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Terrorism is the systematic use of violence to achieve a specific normally political aim. It is not a new concept and groups using terrorism have existed throughout history. During the late 20th century advances in weapon technology allowed terrorism a new lease of life as small man portable weapons increased drastically in firepower. Sub-machine guns such as the Uzi and Mac-10 allow a single person to carry a small hard to spot weapon with a very high rate of fire, new explosives such as Semtex and greater availability of electronic parts for timer and triggering devices have allowed the terrorist to hit harder causing more damage than ever before. The aim of the Terrorist is not to kill a great number of people but too frighten a great number of people and in this aim Television has helped greatly. The former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once described the media as the oxygen of the Terrorist as without publicity the Terrorist can have but a limited impact, this is known as the Propaganda of the Deed. Terrorist groups are normally small such as the IRA and sometimes may only contain a few members such as the Baader-Mienhof gang. Frequently they gain money from illegal sources such as illegal drugs, pornography and smuggling as in the case of the Columbian M-19 group or even direct theft and armed robbery as in the case of the Baader-Mienhof gang. Terrorism is the weapon of the politically weak and few terrorist groups have any large scale political support and therefore have to turn to non political methods such as bombings, threats, hijacking and assassinations. It is important not to confuse Terrorists with Freedom fighters or insurgents who use more military style tactics, Terrorists have a very strong sense of self preservation and will often attack 'soft' civilian targets rather than risk direct confrontation with the security forces. Terrorists are more criminal than military and countries which have adopted a combined police/military approach to Terrorists have been more successful than those relying on a purely military response. During the Cold War many terrorists were trained by Soviet block countries and this is often called state sponsored Terrorism, with the Cold War over many of these groups died out as their funding disappeared and files were handed over to western security services by the Eastern Block countries. Terrorism has far from disappeared as we enter the 21st century as although the political terrorist is a dying breed the lone bomber (such as the Uni bomber) or small religious terrorist groups are becoming more common.

War on terrorism

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War on terrorism, term used to describe the American-led global counterterrorism campaign launched in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In its scope, expenditure, and impact on international relations, the war on terrorism was comparable to the Cold War it was intended to represent a new phase in global political relations and has had important consequences for security, human rights, international law, cooperation, and governance.

The war on terrorism was a multidimensional campaign of almost limitless scope. Its military dimension involved major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, covert operations in Yemen and elsewhere, large-scale military-assistance programs for cooperative regimes, and major increases in military spending. Its intelligence dimension comprised institutional reorganization and considerable increases in the funding of America’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, a global program of capturing terrorist suspects and interning them at Guantánamo Bay, expanded cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies, and the tracking and interception of terrorist financing. Its diplomatic dimension included continuing efforts to construct and maintain a global coalition of partner states and organizations and an extensive public diplomacy campaign to counter anti-Americanism in the Middle East. The domestic dimension of the U.S. war on terrorism entailed new antiterrorism legislation, such as the USA PATRIOT Act new security institutions, such as the Department of Homeland Security the preventive detainment of thousands of suspects surveillance and intelligence-gathering programs by the National Security Agency (NSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and local authorities the strengthening of emergency-response procedures and increased security measures for airports, borders, and public events.

The successes of the first years of the war on terrorism included the arrest of hundreds of terrorist suspects around the world, the prevention of further large-scale terrorist attacks on the American mainland, the toppling of the Taliban regime and subsequent closure of terrorist-training camps in Afghanistan, the capture or elimination of many of al-Qaeda’s senior members, and increased levels of international cooperation in global counterterrorism efforts.

However, critics argued that the failures of America’s counterterrorism campaign outweighed its successes. They contended that the war in Afghanistan had effectively scattered the al-Qaeda network, thereby making it even harder to counteract, and that the attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq had increased anti-Americanism among the world’s Muslims, thereby amplifying the message of militant Islam and uniting disparate groups in a common cause. Other critics alleged that the war on terrorism was a contrived smokescreen for the pursuit of a larger U.S. geopolitical agenda that included controlling global oil reserves, increasing defense spending, expanding the country’s international military presence, and countering the strategic challenge posed by various regional powers.

By the time of U.S. Pres. George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004, the drawbacks of the war on terrorism were becoming apparent. In Iraq, U.S. forces had overthrown the government of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and U.S. war planners had underestimated the difficulties of building a functioning government from scratch and neglected to consider how this effort could be complicated by Iraq’s sectarian tensions, which had been held in check by Saddam’s repressive regime but were unleashed by his removal. By late 2004 it was clear that Iraq was sinking into chaos and civil war estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed during the period of maximum violence—roughly 2004 to 2007—vary widely but generally exceed 200,000. U.S. casualties during this period far outnumbered those suffered during the initial 2003 invasion. Afghanistan, which for several years had seemed to be under control, soon followed a similar trajectory, and by 2006 the U.S. was facing a full-blown insurgency there led by a reconstituted Taliban.

The Bush administration faced domestic and international criticism for actions that it deemed necessary to fight terrorism but which critics considered to be immoral, illegal, or both. These included the detention of accused enemy combatants without trial at Guantánamo Bay and at several secret prisons outside the United States, the use of torture against these detainees in an effort to extract intelligence, and the use of unmanned combat drones to kill suspected enemies in countries far beyond the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

10. Air India Flight 182

Air India Flight 182 was an Indian passenger plane flying from Toronto, Canada to Delhi, India via Montreal and London in 1985. The plane, a Boeing 747-237B, was destroyed with a bomb mid-air at an altitude of 31,000 feet and crashed in Irish airspace in the Atlantic Ocean. The incident killed 329 passengers and was the first ever bombing of a 747 jumbo jet. The majority of the victims were Canadian citizens, as well as British and Indian citizens. It was the largest mass murder in Canadian history and the worst terrorist attack on a passenger plane until September 11, 2001

Famous Deaths

    Solomon George Washington Dill, poor white ally of African Americans, assassinated in his home by white terrorists in SC Serge Alexandrovich, Governor-General of Moscow, assassinated by a terrorist bomb his carriage driver also died, the assailant survived, was tried and hanged Boris V Savinkov, Russian writer/terrorist, dies King Alexander I, of Yugoslavia (1921-34), assassinated by a Bulgarian revolutionary at 45 Gudrun Ensslin, German terrorist and founder of the Red Army Faction, commits suicide along with other RAF leaders at 37 Ingrid Schubert, German terrorist (b. 1944)

Aldo Moro

1978-05-09 Aldo Moro, Five times Prime Minister of Italy, assassinated by the Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization Red Brigades at 61

    Airey Neave, British MP (Conservatives), killed by terrorist bomb Bobby Sands, Irish IRA activist dies in the 66th day of his hunger strike at 26 Ravindra Mhatre, Indian diplomat, murdered at 48 by Kashmiri terrorists in Birmingham, England Robert Stethem, U.S. Navy Seabee diver murdered by terrorists on TWA Flight 847 (b. 1961) Seamus McElwaine, Irish IRA-terrorist, killed at 25 Khaled Mahmoud Saeed, asst to Palestine terrorist Abu Nidal, murdered Wolfgang Grams, German RAF-terrorist, shot to death at 40

Timothy McVeigh

2001-06-11 Timothy McVeigh, American Oklahoma City bomber and terrorist, executed for bombing Oklahoma City at 33

Todd Beamer

2001-09-11 Todd Beamer, American passenger and hero on United Airlines Flight 93, dies at 32 in a plane crash trying to stop the 9/11 terrorists

    Hani Hanjour, 9/11 terrorist (b. 1972) Ziad Jarrah, 9/11 terrorist (b. 1975) John P. O'Neill, American anti-terrorism FBI agent (b. 1952) Noordin Mohammad Top, Malaysian Islamist terrorist (b. 1968) Anwar al-Awlaki, American-born terrorist and islamist militant (b. 1971) Fusilier Lee Rigby, British Army soldier, murdered near the Royal Artillery Barracks in London by two Islamic terrorists, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale

Stéphane Charbonnier

2015-01-07 Stéphane Charbonnier [Charb], French cartoonist and editor of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, dies in a terrorist attack at 47

The History of the Word 'Terrorism'

The words terrorism and terrorist came to English as translations of words used in French during the period known as the Reign of Terror (1793-94), when the new government punished—usually by death—those people thought to be against the ongoing French Revolution. It was a gruesome and protracted period of official state-sponsored violence that set the political tone for much of the use of these words ever since.

Early examples of terrorism and terrorist in English come from familiar names from the American revolutionary period, all making clear reference to the French Reign of Terror:

And upon the latter occasion, when the party got possession of the Convention and began for a while to rule, and were about to reestablish terrorism and not royalty, the royalists shifted their ground in a moment and became very vociferous against popular commotions, and equally pathetic in support of the Convention and of the law, which a few hours before they disdained and endeavoured to subvert.
— Thomas Jefferson, 23 June 1795

In several parts of the South of France there are associations formed to assassinate the people denominated terrorists: that is the partizans of Robespierre’s dominion. The Convention have recently enacted a severe Law on this subject.
— John Quincy Adams, 6 July 1795

In this course the question universally propounded was who were terrorists, who were Jacobins, who were insurgents, anarchists &ca for all these terms were synonimous. Here the friends of the revolution were put upon the defensive, & the sword, not of justice, but of revenge, put in the hands of the royalists. You will readily conceive, that the imputation of terrorism was carried to the utmost extent whilst this state of things lasted.
— James Madison, 29 October 1795

An early reference to a generic terrorism—still meaning “violence perpetrated by a government,” but in this case not the French revolutionary government—comes from yet another of the Founders:

The Coercion of Terrorism, cannot be practiced in America, so easily as in Europe where the Issue of a Battle determines the Fate of a Nation and the Capture of a City involves the Submission a whole Country.
— John Adams, 4 January 1799

It seems that Jefferson was using the word in the same meaning in this next letter, in which he also presents his hope that the new American system of government would not employ the tactics he had witnessed in France:

Nothing will be spared on my part to harmonize our system, and to render the republican basis so solid as to defy the machinations of terrorism, illuminatism &c.
— Thomas Jefferson, 9 March 1801

From the famous correspondence between Jefferson and Adams conducted later in their lives, we see a shift in meaning of terrorism from violence perpetrated by a government to that perpetrated against a government:

You never felt the terrorism of Shays’s rebellion in Massachusetts. I believe you never felt the terrorism of Mr. Gallatin’s insurrection in Pennsylvania. You certainly never realized the terrorism of Fries’s most outrageous riot and rescue, as I call it—as the world and great judges and two juries pronounced it.
— John Adams (to Thomas Jefferson), 30 June 1813

And then, in the same letter, terrorism becomes that of political partisanship:

The real terrors of both Parties have always been, and now are The fear that they shall lose the Elections and consequently the Loaves and Fishes and that their Antagonists will obtain them. Both parties have excited artificial Terrors and if I were summoned as a Witness to Say upon Oath, which Party had excited, machiavillialy, the most terror, and which had really felt the most, I could not give a more Sincere Answer, than in the vulgar Style “Put Them in a bag and Shake them, and then See which comes out first. Where is the terrorism now, my friend? There is now more real terrorism in New England than there ever was in Virginia.
— John Adams (to Thomas Jefferson), 30 June 1813

(It’s too bad that Adams’s use of the tongue twister machiavillialy meaning “in a Machiavellian manner” didn’t catch on.)

There was no entry for terrorism in Noah Webster’s dictionaries of 1806 or 1828. He added the word in his very final revision, the edition of 1840, with a definition that was broad and non-political:

TERRORISM, n. A state of being terrified, or a state impressing terror.

Webster also added terrorless, terror-smitten, and terror-struck in 1840, the latter two subsequently removed in the revision of 1864, which had a more exacting policy on the entering of transparent compounds. That same revision saw the addition of terrorist, with explicit references to the French Revolutionary period:

TERRORIST, n. [Fr. terroriste.] (Fr. Hist.) An agent or partisan of the revolutionary tribunal during the reign of terror in France.

