kahane emigrated with his family to Israel, where he set up the ultraconservative Kach party. Kach has perpetrated or encouraged terrorist attacks and vigilante violence against Arabs in the occupied territories, including the 1983 attack on an Islamic school in Hebron and the 1994 massacre of twenty-nine Muslims praying at Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs Mosque. Israeli security forces foiled an effort by Kahane's followers to blow up the Dome of the Rock (Mosque of Omar) atop Jerusalem's temple mount, the third holiest site in Islam.
Although rarely directly targeted by Middle East groups, Europeans have suffered from attacks carried out in Europe. The most notorious of these occurred during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. Members of Black September, an Al Fatah strike group named for the Jordanian attack on Palestinians in that country, kidnapped Israeli athletes, eleven of whom died in an abortive rescue attempt. In 1985 another Palestinian terrorist organization, the Abu Nidal Group, launched simultaneous attacks on the ticket counters of Israel's El Al airline at the Rome and Vienna airports. The Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi (b. 1942) appears to have masterminded or at least supported the April 1986 bombing of a Berlin discotheque and the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988. In the attack, 270 people died, eleven of them British subjects killed on the ground.
Unlike Germany, which suffered when terrorists attacked foreigners on its soil, France has been the direct target of attacks by terrorists involved in the Algerian civil war. In December 1994 the Groupe Islamique Armée (Armed Islamic Group, or GIA) hijacked an Air France flight en route from Algiers to Paris, intending to crash it in to the Eiffel Tower. French commandos stormed the plane, freeing the hostages and preventing the attack. GIA perpetrated a series of bombings in France over the next few years until a crackdown on the organization in preparation for France's hosting the 1998 World Cup crippled the organization.
On 11 September 2001 the United States experienced a devastating attack in the worst terrorist incident to date. Suicide bombers hijacked four airplanes, crashing two into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania when passengers tried to regain control of the aircraft. More than three thousand people died in the attacks.
The perpetrator was an organization almost unheard of until a few years before. Al Qaeda ("the base" in Arabic) had been formed from the mujahidin (holy warriors) who had flocked to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invaders in 1979. Gathered around the Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden (b. 1957), the terrorists sought to replace the secular regimes governing most Muslim countries with Islamic republics governed by sharia law. Bin Laden's rage turned on the Saudi royal family and its American allies whom the monarchy allowed onto the sacred soil of the kingdom during the 1990–1991 Gulf War. Al Qaeda bombed the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 and the destroyer U.S.S. Cole in Aden Harbor in 2000. Intelligence analysts later determined that Al Qaeda had probably perpetrated the bombing of the Khobar Towers housing U.S. troops in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, in 1996.
Although not initially targets themselves, the European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) agreed that the 9/11 attacks fell under Article 5 of the organization's founding document, the Washington Treaty. This collective defense clause deemed an attack on one as an attack on all. European nations supported the U.S. war against Afghanistan, where Bin Laden was known to be hiding, allowed the use of American bases on its soil to support the effort, and readily granted fly-over rights to American aircraft. They also provided troops to the follow-on mission after the Taliban regime had been toppled.
European support for America's "Global War on Terrorism" waned with the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. Neither the United Nations nor many of the NATO allies was persuaded that any significant link between Al Qaeda and the regime of Saddam Hussein (b. 1937) existed or that the dictator possessed weapons of mass destruction in a quantity representing any serious threat to his neighbors. The United States had the support of Britain and that of the new NATO members in central and Eastern Europe, many of whom were awaiting ratification by the U.S. Senate of the accession treaties bringing them into the alliance. The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and growing resentment over the unilateralism of the administration of President George W. Bush (b. 1946) has led to a cooling of relations between the United States and Europe. Resentment deepened after Europe itself became a target of Al Qaeda.
