Domestic Terrorism in the United States

Domestic Terrorism in the United States

Americans view terrorism as a form of art and science with higher complications. Particularly, the actions of, 9/11, prompted a new face for terrorism. The place of terrorist activity and the origin of terrorists give the distinction of the profile of domestic terrorisms and that of international terrorism. International terrorism entails the terrorist activities that are foreign-sponsored by institutions outside of the United States. On the other hand, domestic terrorism entails all terrorist activities directed on population and facilities with the United States. Prior to the 9/11 attack, domestic terrorisms seemed less dangerous, but after the attack, a new era of terrorism found its way in the U.S. The distinction between international terrorism and domestic terrorism does not solely refer to the place where terrorist activity takes place, but the origin of the perpetrators of terrorist acts. As a result, this brief overview highlights the definition of terrorism, domestic and internationally terrorism. More so, the papers underline the history of domestic terrorism, forms of terrorism in the United States and strategies put forward to prevent domestic terrorism in the United States.


Terrorism is as an act of intentional inflict carried out to cause critical damage or death to people with a sole intention of intimidating or persuading an individual, an international or local institution or government to settle in to a preferred policy. Before 1960s, terrorism received delineation as confined to certain nations (Mark, 2009). More so, people viewed terrorism as localized in scale and intensity as well as restrained to certain regions given cross-border intrusions. Nevertheless, in the modern world, this description of terrorism has changed specifically during the retaliation attacks of PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) against Israel targets in foreign nations. This period led to a shift in terrorism and it now represents a civilization platform predominately utilized as a political tool besides a means of preventing injustices in the society. After the September 11 bombing of pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) described terrorisms as a sadistic action that puts at risk the health of human beings. More so, the FBI defined terrorism as an activity that flouts criminal bylaws of states and frighten a government, citizens or any other sector thereof for opinionated and social objectives (Norwitz, 2008).

Terrorism does not have to come from outside the country but can come from within the country. This amounts to domestic terrorism. Domestic terrorism is a risky act intended to threaten or pressurize civilians, manipulate government policy through influencing the actions of a government through kidnapping, assassination or mass destruction. Notwithstanding, the harm caused by domestic terrorists, the policies and laws, making the distinction between domestic and international terrorism strengthens the idea that domestic terrorists are less threatening.

The History of Domestic Terrorism in the United States

Most people contend that the September 11 attacks are the most defining moment in the history of terrorism in the Unites States. The attacks instigated the unleashing of a new era of terrorism. The new era of terrorism received the distinction through mass civilian casualties and guided against economic and symbolic targets. Together with the inspiration, to inflict mass casualties, the terrorist attacks prompted the specter that international terrorists would acquire and utilize mass destruction weapons. Nevertheless, the investigation of past occurrences, occasioned by the 9/11 attack, and committed by domestic terrorists of U.S. origin against U.S. people and interests within the United States, indicate that the 9/11 incidents are no different to prior terrorist actions committed by U.S. citizens. Perhaps, the most surprising thing is that, before the 2001 attack, domestic terrorism was ongoing in the United States. For instance, in 1920, American Anarchist Fighters, killed 30 and injured 300 people after placing a bomb in horse on Wall Street in New York, City (Norwitz, 2008). The Wall Street was a target because it was a symbol of economic, imperialist and financial strength of the United States. In 1954, extremists linked to Puerto Rican Nationalist opened fire in the United States House of Representatives gallery injuring five Congress members. The FBI considered this attack as a domestic terrorist action. The Senate of the U.S. has faced domestic terrorism twice. In 1971 and 1983, terrorists placed bombs in Senate, leaving massive damages but no deaths or injuries (Norwitz, 2008).

Domestic Terrorists

Notably, there is a belief that domestic terrorism are not diabolic compared to international terrorists. Perhaps, international terrorist groups appear more dangerous given that they function to cause indiscriminate mass injuries. However, considering the domestic terrorism committed over the past century, it is evident that domestic terrorists have beaten international terrorist groups. Religions, politics or single interests, compelled by certain goals, motivate domestic terrorists. While, gaining a social or political goal is a basic motivator for terrorism, terrorists, driven by religion, are the most predictable ones. Such members almost exclusively rationalize their actions, for instance the abortionist. However, radical Islamic groups are prime examples of religiously inspired terrorism and people believe that they pose a serious threat to the U.S. Yet, the U.S. has a host of domestically-based religiously inspired terrorist groups who believe that the world is at a point of apocalyptic war between God’s people and allies of Satan. For instance, the white-supremacist Christian identity interprets the bible in different ways to justify killing in defense of God Laws, which condemn homosexuality, abortion and race mixing. In fact, a Phineas Priest, Joseph Franklin, killed more than eleven people who engaged in mixed-race associations. More so, in 1996, a group of Phineas Priests, mounted bombs at an abortion clinic. Eric Rudolph placed a bomb at the 1996 Olympics and later placed other bombs at two abortion clinic and homosexual nightclub, killing two people (Norwitz, 2008).