A second shift in meaning took place later: the use of terrorism without political connotation. It was used in this way in newspaper coverage of gangsters during the 1920s:

Chicago Tribune, 12 February 1926

Secrets of Gangdom Terrorism Bared
Chicago Tribune, 4 July 1926

The Washington Post, 2 April 1927

Indeed, Al Capone, the era’s most famous gangster of all, was clearly understood by the public to be a criminal rather than a person with political motives, yet his crimes were so extreme that they were referred to as terrorism:

Regarded as the most important fact of all is this: Gangsters, by terrorism, vote stealing and bribery, swung a certain political faction into power and in return were given the privilege of operating gambling, vice and booze joints.
Chicago Tribune, 4 July 1926

Here, it seems that terrorism is connected to the more politically neutral terrorize, meaning “to fill with terror or anxiety.” It has been suggested following recent tragic events that the perpetrators should be referred to as terrorists, and sometimes they are, but predominant contemporary usage still reserves terrorism for those crimes that have specific political motives.

Terrorism was still used to mean “violence perpetrated by a government”—the word’s original meaning—well into the 20th century:

They realize that terrorism, however effective for a while, is revolting and cannot be sustained forever no regime can be vigilant enough in perpetuity to crush opposition wherever and whenever it arises.
— Walter Lippman, The Good Society, 1937

This meaning was reflected in the definition from the 1934 Unabridged edition, but so was the “opposing government” sense, showing that the shift in meaning had been added to the dictionary:

Act of terrorizing, or state of being terrorized specif.: a The system of the Reign of Terror. b A mode of governing, or of opposing government, by intimidation. c Any policy of intimidation.

As for the word terror itself, our dictionaries included it as a synonym for Reign of Terror for decades, until a specific sense connected to terrorism was added in 1973:

: violent or destructive acts (such as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands

Whether or not a new sense referring to extremely violent acts without apparent motive to intimidate a population or government is added to the dictionary in the future, only time and usage will tell.


Etymologically, the word terror is derived from the Latin verb Tersere, which later becomes Terrere. The latter form appears in European languages as early as the 12th century its first known use in French is the word terrible in 1160. By 1356 the word terreur is in use. Terreur is the origin of the Middle English term terrour, which later becomes the modern word "terror". [15]

The term terroriste, meaning "terrorist", is first used in 1794 by the French philosopher François-Noël Babeuf, who denounces Maximilien Robespierre ' s Jacobin regime as a dictatorship. [16] [17] In the years leading up to what became known as the Reign of Terror, the Brunswick Manifesto threatened Paris with an "exemplary, never to be forgotten vengeance: the city would be subjected to military punishment and total destruction" if the royal family was harmed, but this only increased the Revolution's will to abolish the monarchy. [18] Some writers attitudes about French Revolution grew less favorable after the French monarchy was abolished in 1792. During the Reign of Terror, which began in July 1793 and lasted thirteen months, Paris was governed by the Committee of Public safety who oversaw a regime of mass executions and public purges. [19]

Prior to the French Revolution, ancient philosophers wrote about tyrannicide, as tyranny was seen as the greatest political threat to Greco-Roman civilization. Medieval philosophers were similarly occupied with the concept of tyranny, though the analysis of some theologians like Thomas Aquinas drew a distinction between usurpers, who could be killed by anyone, and legitimate rulers who abused their power—the latter, in Aquinas' view, could only be punished by a public authority. John of Salisbury was the first medieval Christian scholar to defend tyrannicide. [15]

Most scholars today trace the origins of the modern tactic of terrorism to the Jewish Sicarii Zealots who attacked Romans and Jews in 1st-century Palestine. They follow its development from the Persian Order of Assassins through to 19th-century anarchists. The "Reign of Terror" is usually regarded as an issue of etymology. The term terrorism has generally been used to describe violence by non-state actors rather than government violence since the 19th-century Anarchist Movement. [18] [20] [21]

In December 1795, Edmund Burke used the word "Terrorists" in a description of the new French government called 'Directory': [22]

At length, after a terrible struggle, the [Directory] Troops prevailed over the Citizens . To secure them further, they have a strong corps of irregulars, ready armed. Thousands of those Hell-hounds called Terrorists, whom they had shut up in Prison on their last Revolution, as the Satellites of Tyranny, are let loose on the people.(emphasis added)

The terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" gained renewed currency in the 1970s as a result of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, [23] the Northern Ireland conflict, [24] the Basque conflict, [25] and the operations of groups such as the Red Army Faction. [26] Leila Khaled was described as a terrorist in a 1970 issue of Life magazine. [27] A number of books on terrorism were published in the 1970s. [28] The topic came further to the fore after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings [8] and again after the 2001 September 11 attacks [8] [29] [30] and the 2002 Bali bombings. [8]

In 2006 it was estimated that there were over 109 different definitions of terrorism. [32] American political philosopher Michael Walzer in 2002 wrote: "Terrorism is the deliberate killing of innocent people, at random, to spread fear through a whole population and force the hand of its political leaders". [5] Bruce Hoffman, an American scholar, has noted that it is not only individual agencies within the same governmental apparatus that cannot agree on a single definition of terrorism. Experts and other long-established scholars in the field are equally incapable of reaching a consensus. [33]

C. A. J. Coady has written that the question of how to define terrorism is "irresolvable" because "its natural home is in polemical, ideological and propagandist contexts". [12]

Experts disagree about "whether terrorism is wrong by definition or just wrong as a matter of fact they disagree about whether terrorism should be defined in terms of its aims, or its methods, or both, or neither they disagree about whether states can perpetrate terrorism they even disagree about the importance or otherwise of terror for a definition of terrorism." [12]

State terrorism

State terrorism refers to acts of terrorism conducted by a state against its own citizens or against another state. [34]

United Nations

In November 2004, a Secretary-General of the United Nations report described terrorism as any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act". [35] The international community has been slow to formulate a universally agreed, legally binding definition of this crime. These difficulties arise from the fact that the term "terrorism" is politically and emotionally charged. [36] [37] In this regard, Angus Martyn, briefing the Australian parliament, stated,

The international community has never succeeded in developing an accepted comprehensive definition of terrorism. During the 1970s and 1980s, the United Nations attempts to define the term floundered mainly due to differences of opinion between various members about the use of violence in the context of conflicts over national liberation and self-determination. [38]

These divergences have made it impossible for the United Nations to conclude a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that incorporates a single, all-encompassing, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism. [39] The international community has adopted a series of sectoral conventions that define and criminalize various types of terrorist activities.

Since 1994, the United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly condemned terrorist acts using the following political description of terrorism:

Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them. [40]

U.S. law

Various legal systems and government agencies use different definitions of terrorism in their national legislation.

U.S. Code Title 22 Chapter 38, Section 2656f(d) defines terrorism as: "Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents". [41]

18 U.S.C. § 2331 defines "international terrorism" and "domestic terrorism" for purposes of Chapter 113B of the Code, entitled "Terrorism":

"International terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics: [42]

Involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law

Appear to be 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 outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.

Media spectacle

A definition proposed by Carsten Bockstette at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, underlines the psychological and tactical aspects of terrorism:

Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). Such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. The purpose of terrorism is to exploit the media in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity as an amplifying force multiplier in order to influence the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states. [43]

Terrorists attack national symbols, which may negatively affect a government, while increasing the prestige of the given terrorist group or its ideology. [44]

Political violence

Terrorist acts frequently have a political purpose. [46] Some official, governmental definitions of terrorism use the criterion of the illegitimacy or unlawfulness of the act. [47] [ better source needed ] to distinguish between actions authorized by a government (and thus "lawful") and those of other actors, including individuals and small groups. For example, carrying out a strategic bombing on an enemy city, which is designed to affect civilian support for a cause, would not be considered terrorism if it were authorized by a government. This criterion is inherently problematic and is not universally accepted, [ attribution needed ] because: it denies the existence of state terrorism. [48] An associated term is violent non-state actor. [49]

According to Ali Khan, the distinction lies ultimately in a political judgment. [50]

Pejorative use

Having the moral charge in our vocabulary of 'something morally wrong', the term 'terrorism' is often used to abuse or denounce opposite parties, either governments or non-state groups. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Those labeled "terrorists" by their opponents rarely identify themselves as such, and typically use other terms or terms specific to their situation, such as separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, patriot, or any similar-meaning word in other languages and cultures. Jihadi, mujahideen, and fedayeen are similar Arabic words that have entered the English lexicon. It is common for both parties in a conflict to describe each other as terrorists. [51]

On whether particular terrorist acts, such as killing non-combatants, can be justified as the lesser evil in a particular circumstance, philosophers have expressed different views: while, according to David Rodin, utilitarian philosophers can (in theory) conceive of cases in which the evil of terrorism is outweighed by the good that could not be achieved in a less morally costly way, in practice the "harmful effects of undermining the convention of non-combatant immunity is thought to outweigh the goods that may be achieved by particular acts of terrorism". [52] Among the non-utilitarian philosophers, Michael Walzer argued that terrorism can be morally justified in only one specific case: when "a nation or community faces the extreme threat of complete destruction and the only way it can preserve itself is by intentionally targeting non-combatants, then it is morally entitled to do so". [52] [53]

In his book Inside Terrorism Bruce Hoffman offered an explanation of why the term terrorism becomes distorted:

On one point, at least, everyone agrees: terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one's enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore. 'What is called terrorism,' Brian Jenkins has written, 'thus seems to depend on one's point of view. Use of the term implies a moral judgment and if one party can successfully attach the label terrorist to its opponent, then it has indirectly persuaded others to adopt its moral viewpoint.' Hence the decision to call someone or label some organization terrorist becomes almost unavoidably subjective, depending largely on whether one sympathizes with or opposes the person/group/cause concerned. If one identifies with the victim of the violence, for example, then the act is terrorism. If, however, one identifies with the perpetrator, the violent act is regarded in a more sympathetic, if not positive (or, at the worst, an ambivalent) light and it is not terrorism. [54] [55] [56]

The pejorative connotations of the word can be summed up in the aphorism, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". [51] This is exemplified when a group using irregular military methods is an ally of a state against a mutual enemy, but later falls out with the state and starts to use those methods against its former ally. During the Second World War, the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army were allied with the British, but during the Malayan Emergency, members of its successor organisation (the Malayan Races Liberation Army) started campaigns against them, and were branded "terrorists" as a result. [57] [58] More recently, Ronald Reagan and others in the American administration frequently called the mujaheddin "freedom fighters" during the Soviet–Afghan War [59] yet twenty years later, when a new generation of Afghan men were fighting against what they perceive to be a regime installed by foreign powers, their attacks were labelled "terrorism" by George W. Bush. [60] [61] [62] Groups accused of terrorism understandably prefer terms reflecting legitimate military or ideological action. [63] [64] [65] Leading terrorism researcher Professor Martin Rudner, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Ottawa's Carleton University, defines "terrorist acts" as unlawful attacks for political or other ideological goals, and said:

There is the famous statement: 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.' But that is grossly misleading. It assesses the validity of the cause when terrorism is an act. One can have a perfectly beautiful cause and yet if one commits terrorist acts, it is terrorism regardless. [66]

Some groups, when involved in a "liberation" struggle, have been called "terrorists" by the Western governments or media. Later, these same persons, as leaders of the liberated nations, are called "statesmen" by similar organizations. Two examples of this phenomenon are the Nobel Peace Prize laureates Menachem Begin and Nelson Mandela. [67] [68] [69] [70] [71] [72] WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange has been called a "terrorist" by Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. [73] [74]

Sometimes, states that are close allies, for reasons of history, culture and politics, can disagree over whether members of a certain organization are terrorists. For instance, for many years, some branches of the United States government refused to label members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) as terrorists while the IRA was using methods against one of the United States' closest allies (the United Kingdom) that the UK branded as terrorism. This was highlighted by the Quinn v. Robinson case. [75] [76]

Media outlets who wish to convey impartiality may limit their usage of "terrorist" and "terrorism" because they are loosely defined, potentially controversial in nature, and subjective terms. [77] [78]

Depending on how broadly the term is defined, the roots and practice of terrorism can be traced at least to the 1st century AD. [79] Sicarii Zealots, though some dispute whether the group, a radical offshoot of the Zealots which was active in Judaea Province at the beginning of the 1st century AD, was in fact terrorist. According to the contemporary Jewish-Roman historian Josephus, after the Zealotry rebellion against Roman rule in Judea, when some prominent Jewish collaborators with Roman rule were killed, [80] [81] Judas of Galilee formed a small and more extreme offshoot of the Zealots, the Sicarii, in 6 AD. [82] Their terror was directed against Jewish "collaborators", including temple priests, Sadducees, Herodians, and other wealthy elites. [83]

The term "terrorism" itself was originally used to describe the actions of the Jacobin Club during the "Reign of Terror" in the French Revolution. "Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible", said Jacobin leader Maximilien Robespierre. In 1795, Edmund Burke denounced the Jacobins for letting "thousands of those hell-hounds called Terrorists . loose on the people" of France.

