The change of terrorism in the USA

Pre-University Paper 2013 20 Pages

English - Miscellaneous


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. General aspects to terrorism
2.1 Definitions of terrorism
2.2 Terrorists or lunatic assassins?

3. Historic acts of terrorism
3.1 Boston Tea Party
3.2 Lincoln Assassination
3.3 Kennedy Assassination
3.4 09/11 Terrorist Attack
3.5 Boston Marathon Attack

4. Change of motives for terrorism

5. Changes in the approaches against terrorism

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

I was on my way home from elementary school when it happened. Former President John W. Bush visited an elementary school in Sarasota (Florida) at that time. I believe we got the information that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center had collapsed probably at the same time, as the rest of world. Television channels interrupted their shows and broadcasted live from New York. The world and I were shocked as we heard that a terrorist act was happening at that moment and thousands of lives were in danger.

This day changed our life in two ticks and fear spread in the western world. Could my hometown be the next target of these terrorists? Will there soon be a third world war? What would I do if my life was in danger? – These questions surrounded me and my family at that time. In 2001, I was seven years old and I had no idea what terrorism means. Thirteen years later, I still have no idea what terrorism is and why it exists. My friends and my family were not able to explain plainly what it is, also. After 09/11 peace has come back slowly. I forgot all my questions about terrorism and I forgot the danger. In 2013, two young American guys detonated two self-constructed bombs during a marathon in Boston. And flashback – the TV channels interrupted their program and reported about Boston. At this moment, all my questions came back and I wanted to have answers. Unfortunately, the media was not able to answer my queries. So, I decided to inform myself and bought a book about terrorism. This book fascinated me as terrorism has a deeply psychological side and a fixed definition does not exist. Also, it enthralls me, due to the fact that terrorism is a quite difficult, complex and social science topic. Therefore, I decided that the topic about my term paper would be about terrorism. I limited my topic onto US because a world-wide overview would go beyond the constraints of the term paper. The topic “The change of terrorism” belongs to the issue value change because it is about the change of the kind of terrorist acts in the US since the colonial era. Furthermore, I deal with the different definitions of terrorism that exist in different U.S. federal authorities and compare them with each other. At the end of my term paper I will describe the change of the various approaches against terrorism since the first terrorist acts.

2. General aspects to terrorism

In this chapter the question if offenders are terrorists of just lunatic assassins will be answered. Furthermore, different definitions of the term will be summarized and compared.

2.1 Definitions of terrorism

Terrorism – the world itself shocks and scares us every time it comes up in the breaking news on TV. But how is terrorism defined? Most of the time, it is defined in the wrong way, especially in media. To convey complex issues quickly the news for example might dominate an assassination of a president, a house bombing or a pharmaceutical scandal as terrorism. Consequently, the most people cannot define terrorism correctly. Most of the encyclopedias and dictionaries are only partly correct. The Encyclopedia Britannica provides a good overview.

terrorism, the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. Terrorism has been practiced by political organizations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and religious groups, by revolutionaries and even by state institutions such as armies, intelligence services and police[1]

This definition shows the political motive and the fear implanted in the population which derives from a terror attack quite well.

There are more definitions about terrorism and most of them are controversial. The main reason therefore are the changes in terrorism. Terrorism is not a fixed term. It rather is as variable as the terror attacks themselves. In the 18th century terrorism was a term that had positive meaning. It stood for the change from a monarchic to an anarchistic system. The revolutionaries of the French Revolution, for example, were proud to be called terrorists.[2]

Even the U. S. government has more than one definition for the word “terrorism”. The U.S. State Department uses the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Selection 2656 f(d):

premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.[3]

An accompanying footnote also explains the following:

For purposes of this definition, the term “noncombatant” is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty…. We also consider as acts of terrorism attacks on military installations or on armed military personnel when a state of military hostilities does not exist at the site, such as bombings against US bases in Europe, the Philippines, or elsewhere.[4]

The U. S. States Department represents the USA in foreign countries. This is also mirrored in their definition of terrorism. In fact, they also focus on military personnel. Moreover, the definition adds a territorial aggrandizement on military installations especially in foreign countries. In addition, it is striking that attacks on military installations and personnel in non-war zones are handled as terrorism attacks. For example, attacks on every public area like bars und cafés, e.g. are by definition terrorism attacks, if soldiers died in non-war zones worldwide. The definition emphasizes clearly the ineluctably political nature of terrorism. This definition shows us clearly the premeditated and calculated nature of terrorism in contrast to more spontaneous acts of political violence. However, the threat of force is as important as the terrorism attack because a terrorist needs the public to transport his message to the civilians. The terrorism expert Brian Michael Jenkins observed three decades ago that “terrorism is theater”.[5]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism from the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:

The unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.[6]

The FBI’s mission is to investigate and to solve crimes on a federal level. Consequently, it is not surprising that its definition focuses on different elements. Unlike the State Department’s definition, this definition does address the psychological dimensions of the terrorist act described above, laying stress on the intimidate and coercive aspects of terrorism.

The FBI also identifies a much broader category of terrorist targets than only “noncombatants”, specifying not only governments and their citizens but also inanimate objects, such as private and public property. In this case, the FBI also defines politically motivated acts of vandalism and sabotage for example on.[7]

- abortion clinics by military opponents
- retail stores by anti-globalists
- Ski resorts, commercial logging operations or automobile dealerships by radical environmentalists Although the FBI’s definition recognizes social as well as political objectives as fundamental terrorist aims, it does not offer clear elucidation to the differences between them.

The U. S. Department of Homeland Security states that terrorism is any activity that involves an act that:

is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure

or key resources; and …. must also 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.[8]

The Department of Homeland Security’s mission is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies. Consequently, the definition reflects clearly their mission. In this definition the focus is on critical infrastructure and key national resources. Above all, the threat of “mass destruction” is particularly marked. Particularly positive are the psychological dimensions and the political background in the definition of the Department of Homeland Security.

Finally, the United States Department of Defense defines it as


[1] Definition from Encyclopedia Britannica retrieved 20 July 2013

[2] Hoffman, Bruce, Inside terrorism, Columbia University Press, New York, 2006, p. 1 - 5

[3] Hoffman, p. 30 - 31

[4] Hoffman, p. 31

[5] Jenkins, Brian M., International Terrorism; A new kind of warfare. Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, 1974, p. 4

[6] Hoffman, p.31

[7] Hoffman, p. 32

[8] Hoffman, p. 31


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Terrorism Boston Tea Party Lincoln Assassination Kennedy Assassination U.S. Marine Barracks bombing 09/11 Boston Marathon bombing Definition



Title: The change of terrorism in the USA