Terrorism does exist. This is self-evident. But interestingly enough, today there is still no single internationally defined definition of “terrorism” or a “terrorist”. Therefore, these terms are thrown about in the media and common discourses rather loosely.
If I ask someone if they are opposed to terrorism, he/she typically responds with an emphatic yes. But the moment I ask such an individual to define terrorism I am met with a blank stare or presuppositions of what composes a terrorist that are more projections of the individual’s inner psyche than representative of an objective reality.
The truth is that I don’t ever expect the recipient of such a question to offer up some golden definition of terrorism, for the subject is still a matter of debate and contentious disagreement. For example, according to Trace Dominguez, the U.S. Government maintains around twenty different definitions of terrorism.
Here are a few of these definitions:
O The FBI defines a few “breeds” of terrorism on their website in accordance with Sec. 802 of the revised U.S. PATRIOT Act, that of the domestic and international variety. The domestic kind,
“Involve[s] acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law; Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.”
O The U.S. State Dep. Defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents[.]”
In summary of the above definitions of terrorism, one derives the idea that a terrorist act is either “violent” or “dangerous to human life”, perpetrated against “non-combatants”, and is intended to sway U.S. policy through “coercion” or “intimidation”. This definition is blatantly loose and allows for interpretation of civil acts of protest as domestic terrorist activities.
As related by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Sec. 802 of the U.S. PATRIOT ACT now provides for the justification of legal pressures against civilian populations who hold to ideologies counter to established U.S. policies.8 In other words, if you happen to protest a certain policy of the U.S., that very action may be interpreted as a form of domestic terrorism and therefore individuals participant in such protests may be duly deemed “terrorists”.
In apprehension of domestic extremism precipitated by ideologies which conflict with domestic and foreign policy, a Dep. of Homeland Security Reference Aid was promulgated to raise awareness within intelligence and law enforcement communities of the potential indicators of domestic terrorists.
According to this reference, one ideological indicator that typifies such “terrorists” consists of the,
“belief that the government is deliberately stripping Americans of their freedoms and is attempting to establish a totalitarian regime. These individuals consequently oppose many federal and state authorities’ laws and regulations particularly those related to firearms ownership and often belong to armed paramilitary groups.”
While the reference cited does accede to the notion that the mere subscription to a particular ideology does not therefore justify the profiling of an individual as an extremist/terrorist, it is nevertheless rational to presume that such non-combatant individuals are likely targets of state surveillance in federal agencies’ attempts to thwart violent actions.
Other ideological indicators of domestic terrorists include an appeal to New World Order “conspiracy theories” such as the preceding notional ponderings I have presented. The reference states:
“This conspiracy is described by militia members as a plot by a secret cabal of powerful individuals whose alleged goal is to create a one-world socialist government under the auspices of the United Nations. The US Government is seen as collaborating with the New World Order to strip Americans slowly of their freedoms in the takeover, which allegedly would involve establishing large numbers of detention camps for American dissidents.”
So you see, one’s subscription to certain ideas puts them into a categorical profile that suggests one is a terrorist.