On 11 March 2004 terrorists detonated a series of bombs on commuter trains and in the station in Madrid, Spain, killing 191 people. An unheard-of Al Qaeda affiliate claimed credit for the attack, although the explosives used were similar to those employed by ETA, fueling fear that Basque terrorists had perhaps formed an unholy alliance with the Islamic extremists. The attacks led to the ouster of the prime minister Jose Aznar's party from power in elections a few days later. Far from "knuckling under" to terrorism, Spanish voters were angered by Aznar's rush to blame ETA for the Madrid bombings and by his earlier willingness to send troops to Iraq contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of Spaniards. The new government's decision to withdraw its contingent from the American-led coalition followed by the terrorists' promise that there would be no further attacks against Spain was, however, widely seen as an Al Qaeda victory.
The Madrid bombings encouraged the European Union to take the terrorist threat more seriously. Brussels began to develop an EU-wide policy to supplement responses by member states. The EU Council issued a Declaration on Combating Terrorism and specifically tasked a unit within the EU Commission with the "Fight against terrorism, trafficking and exploitation of human beings and law enforcement co-operation." As might be expected, agreement on defensive measures such as protecting ports and infrastructure has been easier to achieve than consensus on how to attack terrorist organizations.
Any doubts that terrorism is a permanent part of the new European security landscape were swept away by the assassination of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam on 2 November 2004. The murderer, a Muslim extremist, was angered by van Gogh's recent film criticizing Islam's treatment of women. In combination with the Madrid bombings the van Gogh murder underscored an inescapable truth: the terrorism that plagued the Continent in the 1970s had returned in a new, potentially far more deadly form. The challenge will be to develop an effective counterterrorism policy that preserves both Europe's high regard for civil liberties and the freedom of movement that its citizens enjoy within the new European Union borders.
See alsoAl Qaeda; British Empire; Colonialism; Counterinsurgency; ETA; Guerrilla Warfare; Indochina; IRA; Ireland; Islam; Islamic Terrorism; Israel; Minority Rights; Northern Ireland; Palestine; Partisan Warfare; Purges; Red Army Faction; Red Brigades; Resistance; Sinn Féin; Warfare.
Esposito , John. Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam. Oxford, U.K., and New York, 2002.
Gunaratna, Rohan . Inside Al Qae'da: Global Network of Terror. New York, 2002.
Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. London, 1998.
Kepel, Gilles. Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. Cambridge, Mass., 2002.
Kurth Cronin, Audrey, and James M. Ludes, eds. Attacking Terrorism: Elements of a Grand Strategy. Washington, D.C., 2004.
Miller, Judith, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad. Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War. New York, 2001.
Mockaitis, Thomas R., and Paul Rich, eds. Grand Strategy in the War against Terrorism. London, 2003.
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-1
"Terrorism." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/terrorism-1
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Terrorism as a form of war has gained popularity among rebels, anarchists, and radical religious groups in the past fifty years. Though hardly a new form of warfare, it has taken on a high profile in recent years. Perhaps most chilling about a terrorist act is not the carnage that is left behind—though that is truly terrible—but the rationale behind the acts: to control and intimidate through terror, and thereby to instill in others the uneasiness of knowing a terrorist attack can strike anywhere, anytime.
The short poem "The Terrorist, He Watches" (2003) captures the everyday life of a city street in the seconds before a bomb explodes. "The distance keeps him out of danger, / and what a view—just like the movies" writes Polish poet and Nobel Prize-winner Wislawa Szymborska. The poem describes the nonchalant details of people coming and going in the moments leading up to a public bombing. The poem compares the utter lack of premonition among the victims with the cold impersonal gaze of the terrorist, freeze-framing the busy street as the moment approaches:
This waiting, it's taking forever.
Any second now.
No, not yet.
The bomb, it explodes.
Literature about terrorism ranges from a dismissal of the action as purely evil to investigations into the minds of terrorists. Some examine the terrorist events themselves and record how these fearful acts affect both individuals and societies. Terrorism literature compels the reader to look beyond surface details and see past the stereotypes and conventions of the image-based mass media that saturates modern society. The terrorists may be watching, but so are the writers.
Terrorism as Evil
Some novelists have emphasized terrorism's evil through portrayals of the perpetrators. They define evil in terms of disposition, malicious ideas, or corrupt social systems. Some, such as the postmodern novelist Don DeLillo, evoke terrorist evil as something that cannot be directly understood. In such authors' works, when the terrorist finally appears in the story, he or she explains nothing, only raising yet more questions.
Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel The Devils (1873) (also translated as Demons and The Possessed) levels a critique against the ideologies that were beginning to emerge in nineteenth-century Europe. The novel, like many that address terrorism, is based on a real-life event. In this case, the 1869 murder of one of its own by a five-man terrorist cell organized by Sergei Nechaev, a student revolutionary, provided the inspiration for the fictional character Pyotr Stepanovich. The novel is full of characters corrupted by ideas: liberalism (government with consent of the governed), atheism (the view that there is no divine being), anarchism (opposition to the state), socialism (shared ownership of property and goods by the people), and nihilism (the refusal of all creeds and belief systems). All of these concepts are shown to be satanic ideas that possess humans like demons, forcing them to commit evil. The terrorist cell disrupts a festive day of speeches and dancing, but their planned violence is overshadowed by murder and treachery within the group. They murder Shatov, one of their own members, and use another's suicide to cover up their guilt. Later writers that also hold ideologies responsible for human evil have seen The Devils as a prophetic work. To others, the novel seems to inaccurately describe the ideas that it demonizes and holds responsible for human evil, focusing on those ideas rather than on the people that profess them.
Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent (1907) is based on the Greenwich Bomb Outrage of 1894, in which a man unintentionally blew himself up in Greenwich Park, London. Conrad resets the event in 1886 and attaches blame to a fictional group of lazy anarchists. The secret agent is Verloc, the owner of a pornography shop who works for an unspecified foreign agency that pressures his group to bomb the Observatory, an act that has "all the shocking senselessness of gratuitous blasphemy." Verloc and his fellow anarchists are drawn as caricatures (that is, representations that exaggerate particular features to make a point). For example, Conrad puts the following words in the anarchist Michaelis's mouth:
I have always dreamed … of a band of men absolute in their resolve to discard all scruples in the choice of means, strong enough to give themselves frankly the name of destroyers, and free from the taint of that resigned pessimism which rots the world. No pity for anything on earth, including themselves, and death enlisted for good and in the service of humanity.
Conrad's anarchists are so flawed that the novel does not condemn anarchism, but rather satirizes a particular type of person that preaches a radical doctrine for transparent personal reasons. According to Conrad, all social rebellion can be accounted for in terms of individuals' shortcomings. He dismisses the "poets, reformers, charlatans, prophets, and incendiaries" that make up the revolutionary masses. However, Conrad's scorn for the anarchists does not hinder his ability to evoke the warring social views that lead to terrorist violence. Though Conrad disagrees with the limp radicalism of the terrorists, he notes that "the framework of an established social order cannot be effectually shattered except by some form of collective or individual violence."
Don DeLillo compares writers and terrorists in his novel Mao II (1991), which tells the story of a reclusive novelist, Bill Gray, who emerges from seclusion to intervene on behalf of a Swiss poet taken hostage by a Lebanese terrorist group. The novel's namesake, Mao Zedong, the leader of Communist China from the 1940s through the 1970s, suggests the mass conformity that DeLillo characterizes as a threat to the individual. DeLillo's narrator warns: "The future belongs to crowds." The novel follows Gray's emergence, including a trip he takes to London to intervene for the hostage and then a further trip he takes to Beirut when the London meeting is canceled. During his trip to meet the terrorist Abu Rashid, who he expects will trade the poet for him, Gray dies, and Brita Nilsson, a photographer who earlier photographed Gray, finally interviews the terrorist. DeLillo's novel proposes that writers and terrorists share an intention to mold society:
There's a curious knot that binds novelists and terrorists…. Years ago I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory.
As the Western writer approaches the terrorist that he in some ways resembles, he realizes that violence is, in fact, an absence of language. As Anthony Kubiak writes in "Spelling It Out: Narrative Typologies of Terror," "the one who experiences terror in the body and mind … experiences time standing still. For the victim there is only terror and horror—no meaning." The sense of timelessness and loss of language is captured in the novel's descriptions of the Swiss hostage's deterioration in the dulling weeks of deprivation and torture.