In January 1858, Italian patriot Felice Orsini threw three bombs in an attempt to assassinate French Emperor Napoleon III. [84] Eight bystanders were killed and 142 injured. [84] The incident played a crucial role as an inspiration for the development of the early terrorist groups. [84]

Arguably the first organization to utilize modern terrorist techniques was the Irish Republican Brotherhood, [85] founded in 1858 as a revolutionary Irish nationalist group [86] that carried out attacks in England. [87] The group initiated the Fenian dynamite campaign in 1881, one of the first modern terror campaigns. [88] Instead of earlier forms of terrorism based on political assassination, this campaign used timed explosives with the express aim of sowing fear in the very heart of metropolitan Britain, in order to achieve political gains. [89]

Another early terrorist group was Narodnaya Volya, founded in Russia in 1878 as a revolutionary anarchist group inspired by Sergei Nechayev and "propaganda by the deed" theorist Carlo Pisacane. [79] [90] [91] The group developed ideas—such as targeted killing of the 'leaders of oppression'—that were to become the hallmark of subsequent violence by small non-state groups, and they were convinced that the developing technologies of the age—such as the invention of dynamite, which they were the first anarchist group to make widespread use of [92] —enabled them to strike directly and with discrimination. [93]

David Rapoport refers to four major waves of global terrorism: "the Anarchist, the Anti-Colonial, the New Left, and the Religious. The first three have been completed and lasted around 40 years the fourth is now in its third decade." [94]

Terrorist incidents, 1970–2015. A total of 157,520 incidents are plotted. Orange : 1970–1999, Red : 2000–2015

Top 10 Countries (2000–2014)

Worldwide non-state terrorist incidents 1970–2017

Share who are worried about vs. share of deaths from terrorism

Depending on the country, the political system, and the time in history, the types of terrorism are varying.

In early 1975, the Law Enforcement Assistant Administration in the United States formed the National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. One of the five volumes that the committee wrote was titled Disorders and Terrorism, produced by the Task Force on Disorders and Terrorism under the direction of H. H. A. Cooper, Director of the Task Force staff.

The Task Force defines terrorism as "a tactic or technique by means of which a violent act or the threat thereof is used for the prime purpose of creating overwhelming fear for coercive purposes". It classified disorders and terrorism into six categories: [98]

  • Civil disorder – A form of collective violence interfering with the peace, security, and normal functioning of the community.
  • Political terrorism – Violent criminal behaviour designed primarily to generate fear in the community, or substantial segment of it, for political purposes.
  • Non-Political terrorism – Terrorism that is not aimed at political purposes but which exhibits "conscious design to create and maintain a high degree of fear for coercive purposes, but the end is individual or collective gain rather than the achievement of a political objective".
  • Anonymous terrorism – In the two decades prior to 2016-19, "fewer than half" of all terrorist attacks were either "claimed by their perpetrators or convincingly attributed by governments to specific terrorist groups". A number of theory have been advanced as to why this has happened. [99]
  • Quasi-terrorism – The activities incidental to the commission of crimes of violence that are similar in form and method to genuine terrorism but which nevertheless lack its essential ingredient. It is not the main purpose of the quasi-terrorists to induce terror in the immediate victim as in the case of genuine terrorism, but the quasi-terrorist uses the modalities and techniques of the genuine terrorist and produces similar consequences and reaction. [100][101][102] For example, the fleeing felon who takes hostages is a quasi-terrorist, whose methods are similar to those of the genuine terrorist but whose purposes are quite different.
  • Limited political terrorism – Genuine political terrorism is characterized by a revolutionary approach limited political terrorism refers to "acts of terrorism which are committed for ideological or political motives but which are not part of a concerted campaign to capture control of the state".
  • Official or state terrorism – "referring to nations whose rule is based upon fear and oppression that reach similar to terrorism or such proportions". It may be referred to as Structural Terrorism defined broadly as terrorist acts carried out by governments in pursuit of political objectives, often as part of their foreign policy.

Other sources have defined the typology of terrorism in different ways, for example, broadly classifying it into domestic terrorism and international terrorism, or using categories such as vigilante terrorism or insurgent terrorism. [103] One way the typology of terrorism may be defined: [104] [105]

  • Political terrorism
    • Sub-state terrorism
      • Religious fundamentalist Terrorism
      • New religions terrorism

      Choice of terrorism as a tactic

      Individuals and groups choose terrorism as a tactic because it can:

      • Act as a form of asymmetric warfare in order to directly force a government to agree to demands
      • Intimidate a group of people into capitulating to the demands in order to avoid future injury
      • Get attention and thus political support for a cause
      • Directly inspire more people to the cause (such as revolutionary acts) – propaganda of the deed
      • Indirectly inspire more people to the cause by provoking a hostile response or over-reaction from enemies to the cause [106]

      Attacks on "collaborators" are used to intimidate people from cooperating with the state in order to undermine state control. This strategy was used in Ireland, in Kenya, in Algeria and in Cyprus during their independence struggles. [107]

      Stated motives for the September 11 attacks included inspiring more fighters to join the cause of repelling the United States from Muslim countries with a successful high-profile attack. The attacks prompted some criticism from domestic and international observers regarding perceived injustices in U.S. foreign policy that provoked the attacks, but the larger practical effect was that the United States government declared a War on Terror that resulted in substantial military engagements in several Muslim-majority countries. Various commentators have inferred that al-Qaeda expected a military response, and welcomed it as a provocation that would result in more Muslims fight the United States. Some commentators believe that the resulting anger and suspicion directed toward innocent Muslims living in Western countries and the indignities inflicted upon them by security forces and the general public also contributes to radicalization of new recruits. [106] Despite criticism that the Iraqi government had no involvement with the September 11 attacks, Bush declared the 2003 invasion of Iraq to be part of the War on Terror. The resulting backlash and instability enabled the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the temporary creation of an Islamic caliphate holding territory in Iraq and Syria, until ISIL lost its territory through military defeats.

      Attacks used to draw international attention to struggles that are otherwise unreported have included the Palestinian airplane hijackings in 1970 and the 1975 Dutch train hostage crisis.

      Causes motivating terrorism

      Specific political or social causes have included:

      • Independence or separatist movements movements
      • Adoption of a particular political philosophy, such as socialism (left-wing terrorism), anarchism, or fascism (possibly through a coup or as an ideology of an independence or separatist movement)
      • Environmental protection (ecoterrorism) of a particular group
        • Preventing a rival group from sharing or occupying a particular territory (such as by discouraging immigration or encouraging flight)
        • Subjugation of a particular population (such as lynching of African Americans)

        Sometimes terrorists on the same side fight for different reasons. For example, in the Chechen–Russian conflict secular Chechens using terrorist tactics fighting for national independence are allied with radical Islamist terrorists who have arrived from other countries. [108]

        Personal and social factors

        Various personal and social factors may influence the personal choice of whether to join a terrorist group or attempt an act of terror, including:

          , including affiliation with a particular culture, ethnicity, or religion
      • Previous exposure to violence
      • Financial reward (for example, the Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund)
      • Social isolation
      • Perception that the cause responds to a profound injustice or indignity
      • A report conducted by Paul Gill, John Horgan and Paige Deckert [ dubious – discuss ] found that for "lone wolf" terrorists: [109]

        • 43% were motivated by religious beliefs
        • 32% had pre-existing mental health disorders, while many more are found to have mental health problems upon arrest
        • At least 37% lived alone at the time of their event planning and/or execution, a further 26% lived with others, and no data were available for the remaining cases
        • 40% were unemployed at the time of their arrest or terrorist event
        • 19% subjectively experienced being disrespected by others
        • 14% percent experienced being the victim of verbal or physical assault

        Ariel Merari, a psychologist who has studied the psychological profiles of suicide terrorists since 1983 through media reports that contained biographical details, interviews with the suicides' families, and interviews with jailed would-be suicide attackers, concluded that they were unlikely to be psychologically abnormal. [110] In comparison to economic theories of criminal behaviour, Scott Atran found that suicide terrorists exhibit none of the socially dysfunctional attributes—such as fatherless, friendless, jobless situations—or suicidal symptoms. By which he means, they do not kill themselves simply out of hopelessness or a sense of 'having nothing to lose'. [111]

        Abrahm suggests that terrorist organizations do not select terrorism for its political effectiveness. [112] Individual terrorists tend to be motivated more by a desire for social solidarity with other members of their organization than by political platforms or strategic objectives, which are often murky and undefined. [112]

        Michael Mousseau shows possible relationships between the type of economy within a country and ideology associated with terrorism. [ example needed ] [113] Many terrorists have a history of domestic violence. [114]

        Terrorism is most common in nations with intermediate political freedom, and it is least common in the most democratic nations. [115] [116] [117] [118]

        Some examples of "terrorism" in non-democratic nations include ETA in Spain under Francisco Franco (although the group's terrorist activities increased sharply after Franco's death), [119] the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in pre-war Poland, [120] the Shining Path in Peru under Alberto Fujimori, [121] the Kurdistan Workers Party when Turkey was ruled by military leaders and the ANC in South Africa. [122] Democracies, such as Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, Indonesia, India, Spain, Germany, Italy and the Philippines, have experienced domestic terrorism.

