Sep 14, 2020 in Law

Domestic Terrorism


Nowadays, the issues related to terrorism are frequently debated due to the threats that they pose as well as cyber activities that are associated with terroristic acts and their substantial growth. Whereas the international terrorism requires effective cooperation of the states as well as the mechanisms of collective security, the domestic terroristic acts obviously raise new demands for the state that is responsible for protecting its citizens. Yet, in order to combat the crime, it is first of all necessary to outline its key characteristics and project them into practice. The presented paper aims to identify the critical features of domestic terrorism by providing the method for differentiating it from the international terrorism and hate crimes as well as analyzing the cases that might institute the acts of domestic terrorism.



The Concept of Domestic Terrorism

In order to incriminate the charges of domestic terrorism, it is first of all necessary to discuss the definition of domestic terrorism and its features. According to the established legal doctrine, domestic terrorism is defined as the engagement in terrorist activities which are performed within the territory of one country only. The FBI is currently responsible for detecting the risks as well as cases of domestic terrorism in the USA. With the purpose of defining the criminal act as an act of domestic terrorism, FBI agents generally rely on two legal documents that stipulate the provisions in regard to the crime. First of all, they refer to the Code of Federal Regulations according to which terrorism is “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” (Bjelopera, 2013). Another legal source of domestic terrorism definition is related to the 18 U.S. Code Section 2331 (5). This definition also coincides with the one that can be found in the USA Patriot Act. This Section suggests that domestic terrorism is recognized as such if it is performed within the territory of the USA. It should also represent a danger thumb life which is a violation of the criminal laws of the USA or any other state. Another important feature of domestic terrorism refers to its characteristics of being intimidating or coercive to the civilian population, influencing the policies of the government through the coercion or intimidation and affecting the conduct of the government by massacre, assassination, kidnapping, etc. 

Considering the definitions employed by the FBI, one should assert that they are quite broad and most probably the FBI faces enormous difficulties in the process of proving that certain act indeed constitutes the act of domestic terrorism. Based on the above presumption, the experts recommend narrowing down the definition and proving the lack of the foreign interest only. 

Differentiating the domestic terrorism activists and other criminals might also be rather challenging for the FBI agents. Yet, the practice and theory have provided the professionals with the necessary guidelines. First of all, it is necessary to clarify the motives of the offenders. It is stressed that in contrast to the usual criminals seeking to leverage from the crime either financially or personally, domestic terrorists are driven by the duty that is often based on certain ideology, more or less widespread. At the same time, the experts emphasize the similarities between domestic terrorism and hate crimes (Bjelopera, 2013). Yet, it should be underlined that whereas the hate crimes are frequently based on the hate towards a certain category of people, they usually lack the ideology that directs the individual. These criminals usually lack the broader motivations that drive the terrorists. However, it should be emphasized that in every case the investigators should first check and then prove the intent of the offender. The motive is the primary feature that helps to differentiate these types of crime. 

The Overview of the Case I

The cases of domestic terrorism actually occur more often in comparison with the international terrorism. As Nakashima (2015) asserts:

attacks by white supremacists and people motivated by racial and religious hatred and anti-government views have killed 48 people, while attacks by individuals linked to or inspired by foreign terrorist groups have claimed 26 lives, according to the think tank New America. 

One of such acts has been committed by Michael Wade Page on August 5, 2012. On that day Michael killed six people and wounded four others. After that, the defendant committed suicide by shooting himself to death. Page belonged to the group of white supremacists being the US Army veteran from Wisconsin. All the victims of the killer were the members of the Sikh faith (Elias, 2012). The incident drew the attention of the U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Signh. At the moment of the shooting, the temple was prepared for langar, a communal meal in Sikh religion. The witnesses also indicated that women and children were also present in the temple at the time of the incident as they had classes scheduled at 11:30 am (Elias, 2012). 

The act under consideration can be considered an act of domestic terrorism due to the following reasons. First of all, according to the circumstances of the case, the victim was associated with the Supremacist and Neo-Nazi movement. Based on this fact, it should be stressed that the defendant acted under the influence of this ideology which in particular, presupposes hate against the migrants. Secondly, considering the criminal activities committed by Page, it should be noted that they were directed against the civilians. The number of the latter was not defined (Pullman, Zennie, & Boyle, 2012). Moreover, it was not a personal vendetta since the defendant had nothing in common with the victims of his misdeeds. The foreign interest is definitely absent in this case since the defendant acted only within the territory of one temple located within one state. Moreover, the organization, which Page belonged to, was not international; thus, it did not nurture any kind of international ambitions.

The Overview of the Case II and Case III

Another case that falls under the concept of domestic terrorism occurred in June 2014. A married couple with the strong antigovernment views entered one of the pizza restaurants in Las Vegas and started shooting the policemen who were eating their lunch. The defendants left swastika on the bodies of the victims (Shane, 2015). It contained a slogan “do not thread on me” and a note warning the police officers that it was the beginning of a revolution. The defendants also killed a third person not far from Walmart. 

Finally, in November 2014, a man called Larry McQuilliams attempted to commit a terroristic attack against the government. In the course of his attempt, he fired more than a hundred rounds at the governmental buildings including the Police Headquarters and Mexican Consulate. He was eventually killed by a police officer before detonating the propane cylinders. The terrorist act took place in Austin, Texas.

The discussed cases are also attributed to the domestic terrorism due to the following reasons. First of all, they definitely lack the foreign interest. The defendants were all of American origin and they directly opposed the U.S. government. They frequently stressed the non-acceptance of the decisions made by the U.S. President and Congress and their willingness to start a revolt (Shane, 2015). Moreover, the victims of their crimes were also chosen out of the crowd due to their relation to the system and the U.S. government. These two murders were driven by the defendants’ desire to start a revolution and demonstrate that they were ready to commence the actions against the government of the USA. In this case, the efforts of the defendants were directed at the police officers who cannot be treated as members of the public; yet, considering the essence of the crime, it should be stressed that the police officers are to some extent the ordinary employees of the U.S. government. In the case of Texas terrorist, the attempts were also directed at the government and aimed at killing the indefinite number of people. The defendant acted alone; he was not supported by any kind of terroristic organizations, neither domestic nor international ones.

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It should be stressed that despite the simplifications that have been made in practice and in theory, the issue of domestic terrorism still remains controversial. Such a situation is mainly caused by the lack of the clearly communicated factors that would help to distinguish the domestic terroristic acts from hate crimes and other criminal activities. Additionally, there are a number of concepts that still need to be defined, such as the foreign interest and the lack of it. Moreover, domestic terrorism also raises questions in regard to the involvement of other organizations, especially, the international ones in the criminal acts. Generally speaking, at the moment the criminal activity can be recognized as domestic terrorism in case it is directed against an indefinite number of civilians; is based on certain ideology; and leads to the chase of conduct of the government as a result of the mass killings and other coercive or intimidating acts.

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