The Terrorist In Context
Some novelists approach terrorism as a phenomenon that can be rationally understood, looking past the rhetoric of evil to examine the social and economic global inequalities that breed terrorism. Such novels humanize both terrorist and victim. Although they sometimes risk losing sight of the barbarism at the heart of terrorism, at their best they employ fiction's estimable power to tell the untold stories of those silenced by death, terror, or their own blinding hatred.
Raising Holy Hell (1995), Bruce Olds's novel about the violent abolitionist John Brown (1800–1859), explores the consciousness and historical conditions of an American terrorist. Olds mixes genres and styles to create a multidimensional portrait that includes slave conditions, newspaper accounts, chemical and medical background, the racist rhetoric of politicians, imagined interviews between the author and his subject, and short chapters from the points of view of various acquaintances and from Brown himself.
Olds narrates Brown's early years in Connecticut as the son of a sadistic Christian tanner. His stepmother tells the reader that, even as a boy, Brown was cold and hateful. Olds explores both internal and external influences to account for Brown's later actions. Readers witness his first attack in 1856 on five settlers in Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas. Brown stalks through the rain, "a great, sombreroed, broadsword-wielding vulture." The novel is at its poetic best in the final account of the 1859 seizure of the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry. Brown saw two of his sons die there and was finally overpowered by General Robert E. Lee and a contingency of marines. Raising Holy Hell shows how the moral absolutism of nineteenth-century Christianity, combined with psychotic genius, created a figure that remains controversial in American history. Olds does not sugarcoat the harsh reality of Brown's life, but allows him to plead his case with the benefit of hindsight:
The unpleasant truth was, I was right, slavery was wrong, and no violence I ever committed, no blood I ever spilled, no madness I ever participated in can compare to the violence, bloodshed, and madness not only perpetrated against the millions of poor Negroes held in bondage, but visited upon the country in the years following my death.
Nicholas Shakespeare's novel The Dancer Upstairs (1995) is an account of a terror campaign in an unspecified third-world Latin American city, based on actual events in Lima, Peru. The novel's terrorist leader, Ezequiel, is based on the founder of the Shining Path (in Spanish, Sendero Luminoso) movement, Abimael Guzmán. This movement splintered from the Communist party of Peru in the late sixties and during subsequent decades terrorized Peru with bombings and sabotage. Guzmán's 1992 apprehension by Peruvian special forces and the investigator's search leading up to it are the focus of what Tony Gould, in the New Statesman & Society, calls a "very Conradian" novel, referring to The Secret Agent.
The novel tells the story of Agustín Rejas, a police colonel who worked undercover for twelve years trying to find Ezequiel, only to finally discover him living upstairs from the dance studio where Rejas's daughter takes ballet lessons. Shakespeare's terrorist is a product of the West, a philosophy professor who specializes in Immanuel Kant, the central Enlightenment figure of Western philosophy. Ezequiel's movement ominously hangs dead dogs from trees as a Maoist symbol—Chinese peasants revolting under Mao in the 1930s did the same—linking Ezequial with other rebellions that make their appeals to rural populations in opposition to modern urban elites. Like the dancer above whose studio he lives, this terrorist is both a product and critic of first-world culture. He is Westernized, and as a result understands that the wretched conditions of his exploited, impoverished country are caused by globalization and modernization, mostly perpetrated by the United States.
Some novels that attempt to place terrorism in context make use of the drama provided by the terror event (or events). Such matter lends itself well to suspenseful storytelling. The challenge for works that focus on the terrorist event itself is creating suspense in what are, in reality, usually dull periods of negotiation, isolation, and anticipation. In order to give such stories life, authors often rewrite the reality of terrorist events such as bombings, hostage takings, and assassinations.