        While a democratic nation espousing civil liberties may claim a sense of higher moral ground than other regimes, an act of terrorism within such a state may cause a dilemma: whether to maintain its civil liberties and thus risk being perceived as ineffective in dealing with the problem or alternatively to restrict its civil liberties and thus risk delegitimizing its claim of supporting civil liberties. [123] For this reason, homegrown terrorism has started to be seen as a greater threat, as stated by former CIA Director Michael Hayden. [124] This dilemma, some social theorists would conclude, may very well play into the initial plans of the acting terrorist(s) namely, to delegitimize the state and cause a systematic shift towards anarchy via the accumulation of negative sentiments towards the state system. [125]

        According to the Global Terrorism Index by the University of Maryland, College Park, religious extremism has overtaken national separatism and become the main driver of terrorist attacks around the world. Since 9/11 there has been a five-fold increase in deaths from terrorist attacks. The majority of incidents over the past several years can be tied to groups with a religious agenda. Before 2000, it was nationalist separatist terrorist organizations such as the IRA and Chechen rebels who were behind the most attacks. The number of incidents from nationalist separatist groups has remained relatively stable in the years since while religious extremism has grown. The prevalence of Islamist groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria is the main driver behind these trends. [127]

        Four of the terrorist groups that have been most active since 2001 are Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIL. These groups have been most active in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. Eighty percent of all deaths from terrorism occurred in one of these five countries. [127] In 2015 four Islamic extremist groups were responsible for 74% of all deaths from Islamic terrorism: ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2016. [128] Since approximately 2000, these incidents have occurred on a global scale, affecting not only Muslim-majority states in Africa and Asia, but also states with non-Muslim majority such as United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Russia, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, Israel, China, India and Philippines. Such attacks have targeted both Muslims and non-Muslims, however the majority affect Muslims themselves. [129]

        Terrorism in Pakistan has become a great problem. From the summer of 2007 until late 2009, more than 1,500 people were killed in suicide and other attacks on civilians [130] for reasons attributed to a number of causes—sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims easy availability of guns and explosives the existence of a "Kalashnikov culture" an influx of ideologically driven Muslims based in or near Pakistan, who originated from various nations around the world and the subsequent war against the pro-Soviet Afghans in the 1980s which blew back into Pakistan the presence of Islamist insurgent groups and forces such as the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. On July 2, 2013 in Lahore, 50 Muslim scholars of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) issued a collective fatwa against suicide bombings, the killing of innocent people, bomb attacks, and targeted killings declaring them as Haraam or forbidden. [131]

        In 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report on terrorism in the United States. The report (titled The Age of the Wolf) found that during that period, "more people have been killed in America by non-Islamic domestic terrorists than jihadists." [132] The "virulent racist and anti-semitic" ideology of the ultra-right wing Christian Identity movement is usually accompanied by anti-government sentiments. [133] Adherents of Christian Identity are not connected with specific Christian denominations, [134] and they believe that whites of European descent can be traced back to the "Lost Tribes of Israel" and many consider Jews to be the Satanic offspring of Eve and the Serpent. [133] This group has committed hate crimes, bombings and other acts of terrorism. Its influence ranges from the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups to the anti-government militia and sovereign citizen movements. [133] Christian Identity's origins can be traced back to Anglo-Israelism, which held the view that the British people were descendants of ancient Israelites. However, in the United States, the ideology started to become rife with anti-Semitism, and eventually Christian Identity theology diverged from the philo-semitic Anglo-Israelism, and developed what is known as the "two seed" theory. [133] According to the two-seed theory, the Jewish people are descended from Cain and the serpent (not from Shem). [133] The white European seedline is descended from the "lost tribes" of Israel. They hold themselves to "God's laws", not to "man's laws", and they do not feel bound to a government that they consider run by Jews and the New World Order. [133] The Ku Klux Klan is widely denounced by Christian denominations. [135]

        Israel has had problems with Jewish religious terrorism even before independence in 1948. During British mandate over Palestine, the Irgun were among the Zionist groups labelled as terrorist organisations by the British authorities and United Nations, [136] for violent terror attacks against Britons and Arabs. [137] [138] Another extremist group, the Lehi, openly declared its members as "terrorists". [139] [140] Historian William Cleveland stated many Jews justified any action, even terrorism, taken in the cause of the creation of a Jewish state. [141] In 1995, Yigal Amir assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. For Amir, killing Rabin was an exemplary act that symbolized the fight against an illegitimate government that was prepared to cede Jewish Holy Land to the Palestinians. [142]

        The perpetrators of acts of terrorism can be individuals, groups, or states. According to some definitions, clandestine or semi-clandestine state actors may carry out terrorist acts outside the framework of a state of war. The most common image of terrorism is that it is carried out by small and secretive cells, highly motivated to serve a particular cause and many of the most deadly operations in recent times, such as the September 11 attacks, the London underground bombing, 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2002 Bali bombing were planned and carried out by a close clique, composed of close friends, family members and other strong social networks. These groups benefited from the free flow of information and efficient telecommunications to succeed where others had failed. [143]

        Over the years, much research has been conducted to distill a terrorist profile to explain these individuals' actions through their psychology and socio-economic circumstances. [144] Others, like Roderick Hindery, have sought to discern profiles in the propaganda tactics used by terrorists. Some security organizations designate these groups as violent non-state actors. [ citation needed ] A 2007 study by economist Alan B. Krueger found that terrorists were less likely to come from an impoverished background (28 percent versus 33 percent) and more likely to have at least a high-school education (47 percent versus 38 percent). Another analysis found only 16 percent of terrorists came from impoverished families, versus 30 percent of male Palestinians, and over 60 percent had gone beyond high school, versus 15 percent of the populace.A study into the poverty-stricken conditions and whether terrorists are more likely to come from here,show that people who grew up in these situations tend to show aggression and frustration towards others. This theory is largely debated for the simple fact that just because one is frustrated,does not make them a potential terrorist. [32] [145]

        To avoid detection, a terrorist will look, dress, and behave normally until executing the assigned mission. Some claim that attempts to profile terrorists based on personality, physical, or sociological traits are not useful. [146] The physical and behavioral description of the terrorist could describe almost any normal person. [147] the majority of terrorist attacks are carried out by military age men, aged 16 to 40. [147]

        Non-state groups

        Groups not part of the state apparatus of in opposition to the state are most commonly referred to as a "terrorist" in the media.

        State sponsors

        A state can sponsor terrorism by funding or harboring a terrorist group. Opinions as to which acts of violence by states consist of state-sponsored terrorism vary widely. When states provide funding for groups considered by some to be terrorist, they rarely acknowledge them as such. [149] [ citation needed ]

        State terrorism

        Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur it is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

        As with "terrorism" the concept of "state terrorism" is controversial. [151] The Chairman of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee has stated that the committee was conscious of 12 international conventions on the subject, and none of them referred to state terrorism, which was not an international legal concept. If states abused their power, they should be judged against international conventions dealing with war crimes, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law. [152] Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that it is "time to set aside debates on so-called 'state terrorism'. The use of force by states is already thoroughly regulated under international law". [153] he made clear that, "regardless of the differences between governments on the question of the definition of terrorism, what is clear and what we can all agree on is that any deliberate attack on innocent civilians [or non-combatants], regardless of one's cause, is unacceptable and fits into the definition of terrorism." [154]

        State terrorism has been used to refer to terrorist acts committed by governmental agents or forces. This involves the use of state resources employed by a state's foreign policies, such as using its military to directly perform acts of terrorism. Professor of Political Science Michael Stohl cites the examples that include the German bombing of London, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Allied firebombing of Dresden, and the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. He argues that "the use of terror tactics is common in international relations and the state has been and remains a more likely employer of terrorism within the international system than insurgents." He cites the first strike option as an example of the "terror of coercive diplomacy" as a form of this, which holds the world hostage with the implied threat of using nuclear weapons in "crisis management" and he argues that the institutionalized form of terrorism has occurred as a result of changes that took place following World War II. In this analysis, state terrorism exhibited as a form of foreign policy was shaped by the presence and use of weapons of mass destruction, and the legitimizing of such violent behavior led to an increasingly accepted form of this behavior by the state. [155] [156] [157]

        Charles Stewart Parnell described William Ewart Gladstone's Irish Coercion Act as terrorism in his "no-Rent manifesto" in 1881, during the Irish Land War. [158] The concept is used to describe political repressions by governments against their own civilian populations with the purpose of inciting fear. For example, taking and executing civilian hostages or extrajudicial elimination campaigns are commonly considered "terror" or terrorism, for example during the Red Terror or the Great Terror. [159] Such actions are often described as democide or genocide, which have been argued to be equivalent to state terrorism. [160] Empirical studies on this have found that democracies have little democide. [161] [162] Western democracies, including the United States, have supported state terrorism [163] and mass killings, [164] [165] with some examples being the Indonesian mass killings of 1965–66 and Operation Condor. [166] [167] [168]

        The connection between terrorism and tourism has been widely studied since the Luxor massacre in Egypt. [169] [170] In the 1970s, the targets of terrorists were politicians and chiefs of police while now, international tourists and visitors are selected as the main targets of attacks. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, were the symbolic center, which marked a new epoch in the use of civil transport against the main power of the planet. [171] From this event onwards, the spaces of leisure that characterized the pride of West, were conceived as dangerous and frightful. [172] [173]

        State sponsors have constituted a major form of funding for example, Palestine Liberation Organization, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other groups considered to be terrorist organizations, were funded by the Soviet Union. [174] [175] The Stern Gang received funding from Italian Fascist officers in Beirut to undermine the British authorities in Palestine. [176]

        "Revolutionary tax" is another major form of funding, and essentially a euphemism for "protection money". [174] Revolutionary taxes "play a secondary role as one other means of intimidating the target population". [174]

        Other major sources of funding include kidnapping for ransoms, smuggling (including wildlife smuggling), [177] fraud, and robbery. [174] The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has reportedly received funding "via private donations from the Gulf states". [178]

        The Financial Action Task Force is an inter-governmental body whose mandate, since October 2001, has included combating terrorist financing. [179]

        Terrorist attacks are often targeted to maximize fear and publicity, most frequently using explosives. [181] Terrorist groups usually methodically plan attacks in advance, and may train participants, plant undercover agents, and raise money from supporters or through organized crime. Communications occur through modern telecommunications, or through old-fashioned methods such as couriers. There is concern about terrorist attacks employing weapons of mass destruction. Some academics have argued that while it is often assumed terrorism is intended to spread fear, this is not necessarily true, with fear instead being a by-product of the terrorist's actions, while their intentions may be to avenge fallen comrades or destroy their perceived enemies. [182]

        Terrorism is a form of asymmetric warfare, and is more common when direct conventional warfare will not be effective because opposing forces vary greatly in power. [183] Yuval Harari argues that the peacefulness of modern states makes them paradoxically more vulnerable to terrorism than pre-modern states. Harari argues that because modern states have committed themselves to reducing political violence to almost zero, terrorists can, by creating political violence, threaten the very foundations of the legitimacy of the modern state. This is in contrast to pre-modern states, where violence was a routine and recognised aspect of politics at all levels, making political violence unremarkable. Terrorism thus shocks the population of a modern state far more than a pre-modern one and consequently the state is forced to overreact in an excessive, costly and spectacular manner, which is often what the terrorists desire. [184]

        The type of people terrorists will target is dependent upon the ideology of the terrorists. A terrorist's ideology will create a class of "legitimate targets" who are deemed as its enemies and who are permitted to be targeted. This ideology will also allow the terrorists to place the blame on the victim, who is viewed as being responsible for the violence in the first place. [185] [186]

        The context in which terrorist tactics are used is often a large-scale, unresolved political conflict. The type of conflict varies widely historical examples include:

          of a territory to form a new sovereign state or become part of a different state
    • Dominance of territory or resources by various ethnic groups
    • Imposition of a particular form of government
    • Economic deprivation of a population
    • Opposition to a domestic government or occupying army
    • Religious fanaticism
    • Responses to terrorism are broad in scope. They can include re-alignments of the political spectrum and reassessments of fundamental values.

      Specific types of responses include:

      The term "counter-terrorism" has a narrower connotation, implying that it is directed at terrorist actors.

      Terrorism research

      Terrorism research, also called terrorism studies, or terrorism and counter-terrorism research, is an interdisciplinary academic field which seeks to understand the causes of terrorism, how to prevent it as well as its impact in the broadest sense. Terrorism research can be carried out in both military and civilian contexts, for example by research centres such as the British Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, and the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT). There are several academic journals devoted to the field, including Perspectives on Terrorism. [187] [188]

      International agreements

      One of the agreements that promote the international legal anti-terror framework is the Code of Conduct Towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism that was adopted at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2018. The Code of Conduct was initiated by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Its main goal is to implement a wide range of international commitments to counter terrorism and establish a broad global coalition towards achieving a world free of terrorism by 2045. The Code was signed by more than 70 countries. [189]

      Response in the United States

      According to a report by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin in The Washington Post, "Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States." [190]

      America's thinking on how to defeat radical Islamists is split along two very different schools of thought. Republicans, typically follow what is known as the Bush Doctrine, advocate the military model of taking the fight to the enemy and seeking to democratize the Middle East. Democrats, by contrast, generally propose the law enforcement model of better cooperation with nations and more security at home. [191] In the introduction of the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, Sarah Sewall states the need for "U.S. forces to make securing the civilian, rather than destroying the enemy, their top priority. The civilian population is the center of gravity—the deciding factor in the struggle. Civilian deaths create an extended family of enemies—new insurgent recruits or informants—and erode support of the host nation." Sewall sums up the book's key points on how to win this battle: "Sometimes, the more you protect your force, the less secure you may be. Sometimes, the more force is used, the less effective it is. The more successful the counterinsurgency is, the less force can be used and the more risk must be accepted. Sometimes, doing nothing is the best reaction." [192] This strategy, often termed "courageous restraint", has certainly led to some success on the Middle East battlefield. However, it does not address the fact that terrorists are mostly homegrown. [191]

      Mass media exposure may be a primary goal of those carrying out terrorism, to expose issues that would otherwise be ignored by the media. Some consider this to be manipulation and exploitation of the media. [193]

      The Internet has created a new channel for groups to spread their messages. [194] This has created a cycle of measures and counter measures by groups in support of and in opposition to terrorist movements. The United Nations has created its own online counter-terrorism resource. [195]

      The mass media will, on occasion, censor organizations involved in terrorism (through self-restraint or regulation) to discourage further terrorism. This may encourage organizations to perform more extreme acts of terrorism to be shown in the mass media. Conversely James F. Pastor explains the significant relationship between terrorism and the media, and the underlying benefit each receives from the other. [196]

      There is always a point at which the terrorist ceases to manipulate the media gestalt. A point at which the violence may well escalate, but beyond which the terrorist has become symptomatic of the media gestalt itself. Terrorism as we ordinarily understand it is innately media-related.

      Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously spoke of the close connection between terrorism and the media, calling publicity 'the oxygen of terrorism'. [198]

      Jones and Libicki (2008) created a list of all the terrorist groups they could find that were active between 1968 and 2006. They found 648. Of those, 136 splintered and 244 were still active in 2006. [200] Of the ones that ended, 43 percent converted to nonviolent political actions, like the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland. Law enforcement took out 40 percent. Ten percent won. Only 20 groups, 7 percent, were destroyed by military force.

      Forty-two groups became large enough to be labeled an insurgency 38 of those had ended by 2006. Of those, 47 percent converted to nonviolent political actors. Only 5 percent were taken out by law enforcement. Twenty-six percent won. Twenty-one percent succumbed to military force. [201] Jones and Libicki concluded that military force may be necessary to deal with large insurgencies but are only occasionally decisive, because the military is too often seen as a bigger threat to civilians than the terrorists. To avoid that, the rules of engagement must be conscious of collateral damage and work to minimize it.

      Another researcher, Audrey Cronin, lists six primary ways that terrorist groups end: [202]

      1. Capture or killing of a group's leader. (Decapitation).
      2. Entry of the group into a legitimate political process. (Negotiation).
      3. Achievement of group aims. (Success).
      4. Group implosion or loss of public support. (Failure).
      5. Defeat and elimination through brute force. (Repression).
      6. Transition from terrorism into other forms of violence. (Reorientation).

      The following terrorism databases are or were made publicly available for research purposes, and track specific acts of terrorism:

        , an open-source database by the University of Maryland, College Park on terrorist events around the world from 1970 through 2017 with more than 150,000 cases. (dynamic database)

      The following public report and index provides a summary of key global trends and patterns in terrorism around the world

      The following publicly available resources index electronic and bibliographic resources on the subject of terrorism

      The following terrorism databases are maintained in secrecy by the United States Government for intelligence and counter-terrorism purposes:

      Jones and Libicki (2008) includes a table of 268 terrorist groups active between 1968 and 2006 with their status as of 2006: still active, splintered, converted to nonviolence, removed by law enforcement or military, or won. (These data are not in a convenient machine-readable format but are available.)

      Yasir Arafat’s Timeline of Terror

      Members of the media are focusing much attention on Yasir Arafat’s legacy. Many of the historical briefs and timelines being published whitewash his decades-long involvement in terrorism. While they note that Arafat led Fatah and the PLO, the terrorist acts committed by these groups are often ignored.

      For example, a Nov. 4 AP timeline, reproduced in the publications and Web sites of many different media outlets, lists only one failed act of sabotage in 1965, 3 suicide bombings in December of 2001 and one in 2002.

      In fact, groups under Arafat’s direct or indirect command – including Fatah, Black September, Tanzim and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – were responsible for hundreds of bombings, hijackings, assassinations and other attacks, including the 1972 murder of 11 of Israel’s Olympic athletes in Munich, the 1973 murder of the American ambassador to Sudan, Cleo Noel, and the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruiseship (resulting in the murder of wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer).

      The AP timeline instead highlights Israel’s anti-PLO actions without providing the reason – decades of terrorist attacks against innocent civilians. Not only is the PLO’s history of international hijackings, kidnappings and child murders ignored, the terrorist organization and Arafat’s leadership of it are actually praised:

      Feb. 4, 1969: Arafat takes over PLO chairmanship, transforms it into a dynamic force that makes Palestinian cause known worldwide.

      A Knight-Ridder/Tribune timeline of Arafat’s life that appeared in Newsday only mentions terror once, in 2001: “Blamed for not controlling terrorist attacks on Israel by Hamas, other radicals.” Typical of many of the flawed timelines, it implies only that Arafat failed to control terror, not that he was actively involved in funding and supporting it.

      In order to report on Arafat’s history objectively, one must include his decades-long involvement in terror, his goal of destroying Israel, and his siphoning of hundreds of millions of dollars from money donated to help the Palestinian people that went instead into his own private accounts.

      Yasir Arafat is known to many as the “father of modern terrorism.” Below is a timeline of some of the key events of his life and terrorist acts with which he was associated. (Prepared by

      Key Events in Yasir Arafat’s Terrorist Career

      Aug 4, 1929: Born in Cairo. Arafat, then named Muhammad Abdel Rahman Abdel Rauf al-Qudwa al-Husseini, is fifth child of prosperous merchant, Abdel Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini.

      1933: Arafat’s mother dies. He and his infant brother are sent to live with uncle in Jerusalem.

      Late 1950’s: Arafat co-founds Fatah, the “Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine.”

      Jan. 1, 1965: Fatah fails in its first attempted attack within Israel — the bombing of the National Water Carrier.

      July 5, 1965: A Fatah cell plants explosives at Mitzpe Massua, near Beit Guvrin and on the railroad tracks to Jerusalem near Kafr Battir.

      1965-1967: Numerous Fatah bomb attacks target Israeli villages, water pipes, railroads. Homes are destroyed and Israelis are killed.

      July 1968: Fatah joins and becomes the dominant member of the PLO, an umbrella organization of Palestinian terrorist groups.

      Feb. 4, 1969: Arafat is appointed Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO

      Feb. 21, 1970: SwissAir flight 330, bound for Tel Aviv, is bombed in mid-flight by PFLP, a PLO member group. 47 people are killed.

      May 8, 1970: PLO terrorists attack an Israeli schoolbus with bazooka fire, killing nine pupils and three teachers from Moshav Avivim

      Sept. 6, 1970: TWA, Pan-Am, and BOAC airplanes are hijacked by PLO terrorists.

      September 1970: Jordanian forces battle the PLO terrorist organization, driving its members out of Jordan after the group’s violent activity threatens to destabilize the kingdom. The terrorists flee to Lebanon. This period in PLO history is called “Black September.”

      May 1972: PFLP, part of the PLO, dispatches members of the Japanese Red Army to attack Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, killing 27 people.

      Sept. 5, 1972: Munich Massacre —11 Israeli athletes are murdered at the Munich Olympics by a group calling themselves “Black September,”said to be an arm of Fatah, operating under Arafat’s direct command.

      March 1, 1973: Palestinian terrorists take over Saudi embassy in Khartoum. The next day, two Americans, including United States ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel, and a Belgian were shot and killed. James J. Welsh, an analyst for the National Security Agency from 1969 through 1974, charged Arafat with direct complicity in these murders.

      April 11, 1974: 11 people are killed by Palestinian terrorists who attack apartment building in Kiryat Shmona.

      May 15, 1974: PLO terrorists infiltrating from Lebanon hold children hostage in Ma’alot school. 26 people, 21 of them children, are killed.

      June 9, 1974: Palestinian National Council adopts “Phased Plan,” which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on any territory evacuated by Israel, to be used as a base of operations for destroying the whole of Israel. The PLO reaffirms its rejection of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for a “just and lasting peace” and the “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

      November 1974: PLO takes responsibility for the PDFLP’s Beit She’an murders in which 4 Israelis are killed.

      Nov. 13, 1974: Arafat, wearing a holster (he had to leave his gun at the entrance), addresses the U.N. General Assembly.

      March 1975: Members of Fatah attack the Tel Aviv seafront and take hostages in the Savoy hotel. Three soldiers, three civilians and seven terrorists are killed.

      March 1978: Coastal Road Massacre —Fatah terrorists take over a bus on the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway and kill 21 Israelis.

      1982: Having created a terrorist mini-state in Lebanon destabilizing that nation, PLO is expelled as a result of Israel’s response to incessant PLO missile attacks against northern Israeli communiti es. Arafat relocates to Tunis.

      Oct. 7, 1985: Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro is hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. Wheelchair-bound elderly man, Leon Klinghoffer, was shot and thrown overboard. Intelligence reports note that instructions originated from Arafat’s headquarters in Tunis.

      Dec. 12, 1988: Arafat claims to accept Israel’s right to exist.

      September 1993: Arafat shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, inaugurating the Oslo Accords. Arafat pledges to stop incitement and terror, and to foster co-existence with Israel, but fails to comply. Throughout the years of negotiations, aside from passing, token efforts, Arafat does nothing to stop Hamas, PFLP, and Islamic Jihad from carrying out thousands of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. With Arafat’s encouragement and financial support, groups directly under Arafat’s command, such as the Tanzim and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, also carry out terror attacks.

      Oct. 21, 1996: Speaking at a rally near Bethlehem, Arafat said “We know only one word – jihad. jihad, jihad, jihad. Whoever does not like it can drink from the Dead Sea or from the Sea of Gaza.” (Yediot Ahronot, October 23, 1996)

      April 16, 1998: In a statement published in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, Arafat is quoted: “O my dear ones on the occupied lands, relatives and friends throughout Palestine and the diaspora, my colleagues in struggle and in arms, my colleagues in struggle and in jihad…Intensify the revolution and the blessed intifada…We must burn the ground under the feet of the invaders.”

      July 2000: Arafat rejects peace settlement offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, which would have led to a Palestinian state.

      September 2000: New “intifada” is launched. Arafat continues to incite, support and fund terrorism.

      Jan. 3, 2002: Israelis intercept the Karine-A, a ship loaded with 50 tons of mortars, rocket launchers, anti-tank mines and other weapons intended for the Palestinian war against the Israelis. The captain admits he was under the command of the Palestinian Authority.

      September 2003: IMF report titled “Economic Performance and Reforms under Conflict Conditions,” states that Arafat has diverted $900 million of public PA funds into his own accounts from 1995 – 2000.

      Below are some of the attacks since Sept 2000 perpetrated by groups under Arafat’s command:

      May 29, 2001: Gilad Zar, an Itamar resident, was shot dead in a terrorist ambush by Fatah Tanzim.

      May 29, 2001: Sara Blaustein, 53, and Esther Alvan, 20, of Efrat, were killed in a drive-by shooting south of Jerusalem. The Fatah Tanzim claimed responsibility for the attack.

      June 18, 2001: Doron Zisserman, 38, shot and killed in his car by Fatah sniper fire.

      Aug 26, 2001: Dov Rosman, 58, killed in a shooting attack by Fatah terrorist.

      Sept 6, 2001: Erez Merhavi, 23, killed in a Fatah Tanzim ambush shooting near Hadera while driving to a wedding.

      Sept 20, 2001: Sarit Amrani, 26, killed by Fatah terrorist snipers as she was traveling in a car with her husband and 3 children.

      Oct 4, 2001: 3 killed, 13 wounded, when a Fatah terrorist, dressed as an Israeli paratrooper, opened fire on Israeli civilians waiting at the central bus station in Afula.