The Irish writer Frank O'Connor describes terrorism as a personal encounter with a human face. His short story "Guests of the Nation" (1931) recounts the last days of two English soldiers taken hostage during the Irish civil war (1922–1923), in which O'Connor fought as an Irish Republican Army soldier. The story is based on a conversation he overheard about two hostages who befriended their guards. The first-person perspective allows the reader, like Bonaparte, the Irish guard who narrates the story, to imagine the Englishmen from a personal point of view, playing cards and arguing politics. Bonaparte is then told by his superior officer that the men are hostages, and that they must immediately kill them. The shock and inhumanity that Bonaparte feels is shared by the reader. The narrator's sense of emptiness, after killing the two soldiers point blank in a vividly violent scene, ends the story on a bleak note:
Noble says he saw everything ten times the size, as though there were nothing in the whole world but that little patch of bog with the Englishmen stiffening into it, but with me it was as if the patch of bog where the English were was a million miles away.
John le Carré dramatizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his novel The Little Drummer Girl (1983), in which a young English actress, Charlie, is recruited by Kurtz, an Israeli intelligence agent, to infiltrate a group of Palestinian terrorists that have been terrorizing Western Europe. The Israelis put Charlie through rigorous brainwashing and role-playing so she will understand and sympathize with the Palestinian perspective. The Israelis assassinate the brother of the Palestinian terrorist leader, Khalil, allowing Charlie to infiltrate their group posing as the girlfriend of the dead brother. Charlie then undergoes another indoctrination, this time from the Palestinians. Charlie stays with Khalil and his sister Fatmeh, and grows attached to them, only to betray them when she sleeps with Khalil in a plan that allows the Israelis to kill him. Well-regarded as a spy thriller, the novel begs the question of whether the romantic thriller genre is capable of addressing the brutal reality of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. In a sense, The Little Drummer Girl's use of a sexy heroine and the sympathetic portrayal of both sides functions as a form of ideological substitution, interpreting complex politics in a psychological romance plot. Perhaps the dissatisfaction of readers on both sides of the conflict is, paradoxically, an affirmation of the novel's balanced approach, which depicts both sides of the conflict using terrorist tactics.
Robert Cormier's young adult novel After the First Death (1979) imagines vaguely Middle Eastern terrorists taking a school bus of preschoolers hostage on the outskirts of a New England town. The children are drugged and their lives are threatened by a group that wants the U.S. government to dismantle a secret agency, Inner Delta. The terrorists are led by the callous Artkin, and include Miro, a sixteen-year-old terrorist whose seduction by Kate, the bus driver, will lead to Kate's death. Deaths on both sides accumulate as a government sniper accidentally fires on the bus and the situation escalates. This book frames terrorism within adolescent interests, bringing together opposing sides of the conflict using sexuality and emphasizing the shortcomings of adult solutions.
Like The Dancer Upstairs, Ann Patchett's Bel Canto (2001) is based on a Peruvian terrorist incident. In December 1996, the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru, was taken over by the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, a Marxist insurgent group. Fourteen terrorists held seventy-two hostages for over four months. The crisis ended in April 1997, when President Fujimori ordered the embassy stormed. Patchett's novel is set in a similar home in an unnamed country that throws a lavish birthday party for a prominent Japanese businessman. The hosts have paid the world's greatest soprano, Roxane Coss, to sing for the businessman, an opera aficionado. The terrorists that take the party hostage are sympathetically drawn in a story about the relationships, some of them romantic, that develop between the terrorists and their captives. Patchett's terrorists are mostly underprivileged third-world teenagers who never kill or hurt their charges. Her portrait is humanizing—some would say distortingly so—but also allegorically suggestive of the global economic imbalances and corrupt government regimes that create insurgent resistance and lead to terrorist acts.
Another way to place terror in context is to focus on the victims of terrorist acts. Rather than exploit the innate drama of evil villains, these novels examine the lingering effects of terrorism, as well as its self-perpetuating nature.
Gabriel García Márquez's News of a Kidnapping (1997) is a nonfiction account of the kidnapping of ten people in Márquez's home country of Colombia. The book covers events that took place during 1990–1991, as the United States was attempting to extradite Pablo Escobar, head of a massive drug cartel. Then a fugitive, Escobar took hostages in order to pressure Colombia's government not to permit his extradition. This strategy worked; Escobar turned himself in for domestic imprisonment in 1991. Márquez, a writer better known for his novels, returns to his earlier craft of journalism for this work, which draws on survivor interviews. The result is an account that provides the details of the hostage-taking and subsequent negotiations that led to two of the hostages' deaths and the liberation of the others.
The Egyptian novelist Naguib Mafouz portrays terrorism as a media event that resonates in the personal lives of a cluster of characters in Cairo in his novella The Day the Leader Was Killed (1985). The novel is set in the days before the October 6, 1981, assassination of Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Rather than focusing on the terrorists themselves, or rewriting real-life events to suit his themes, Mafouz sketches the perspectives of a trio of characters to tell the story of a grandfather, Muhtashimi Zayed, his grandson Elwan, and Elwan's fiancée Randa. Al-Sadat's assassination comes abruptly in the concluding pages of the story as the televised parade broadcast goes dead. The characters know something bad has happened when announcers start reading the Quran on television. Pondering the president's death, Muhtashimi thinks:
He doesn't deserve this end, whatever his misdeeds. On his day of glory? A plot. Surely there's a conspiracy. No doubt. The hell with him!… It was the inevitable end. He was a curse on us. He who kills will ultimately be killed. In a split second, an empire has collapsed. The empire of robbers.
The fight between tradition and modernity that the novel's three main characters struggle with is underscored by the assassination. Old Muhtashimi's apocalyptic thoughts lead to the novel's conclusion that suggests that he himself may be on the verge of making a commitment to religious militarism. Such characterizations of Muslims by Mafouz have led to the issuing of a fatwa (Islamic religious proclamation) calling for his death, and a subsequent 1994 stabbing attack by two extremists, which he survived.
Jonathan Saffran Foer's novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005) approaches the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center from the perspective of a precocious nine-year-old, Oskar Schell, who attempts to understand why his father died in one of the towers. After the attack, Oskar finds a key in his father's room marked with the word "Black." He begins interviewing every person with that last name in New York City. Joined by a 103-year-old former war journalist, Oskar travels the city, meeting diverse characters. Oskar's story is interspersed with those of his grandfather, who survived the World War II bombing of Dresden, and with stories from the bombing of Hiroshima. The inclusion of these acts of massive military violence broaden terrorism's definition from its typical meaning of acts by insurgent groups and balance Oskar's limited understanding of why the attack occurred.
In these works, terrorism appears as, among other things, an incomprehensible horror, a mournful loss, a suspenseful mystery, a rival discourse, a psychotic religious fundamentalism, and a political fable. Taken as a whole, these novels reveal the human cost and annihilation of meaning accomplished by terrorist violence. Just as there is little consensus regarding the best way to address terrorism, so do novels on the subject take diverse stances on its causes, although they all confirm its bloody destructiveness. Despite their richness, one can only hope that the future calls for fewer stories of terrorism.
Conrad, Joseph, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale, edited and introduced by Martin Seymour-Smith, Penguin Books, 1984, pp. 67, 74, 82, 102.
DeLillo, Don, Mao II, Viking, 1991, pp. 16, 41.
Foer, Jonathan Saffran, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Houghton Mifflin, 2005, p. 244.
Gould, Tony, Review of "The Dancer Upstairs," in New Statesman & Society, Vol. 8, No. 371, September 22, 1995, p. 33.
Kubiak, Anthony, "Spelling It Out: Narrative Typologies of Terror," in Studies in the Novel, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 294-302.
Mahfouz, Naguib, The Day the Leader Was Killed, translated by Malak Mashem, Anchor Books, 2000, p. 96.
O'Connor, Frank, "Guests of the Nation," in A Frank O'Connor Reader, edited by Michael Steinman, Syracuse University Press, 1994, pp. 3-14.
Olds, Bruce, Raising Holy Hell, Henry Holt and Co., 1995, pp. 153, 209.
Shakespeare, Nicholas, The Dancer Upstairs, Doubleday, 1997, p. 48.
Szymborska, Wislawa, "The Terrorist, He Watches," in View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh, Harcourt Brace, 1995, pp. 108-09.
"Terrorism." Literary Themes for Students. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/terrorism
"Terrorism." Literary Themes for Students. . Retrieved February 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/terrorism