      Nov 27, 2001 – 2 killed 50 injured when two Palestinian terrorists opened fire with Kalashnikov assault rifles on a crowd of people near the central bus station in Afula. Fatah and the Islamic Jihad claimed joint responsibility.

      Nov 29, 2001: 3 killed and 9 wounded in a suicide bombing on an Egged 823 bus en route from Nazereth to Tel Aviv near the city of Hadera. The Islamic Jihad and Fatah claimed responsibility for the attack.

      Dec 12, 2001 – 11 killed and 30 wounded when three terrorists attacked a bus and several passenger cars with a roadside bomb, anti-tank grenades, and light arms fire near the entrance to Emmanuel in Samaria . Both Fatah and Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

      Jan 15, 2002: Avi Boaz, 71, an American citizen, was kidnapped at a PA security checkpoint in Beit Jala. His bullet-riddled body was found in a car near Bethlehem. The Fatah’s Al-Aksa Brigade claimed responsibility for the murder.

      Jan 15, 2002: Yoela Chen, 45, was shot dead by an Al Aqsa Brigade terrorist

      Jan 17, 2002: 6 killed, 35 wounded when a Fatah terrorist burst into a bat mitzva reception in a banquet hall in Hadera opening fire with an M-16 assault rifle.

      Jan 22, 2002: 2 killed, 40 injured when a Fatah terrorist opened fire with an M-16 assault rifle near a bus stop in downtown Jerusalem.

      Jan. 27, 2002: One person was killed and more than 150 were wounded by a female Fatah suicide bomber in the center of Jerusalem.

      Feb 6, 2002 – A mother and her 11 year old daughter were murdered in their home by a Palestinian terrorist disguised in an IDF uniform. Both Fatah and Hamas claimed responsibility.

      Feb 18, 2002 : – Ahuva Amergi, 30, was killed and a 60-year old man was injured when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on her car. Maj. Mor Elraz, 25, and St.-Sgt. Amir Mansouri, 21, who came to their assistance, were killed while trying to intercept the terrorist. The terrorist was killed when the explosives he was carrying were detonated. The Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.

      Feb 22, 2002: Valery Ahmir, 59, was killed by terrorists in a Fatah drive-by shooting north of Jerusalem as he returned home from work.

      Feb 25, 2002: Avraham Fish, 65, and Aharon Gorov, 46, were killed in a Fatah terrorist shooting attack south of Bethlehem. Fish’s daughter, 9 months pregnant, was seriously injured but delivered a baby girl.

      Feb 25, 2002: Police officer 1st Sgt. Galit Arbiv, 21, died after being fatally shot, when a Fatah terrorist opened fire at a bus stop in the Neve Ya’akov residential neighbhorhood in northern Jerusalem. Eight others were injured.

      Feb 27, 2002: Gad Rejwan, 34, of Jerusalem, was shot and killed by one of his Palestinian emplo yees in a factory north of Jerusalem. Two Fatah groups issued a joint statement taking responsibility for the murder.

      March 2, 2002: A suicide bombing by Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem killed 11 people and injured more than 50.

      Mar 5, 2002: 3 were killed and over 30 people were wounded in Tel-Aviv when a Fatah terrorist opened fire on two adjacent restaurants shortly after 2:00 AM.

      Mar 5, 2002: Devorah Friedman, 45, of Efrat, was killed and her husband injured in a Fatah shooting attack on the Bethlehem bypass “tunnel road”, south of Jerusalem.

      Mar 9, 2002: Avia Malka, 9 months, and Israel Yihye, 27, were killed and about 50 people were injured when two Fatah terrorists opened fire and threw grenades at cars and pedestrians in the coastal city of Netanya on Saturday evening, close to the city’s boardwalk and hotels.

      March 21, 2002: An Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade suicide bomber exploded himself in a crowd of shoppers in Jerusalem, killing 3 and injuring 86.

      March 29, 2002: Two killed and 28 injured when a female Fatah suicide bomber blew herself up in a Jerusalem supermarket.

      March 30, 2002: One killed and 30 injured in an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.

      April 12, 2002: Six killed and 104 wounded when a female Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade suicide bomber blew herself up at a bus stop on Jaffa road at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda open-air market.

      May 27, 2002: Ruth Peled, 56, of Herzliya and her infant granddaughter, aged 14 months, were killed and 37 people were injured when a Fatah suicide bomber detonated himself near an ice cream parlor outside a shopping mall in Petah Tikva.

      May 28, 2002 – Albert Maloul, 50, of Jerusalem, was killed when shots were fired by Fatah terrorists at the car in which he was traveling south on the Ramallah bypass road.

      May 28, 2002 – Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorists killed Netanel Riachi, 17, Gilad Stiglitz, 14, and Avraham Siton, 17, three yeshiva high school students playing basketball.

      June 19, 2002: Seven people were killed and 37 injured when a Fatah suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded bus stop and hitchhiking post in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem.

      June 20, 2002: Rachel Shabo, 40, and three of her sons – Neria, 16, Zvika, 12, and Avishai, 5 – as well as a neighbor, Yosef Twito, 31, who came to their aid, were murdered when a terrorist entered their home in Itamar, south of Nablus, and opened fire. Two other children were injured, as well as two soldiers. The PFLP and the Fatah Al Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.

      July 25, 2002: Rabbi Elimelech Shapira, 43, was killed in a Fatah shooting attack near the West Bank community of Alei Zahav.

      July 26, 2002: St.-Sgt. Elazar Lebovitch, 21, of Hebron Rabbi Yosef Dikstein, 45, of Psagot, his wife Hannah, 42, and their 9-year-old son Shuv’el Zion were killed in a Fatah Al Aqsa Brigade shooting attack south of Hebron. Two other of their children were injured. – July 30, 2002: Shlomo Odesser, 60, and his brother Mordechai, 52, both of Tapuach in Samaria, were shot and killed when their truck came under Fatah fire in the West Bank village of Jama’in.

      Aug 4, 2002: 2 killed and 17 wounded when a Fatah terrorist opened fire with a pistol near the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City.

      Aug 5, 2002: Avi Wolanski (29) and his wife Avital (27), of Eli, were killed and one of their children, aged 3, was injured when terrorists opened fire on their car as they were traveling on the Ramallah-Nablus road in Samaria. The Martyrs of the Palestinian Popular Army, a splinter group associated with Arafat’s Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack.

      Aug 10, 2002: Yafit Herenstein, 31, of Moshav Mechora in the Jordan Valley, was killed and her husband, Arno, seriously wounded when a Fatah terrorist infiltrated the moshav and opened fire outside their home.

      Sept 18, 2002: Yosef Ajami, 36, was killed when Fatah terrorists opened fire on his car near Mevo Dotan, north of Jenin in the West Bank.

      Oct 29, 2002: Three people, including 2 fourteen year olds, were shot to death by a Fatah terrorist.

      Nov 10, 2002: Revital Ohayon, 34, and her two sons, Matan, 5, and Noam, 4, as well as Yitzhak Dori, 44 – all of Kibbutz Metzer – and Tirza Damari, 42, were killed when a Fatah terrorist infiltrated the kibbutz, located east of Hadera near the Green Line, and opened fire.

      Nov 28, 2002: 5 killed and 40 wounded when two Fatah terrorists opened fire and threw grenades at the Likud polling station in Beit She’an, near the central bus station, where party members were casting their votes in the Likud primary.

      Apr 24, 2003 – 1 was killed and 13 were wounded in a suicide bombing outside the train station in Kfar Sava. Groups related to the Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the PFLP clamied joint responsibility for the attack.

      May 5, 2003 – Gideon Lichterman, 27, was killed and two other passengers, his six-year-old daughter Moriah and a reserve soldier, were seriously wounded when Fatah terrorists fired shots at their vehicle in Samaria.

      May 19, 2003: 3 were killed and 70 were wounded in a suicide bombing at the entrance to the Amakim Mall in Afula. The Islamic Jihad and the Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades both claimed responsibility for the attack.

      Aug 29, 2003: Shalom Har-Melekh, 25, was killed in a Fatah shooting attack while driving northeast of Ramallah. His wife, Limor, who was seven months pregnant, sustained moderate injuries, and gave birth to a baby girl by Caesarean section.

      Jan 29, 2004: 11 people were killed and over 50 wounded in a suicide bombing of an Egged bus no. 19 at the corner of Gaza and Arlozorov streets in Jerusalem. Both the Fatah-related Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

      Mar 14, 2004: 10 were killed and 16 wounded in a double suicide bombing at Ashdod Port. Hamas and Fatah claimed responsibility for the attack.

      May 2, 2004: Tali Hatuel, 34, and her daughters – Hila, 11, Hadar, 9, Roni, 7, and Merav, 2 – of Katif in the Gaza Strip were killed when two Palestinian terrorists fired on an Israeli car at the entrance to the Gaza Strip settlement bloc of Gush Katif. Fatah and Islamic Jihad claimed joint responsibility for the attack.


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      9. Imad Mughniyeh

      Mughniyeh was the founding member of Lebanon’s Islamic Jihad and overseer of Hezbollah’s military and intelligence operations and has been described as an astute military tactician.

      Mughniyeh was born in December 1962 in Tayr Dibba, Lebanon, to a family of peasant farmers that grew lemons and olives.

      In his teens, he created a student brigade of about 100 radical young men, which later became a part of Yasser Arafat’s elite force 17.

      In 1981, he joined the Islamic Resistance of Hezbollah, through which he orchestrated several suicide bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations.

      He started with the Beirut barracks bombings in October 1983, where two truck bombs struck a building in Beirut housing American and French servicemen working for a military peacekeeping operation, killing 241 Americans and 58 French and 8 civilians.

      The group was also responsible for the kidnapping of dozens of western foreigners living in Lebanon in the 1980s, including the CIA station chief in Beirut, William Francis Buckley.

      In April 1983, Mughniyeh organized another suicide bombing on the U.S. embassy in Beirut that killed 63 people, with most of the American victims being embassy personnel and CIA staff members.

      In 1992, he orchestrated another suicide bombing, this time on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, where a pickup truck loaded with explosives smashed the Israeli embassy, destroying the embassy and nearby school buildings and a catholic church. The blast killed 29 people and wounded 242, with most of the victims being children.

      Mughniyeh is also alleged to have masterminded the Khobar Tower bombing in June 1996 that killed 19 American Airforce personnel, the kidnapping of IDF soldiers in October 2000, including Colonel Elchanan Tenenbaum, as well as the 2006 cross border raid that killed 8 soldiers and abducted 2.

      Before the September 11 attacks, Imad Mughniyeh had killed more U.S. citizens than any other man.

      On February 12, 2008, Mughniyeh was killed by a detonated car bomb as he passed by on foot. He is reported to have eluded arrest over the years by undergoing extensive plastic surgeries.

      A brief history of terrorism

      In terms of targeting, many of the tactical means and methods of modern terrorism have, until relatively recently, followed those utilized between States in their armed conflicts inter se. It has been argued specifically that, a century ago, terrorist codes on targeting victims closely resembled professional military codes, in that they respected the distinction between soldiers and officials on the one hand, and innocent civilians on the other (e.g., the targeted assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28 June 1914) (Walzer, 1977, pp. 197-234). This was the case from approximately the mid-nineteenth century onwards, when increasingly industrialized weaponry facilitated a lack of targeting, in the sense that killing the enemy became more indiscriminate and deadly. The industrialized and indiscriminate means and methods of warfare utilized during the two "total wars" of the twentieth century (e.g., in widespread disregard of the principle of distinction) effectively taught those who would become post-war revolutionary terrorists, and who also would adopt more irregular weapons and forms of fighting, such as urban guerrilla warfare. In the contemporary world, indiscriminate weaponry (e.g., high-level bombing capacities, weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and so on) is a recurring feature.

      In terms of terrorist strategy, a useful way to conceptualize the evolution of modern terrorism as a resort to revolutionary violence is provided by David Rapoport's influential concept of the "waves" of terrorism ( 'The Four Waves of Terrorism'). For example, one wave is the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century "anarchist wave". Another is the "anti-colonial wave" (starting with the post-World War I political principle of self-determination, e.g., the Aaland Islands arbitration in 1921, and its violent evolution into a legal right after World War II, examples being the Algerian Civil War and the Vietnam War).

      In turn, the tactics employed in each of these waves often mirrored those utilized between States during armed conflict, not least because demobilized soldiers throughout the ages have returned to their homes at the end of a war fully trained tactically to utilize force, while the name of each terrorist wave reflects its dominant strategic goals. The wave theory further reflects that terrorist groups rise and fall, that they can dissolve when no longer capable of inspiring others to continue with violent resistance to authority, to violently redress one or other grievance, or to protest violently against a lack of political concessions. This point also suggests that terrorism and its motivations are clearly impacted by the conditions of and changes in social and political cultures.

      In contrast, Parker and Sitter (2016) posit that violent terrorist situations occur around the world not so much in waves, but because terrorist actors are motivated differentially through four goal-oriented strains: socialism, nationalism, religious extremism or exclusionism. These underlying motivators are not chronologically sequential, i.e., one strain dies and a new one arises. Instead, they can work in parallel, and can occasionally overlap, to motivate different terrorist movements according to their needs.

      Such academic discourse offers a flavour of some of the discussions and debates that occur when seeking to better comprehend or categorize "terrorist" groups. This University Module Series, however, does not take a view regarding what the motivational factors of various non-State actors may or may not be. These are issues that those teaching this or any other parts of this University Module Series may wish to explore further within different contexts.

      The War Comes Home: The Evolution of Domestic Terrorism in the United States

      White supremacists and other like-minded extremists conducted two-thirds of the terrorist plots and attacks in the United States in 2020, according to new CSIS data. Anarchists, anti-fascists, and other like-minded extremists orchestrated 20 percent of the plots and attacks, though the number of incidents grew from previous years as these extremists targeted law enforcement, military, and government facilities and personnel. Despite these findings, however, the number of fatalities from domestic terrorism is relatively low compared to previous years.


      There has been growing concern about the threat of domestic terrorism, with extremists motivated by political, racial, ethnic, economic, health, and other grievances. In October 2020, the FBI arrested Adam Fox, Barry Croft, and several other accomplices in a plot to kidnap and potentially execute Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Members of this network, which had ties to militias in Michigan and other states, referred to Governor Whitmer as a “tyrant” and claimed that she had “uncontrolled power right now.” 1 They also discussed kidnapping Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, in part because of his lockdown orders to slow the spread of Covid-19. 2

      Some U.S. government agencies have outlined the threat from domestic extremists, though most have not provided recent data about terrorist incidents. In its Homeland Threat Assessment released in October 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concluded that “racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists—specifically white supremacist extremists (WSEs)—will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.” 3 The report also assessed that anarchists and other individuals inspired by anti-government and anti-authority ideologies posed a threat. But it did not provide 2020 data. The Federal Bureau of Investigation similarly argued that the “top threat we face from domestic violent extremists” is from racially- and ethnically-motivated violent extremists, including white supremacists. 4 Nevertheless, FBI officials have not publicly released their data, making it difficult for U.S. civilians to judge the degree and type of threat.

      To help fill this gap, this analysis provides new data on the domestic terrorist threat in the United States. It asks several questions. What are the main trends in domestic terrorism in 2020 in such areas as terrorist motivation, tactics, and targets? How did 2020 compare to previous years? To answer these questions, the authors constructed a data set of terrorist attacks and plots in the United States from January 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020, which updated a broader CSIS data set of terrorist incidents in the United States from 1994 to 2020. 5

      Based on the data, this analysis has several findings, which are discussed at greater length later in this assessment. First, white supremacists and other like-minded extremists conducted 67 percent of terrorist plots and attacks in the United States in 2020. They used vehicles, explosives, and firearms as their predominant weapons and targeted demonstrators and other individuals because of their racial, ethnic, religious, or political makeup—such as African Americans, immigrants, Muslims, and Jews. Second, there was a rise in the number of anarchist, anti-fascist, and other like-minded attacks and plots in 2020 compared to previous years, which comprised 20 percent of terrorist incidents (an increase from 8 percent in 2019). These types of extremists used explosives and incendiaries in the majority of attacks, followed by firearms. They also targeted police, military, and government personnel and facilities. Third, far-left and far-right violence was deeply intertwined—creating a classic “security dilemma.” 6 Since it is difficult to distinguish between offensive and defensive weapons, armed individuals from various sides reacted to each other during protests and riots, and each side’s efforts to protect itself and acquire weapons generally threatened others.

      Despite these findings, this violence needs to be understood in historical context. The number of fatalities from terrorist attacks in the U.S. homeland is still relatively small compared to some periods in U.S. history, making it important not to overstate the threat. 7 Roughly half of the years since 1994 had a greater number of fatalities from terrorism than 2020—at least between January 1 and August 31, 2020. There were also no mass-casualty terrorist attacks, a stark contrast from such incidents as the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people the September 2001 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people and the June 2016 Orlando attack, which killed 49 people. Still, violence levels in the United States could rise over the next year depending on political polarization, the persistence of the Covid-19 pandemic (and reactions to policy decisions to mitigate its spread), worsening economic conditions, growing concerns about immigration (whether real or perceived), racial injustice, or other factors. It is also possible that the organizational structure of extremism could evolve from today’s decentralized landscape to include more hierarchically structured groups.

      The rest of this report is divided into three sections. The first defines terrorism and differentiates this report’s focus on terrorism from other phenomena, such as hate crimes and riots. The second section outlines and analyzes the 2020 terrorism data. The third explores future developments, including the potential for violence after the 2020 presidential election.

      Defining Terrorism

      This report focuses on terrorism—not other issues, such as hate crimes, protests, riots, or broader civil unrest. Terrorism is the deliberate use—or threat—of violence by non-state actors in order to achieve political goals and create a broad psychological impact. 8 Violence and the threat of violence are important components of terrorism. This analysis divides terrorism into several categories: religious, ethnonationalist, violent-far-right, violent-far-left, and other (which includes terrorism that does not fit neatly into any of the other categories). 9 Terms such as far-right and far-left terrorism do not correspond to mainstream political parties in the United States, such as the Republican and Democratic parties, which eschew terrorism. Nor do they correspond to the vast majority of political conservatives and liberals in the United States, who do not support terrorism. Instead, terrorism is orchestrated by a small set of violent extremists. As terrorism scholar Walter Laqueur argues, “terrorist movements are usually small some very small indeed, and while historians and sociologists can sometimes account for mass movements, the movements of small particles in politics as in physics often defy any explanation.” 10

      Religious terrorism includes violence in support of a faith-based belief system, such as Islam, Judaism, Christianity, or Hinduism. The primary threat from religious terrorists in the United States comes from Salafi-jihadists inspired by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. 11 Ethnonationalist terrorism refers to violence in support of ethnic or nationalist goals, which often include struggles of self-determination and separatism along ethnic or nationalist lines. Due to the relatively low levels of ethnonationalist terrorism in the United States—no such incidents occurred in 2020—this brief does not address ethnonationalist terrorism. 12 Far-right terrorism refers to the use or threat of violence by subnational or non-state entities whose goals may include racial or ethnic supremacy opposition to government authority anger at women, including from the involuntary celibate (or “incel”) movement belief in certain conspiracy theories, such as QAnon and outrage against certain policies, such as abortion. 13 Some extremists on the violent far-right have supported “accelerationism,” which includes taking actions to promote social upheaval and incite a civil war. 14 Far-left terrorism involves the use or threat of violence by subnational or non-state entities that oppose capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism advocate black nationalism pursue environmental or animal rights issues espouse pro-communist or pro-socialist beliefs or support a decentralized social and political system such as anarchism. 15 Other involves the use or threat of violence by subnational or non-state entities that do not neatly fit into any of the above categories, such as the anti-government Boogaloo movement, whose adherents aim to start a civil war (or “boogaloo”) in the United States. 16

      In focusing on terrorism, this report does not cover the broader categories of hate speech or hate crimes. There is some overlap between terrorism and hate crimes, since some hate crimes include the use or threat of violence. 17 But hate crimes can also include non-violent incidents, such as graffiti and verbal abuse. Hate crimes and hate speech are obviously concerning and a threat to society, but this analysis concentrates only on terrorism and the use—or threat—of violence to achieve political objectives. In addition, this analysis does not focus on protests, looting, and broader civil disturbances. While these incidents are important to analyze—particularly in light of the events in 2020 following the death of George Floyd—most are not terrorism. Some are not violent, while others lack a political motivation. For instance, some of the looting following the death of George Floyd was perpetrated by apolitical criminals. 18 Nevertheless, coding incidents as terrorism is challenging in some cases, which is addressed in the methodology that accompanies this analysis.

      Finally, while there is often a desire among government officials and academics to focus on terrorist groups and organizations, the terrorism landscape in the United States remains highly decentralized. Many are inspired by the concept of “leaderless resistance,” which rejects a centralized, hierarchical organization in favor of decentralized networks or individual activity. 19 As Kathleen Belew argues in her study of the white power movement in the United States, the aim of leaderless resistance is “to prevent the infiltration of groups, and the prosecution of organizations and individuals, by formally dissociating activists from each other and by eliminating official orders.” 20 In addition to their decentralized structures, the violent far-right and far-left in the United States include a wide range of ideologies. The decentralized nature of terrorism is particularly noteworthy regarding the use of violence, which CSIS data suggests is often planned and orchestrated by a single individual or small network. Consequently, this analysis frequently refers to terrorist individuals and networks, rather than groups.

      Data Analysis

      To evaluate the terrorism threat in the United States, CSIS compiled a data set of 61 incidents that occurred in the country between January 1 and August 31, 2020. (The link to the methodology can be found at the end of the brief.) These incidents included both attacks and plots. The authors coded the ideology of the perpetrators into one of four categories: religious, violent far-right, violent far-left, and other (there were no ethnonationalist attacks or plots during this period). All religious attacks and plots in the CSIS data set were committed by terrorists motivated by a Salafi-jihadist ideology. Of the four attacks coded as “other,” all were committed by adherents of the Boogaloo movement. This section analyzes the data in three parts: number of attacks and plots, targets and tactics, and fatalities.

      Attacks and Plots: Most domestic terrorist attacks and plots between January 1 and August 31, 2020 were committed by white supremacists, anti-government extremists from the violent far-right, and involuntary celibates (incels). As shown in Figure 1, far-right terrorists committed 67 percent of attacks and plots, far-left terrorists committed 20 percent, and extremists with other motivations (such as supporters of the Boogaloo movement) and Salafi-jihadists each committed 7 percent.

      In mid-January 2020, six members of The Base, a transnational white supremacist group, were arrested in Georgia and Maryland and charged with plotting terrorist attacks. 21 On May 8, the FBI arrested anti-government extremist Christian Stanley Ferguson in Cleveland, Ohio, who was planning to ambush and execute federal law enforcement officers and then start an uprising. 22 Ferguson also posted violent messages on the digital distribution platform Discord. In one of three attacks in 2020 linked to the online “manosphere,” Armando Hernandez, Jr. was arrested in Glendale, Arizona, after a shooting spree targeting couples at the Westgate Entertainment District that injured three individuals. 23

      Targets and Tactics: The increase in protests and political rallies over the summer of 2020 resulted in notable changes in targets and weapons adopted by violent far-left and far-right extremists.

      Actors of both orientations targeted demonstrators in a large percentage of their attacks. 24 Demonstrators were the primary targets of far-right terrorists—in 50 percent of attacks and plots—including attacks from white supremacists and others who opposed the Black Lives Matter movement. For example, on May 30 Brandon McCormick threatened Black Lives Matter protesters in Salt Lake City, Utah, with a knife and a loaded compound bow while shouting racial slurs. 25 As in previous years, violent far-right extremists frequently targeted government, military, and police targets (18 percent of incidents) and private individuals based on race, gender, and other factors (18 percent of incidents).

      While the primary targets (58 percent) of anarchists and anti-fascists were police, government, and military personnel and institutions, 42 percent of their attacks and plots in 2020 also targeted demonstrators. These included crowds supporting the police and Donald Trump, as well as protesters against abortion. The rise in violent far-left and far-right attacks against demonstrators may have been caused by the emerging security dilemma in urban areas, where there was a combustible mix of large crowds, angry demonstrators, and weapons.

      There was also an increase in vehicle attacks, most of which targeted demonstrators and most of which were committed by white supremacists or others who opposed the Black Lives Matter movement. On June 7, for instance, Harry H. Rogers—a member of the Ku Klux Klan—intentionally drove his blue Chevrolet pick-up truck into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters, injuring one. 26 Rogers was later convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. From January to August 2020, vehicles were used in 11 violent far-right attacks—27 percent of all far-right terrorist incidents—narrowly making them the weapons most frequently used in far-right attacks. This marked a significant increase from 2015 to 2019, during which a vehicle was used in only one violent far-right attack. Although vehicle attacks against demonstrators were most common among white supremacists, one such attack was committed by a violent far-left perpetrator as well. On July 25, Isaiah Ray Cordova drove his sports utility vehicle into a crowd in Eaton, Colorado, which had gathered for a Defend the Police rally. 27

      This spike in vehicle attacks may have been caused by the ease of using a vehicle to target large gatherings, such as protests. As a Department of Homeland Security assessment concluded, “Attacks of this nature require minimal capability, but can have a devastating impact in crowded places with low levels of visible security.” 28 While a concerning development, these vehicle attacks were not as lethal as those in such cities as Nice, France in July 2016, which killed 86 people Barcelona in August 2017, which killed 16 people or New York City in October 2017, which killed 8 people.

      Explosives, incendiaries, and firearms remained common in both violent far-right and violent far-left attacks and plots, despite the increase in vehicle attacks linked to rallies and protests. Firearms were used in nearly a quarter of violent far-right incidents and were used in 34 percent of violent far-left attacks and plots. On June 6, local police arrested Brandon Moore in Coos Bay, Oregon, after he threatened protesters with a handgun while saying, “White lives matter.” 29 Meanwhile, explosives and incendiaries were used in half of far-left incidents—all of which targeted government or police property or personnel—and in 25 percent of violent far-right attacks and plots. On May 28, far-left extremists in Minneapolis, Minnesota, conducted an arson attack against the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct, as the crowd shouted “Burn it down, burn it down.” 30 The U.S. Department of Justice charged four men—Dylan Shakespeare Robinson, Davon De-Andre Turner, Bryce Michael Williams, and Branden Michael Wolfe—with conspiracy to commit arson and other crimes in the attack at the Third Precinct. 31

      Overall, the data suggest that domestic terrorism evolved based on the surge in public demonstrations that began in May. These trends were not a commentary on the protests themselves, but rather on the ability of extremists to adapt to opportunities and the proximity of armed individuals in cities with different political and ideological motivations. Data compiled by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) found that out of 10,600 demonstrations between May and August, nearly 95 percent were peaceful, while approximately 5 percent—fewer than 570—involved violence.” 32

      Fatalities: Despite the large number of terrorist incidents, there were only five fatalities caused by domestic terrorism in the first eight months of 2020. There were four times as many far-left terrorist incidents and the same number of far-right terrorist incidents in 2020 as in all of 2019. Yet only 5 of the 61 incidents (8 percent) recorded between January and August 2020 resulted in fatalities, excluding the perpetrator. Some of these incidents were plots foiled by the FBI or other law enforcement agencies, which suggested that law enforcement agencies were effective in preventing several major attacks. Still, the number of fatalities in 2020 was low compared to the past five years, in which total fatalities ranged from 22 to 66 fatalities. All five fatal attacks in 2020 were conducted with firearms. 33

      Of the five fatal attacks—each of which resulted in the death of one individual—one was committed by an Antifa activist, one by a far-right extremist, one by an anti-feminist, and two by an adherent of the Boogaloo movement. 34 In the fatal far-left attack, Michael Reinoehl, an Antifa extremist, shot and killed Aaron “Jay” Danielson in Portland, Oregon, on August 29. 35 On July 25, Daniel Perry shot and killed a protester in Austin, Texas. 36 On July 19, anti-feminist Roy Den Hollander shot the family of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, killing her son and wounding her husband. 37 Finally, there were two fatal Boogaloo attacks in 2020. On May 29, Steven Carrillo shot and killed Pat Underwood, a protective security officer, and wounded his partner in Oakland, California. 38 Carrillo also killed a Santa Cruz County Sherriff’s Deputy in Ben Lomond, California, with an assault rifle on June 6, 2020. 39

      The relatively low number of fatalities compared to the high number of terrorist incidents suggests that extremists in 2020 prioritized sending messages through intimidation and threats rather than killing. Given that a large portion of attacks were conducted with vehicles or firearms, there was a high potential for lethality—but an apparent lack of will.

      Future Developments

      A growing number of U.S. federal and state threat assessments have concluded that domestic terrorism could persist in the United States for the foreseeable future, including in 2021 and beyond. For example, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness projected that “domestic extremists—primarily anarchist, anti-government, and racially motivated—will continue to manipulate national incidents” and remain a threat at least through 2021. 40 Looking toward the future, there are several issues worth monitoring.

      First, there are various scenarios for a continuation—and even a rise—of violence after the November 2020 elections, which could persist into 2021 and beyond. Rising political polarization, growing economic challenges, the persistence of Covid-19, and growing concerns about immigration could lead to a rise in domestic terrorism.

      The actions of far-left and far-right extremists are likely to be interlinked as various sides respond to others during protests, riots, demonstrations, and online activity. There appears to be an assumption by some extremists that others are prepared to use force, which heightens the possibility of violence. All sides have access to firearms, incendiaries, crude explosives, and other weapons, and are willing to bring them to demonstrations. This situation is a classic security dilemma. 41 Each side’s efforts to increase its own security and acquire weapons inadvertently threaten the other side. Since it may be difficult for individuals to distinguish between offensive and defensive arms, even efforts by one side to protect itself may motivate others to arm, creating a spiral of actions that leads to violence. 42 As Figure 6 highlights, domestic terrorism incidents have not been isolated to specific geographic locations, suggesting that a rise in terrorism would likely be a national problem, not a regional one. The broad scope of domestic terrorism also makes it difficult to predict where future incidents will occur.

      In the event of a Democratic presidential victory, the threat could involve specific attacks by radicalized white supremacists, militias, and other related individuals. In these incidents, the primary weapons—particularly for fatal attacks—are likely to be firearms and explosives, as highlighted in the 2020 militia plots against the governors of Michigan and Virginia. Based on data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the number of firearm background checks for gun purchases spiked to its highest level ever in 2020—which doubled over the past decade. 43 The pervasiveness of guns—including automatic weapons—is particularly concerning in the United States’ ultra-polarized political climate. Based on our data, the targets are likely to be demonstrators, politicians, or individuals based on their race, ethnicity, or religion—such as African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and Jews.

      In the event of a Republican presidential victory, for example, the primary threat may come from large-scale demonstrations in cities, some of which become violent. Anarchists, anti-fascists, and other far-left extremists have utilized digital platforms and other publications to argue that Donald Trump is a neo-fascist and that violence is legitimate. 44 As the Antifa-aligned journal It’s Going Down argued, “Suddenly, anarchists and antifa, who have been demonized and sidelined by the wider Left have been hearing from liberals and Leftists, ‘you’ve been right all along.’” 45 A Baltimore-based Antifa activist explained the use of violence as graduated and escalating: “You fight them with fists so you don’t have to fight them with knives. You fight them with knives so you don’t have to fight them with guns. You fight them with guns so you don’t have to fight them with tanks.” 46 Anarchists, anti-fascists, and other far-left individuals and networks have increasingly used firearms—in addition to explosives and incendiary devices—in conducting attacks. In this scenario, the primary targets could be government, military, and police facilities and personnel.

      Digital platforms will likely continue to be a major battlefield. Far-left extremists will likely continue to use social media platforms—such as Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter—to release propaganda and instigate violence against political opponents, law enforcement, military, and the government. 47 Many adopted slogans, such as ACAB (“all cops are bastards”), that were used in memes as part of their propaganda campaigns. Far-right extremists will likely use a multitude of mainstream platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Telegram, and Reddit), lesser-known platforms (such as Gab, Discord, Minds, and Bitchute), forums (such as Stormfront and IronForge), and other online communities to instigate violence against African Americans, Jews, immigrants, and others. 48 Extremists from all sides will likely utilize digital platforms to fundraise, communicate, issue propaganda, conduct doxing campaigns (releasing an individual’s personally identifiable information), intimidate targets, and coordinate activity.

      Second, the domestic landscape could shift from a decentralized milieu of extremists to more organized and hierarchically structured groups. As one study concluded, Louis Beam’s concept of “leaderless resistance” has been “a near total failure as a method of fomenting widespread armed resistance against the U.S. government.” 49 Most effective militant organizations have established centralized organizational structures to enable their leaders to control how violence is orchestrated and how finances are secured and managed. 50

      In the United States, there are a handful of groups—such as The Base, the Atomwaffen Division (including rebranded versions such as the National Socialist Order), and the Feuerkrieg Division—with some leadership structure and command-and-control arrangements. There are also loose extremist movements that have a limited structure—especially in local areas or online—but lack a clear hierarchy and ideology. Examples include the Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, Boogaloos, QAnon, and some local networks of anarchists, anti-fascists, and militias. There have been some indications of greater organization, including the establishment of online hubs, such as MyMilitia, that provide a venue for individuals to find existing militias in the United States—or even to start their own. 51

      A shift toward more hierarchical groups could have at least two implications. It could increase the competence and professionalism of these organizations in numerous areas, such as planning attacks, recruiting, training, improving operational security, and fundraising. In the 1960s and 1970s, extremists in the United States established more centralized groups—such as the Order, Mau Mau, and White Knights—to improve their effectiveness. 52 But research on terrorist and other militant groups indicates that centralized groups are more vulnerable to penetration by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. 53

      Fortunately, there is some good news. The number of fatalities from domestic terrorism today is relatively low, and the possibility of a civil war—which some experts have worried about and some extremists have predicted—is negligible. 54 The United States has endured more violent periods in the past. Examples include a surge in white supremacist terrorism in the 1950s and 1960s (such as the Ku Klux Klan), black nationalist violence in the 1960s (such as the Black Liberation Army), revolutionary leftist violence in the 1960s and 1970s (such as the Weather Underground), and Puerto Rican nationalist violence in the late-1960s and 1970s (such as the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN). 55 In addition, the United States faced serious threats from Salafi-jihadists after September 11, 2001—such as Najibullah Zazi, Faisal Shahzad, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Nidal Hasan, Omar Mateen, and Mohammed Alshamrani—who perpetrated or plotted mass-casualty attacks.

      But the United States weathered these periods thanks to the resilience of Americans and the effectiveness of U.S. law enforcement, intelligence, and other national security agencies. During his second inaugural address, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln said it best in encouraging Americans to come together during divisive times:

      With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish, a just and lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations. 56

      President Lincoln’s words are just as relevant today.

      Seth G. Jones is the Harold Brown Chair and director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. Catrina Doxsee is a program manager and research associate with the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS. Nicholas Harrington is a program manager and research associate with the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS. Grace Hwang is a research assistant with the Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS. James Suber is a research associate with the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS.

      The authors give special thanks to Brian Michael Jenkins, Colin Clarke, Jacob Ware, and Alex Friedland for their review of the document—including the data set—and their helpful critiques. Also, thanks to David Brannan and Paul Smith for their comments.

      For an overview of the methodology used in compiling the data set, please see here.

      This brief is made possible by general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship contributed to this brief.

      CSIS Briefs are produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

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