Most cases of domestic terrorism do not entirely involve horrifying and spectacular, massive destruction. Instead, they comprise of bank robberies, police shootings, attacks on abortionists, pipe bombing, planned and actual attack on national facilities, officials, and hate crimes. Predominately, pro-environmental radicals, racists’ extremists, anti-abortion activists and animal-welfare are the common perpetrators of most cases of domestic terrorism in the United States. From this perspective, domestic terrorism in the United States has taken place throughout the history of the country, hitting valleys and peaks, and the country is presently experiencing domestic terrorism given the Sunday, August 5, 2012 mass shooting in Sikh Temple.

Domestic Terrorism and in the United States

Domestic terrorism involves terrorist action that takes place within a given state. The FBI leads accountability for investigations of terrorism in America at the national level. FBI depends on two most influential sources for definition of domestic terrorism. The code of Federal Regulations describes terrorism as entailing the illegal use of violence and force against property or persons to frighten or compel a government, the citizens for social or political objectives. With respect to the United States, domestic terrorism entails actions risky to human life as well as actions that involve infringement of criminal bylaws of the United States (Borgeson & Valeri, 2009). However, according to the FBI, domestic terrorism involves terrorists activities operated within the United States and those that lack foreign guidance. Therefore, domestic terrorism in the U.S. involves Americans attacking fellow Americans basing their attacks on United States extremist ideologies.

Domestic terrorism in America is a resultant of diverse populations, conflicts and issues that co-exist inside the nation. The U.S.A. is almost unique among other nations because of its capacity to hold a large number of people in virtual harmony. From this perspective, domestic terrorism in the history of America gets motivation from fully distrust of ideal democracy in America. Diverse people who claim benefits and loyalty to the United States system instigate domestic terrorism. Notwithstanding the terrorism expression variations, domestic terrorism in the U.S.A. is a violent claim perpetuated by whom or what is genuinely American. For instance, the August 5, 2012 mass shooting at Sikh Temple in Wisconsin is an act of domestic terrorism. This is because domestic terrorism entails widespread actions of cruelty committed by members of states towards other members of the same state. With respect to the Sunday 5th actions of Wade Michael Page, his actions and those of other suspects were acts of terrorism. Page, a white supremacist, killed six people. Page and the other suspect are domestic terrorists given that they committed acts of terrorisms within the homeland. They also drew motivation from United State’s-based extremist movements and ideologies.

Another major and the most devastating domestic terrorist activity committed in American include the Murrah Federal bombing in 1995. This terrorist activity led to the death of 168 people while 400 people suffered critical injuries (Borgeson & Valeri, 2009). The Oklahoma bombing entailed homegrown actions considered as domestic terrorism. This is in view of the fact that terrorist actions encompass a predestined and politically prompted violence performed against unarmed nationals through the usage of mass destruction weapons. Notably, isolated individual or a large criminal’s network can instigate and perpetrate acts of terrorism. Terrorists’ plots and activities taking place within a state are acts of domestic terrorism. With respects to such understanding, terrorists plot encompassing citizens of United States inspired by foreign terrorists with an example of Al Qaeda constitutes domestic terrorism.

Domestic terrorists are accountable for committing more than two dozen incidents from 2004 in the United States (White, 2011). In the United States, there seems to be a development of antigovernment extremist actions as noted through watchdog groups in the last numerous years. Just like their jihadist counterparts, domestic terrorists are usually internet savvy. More so, they utilize the internet as a key resource of their operations. Perpetrators of terrorism activities get inspiration from certain ideologies. As such, domestic terrorists are a broadly divergent lot, drawing from a wide range of worldviews and philosophies. Such people get the motivation to commit criminal acts from ideas such as white supremacy, animal rights and opposition to abortion. For instance, the killing of abortionists and bombing of their clinics by Pro-Life groups is an experience that despite raising many questions on the moral values of the perpetrators of this acts of violence, is an act of domestic terrorism.

Although some religions strongly opposed to abortion have terms such violence against abortionist as justifiable homicide, it amounts to domestic terrorism given that terrorism is an intentional inflicts to cause death or serious damage to people with a purpose to intimidate or persuade a person, organization or a government to adapt to a certain policy. From this notion, it is ascertainable that the pro-lifers, who bomb abortion clinics and kill abortionists, are domestic terrorists because they commit such crimes to try to intimidate abortionists to stop their practice of providing abortion services to women. The expression of such worldviews, and not the violence in support of such activities like killing of abortionists, entails constitutionally protected actions, which amounts to domestic terrorism.

Aware of the lines between criminality and constitutionally safeguarded speech, domestic terrorists usually tie themselves off from ideological components that openly and repeatedly lawfully espouse same beliefs. The perpetrators of violent actions are different from propagandists who put forward, and design worldviews interpreted in a manner that they support violent acts performed against fellow citizens. As a result, domestic terrorists operate independently, and in secret while drawing ideological sustenance from propagandists functioning in free trade of ideas.

Forms of Domestic Terrorism in the United States

As indicate earlier, killing and bombing of abortionists and their clinics is the most predominant domestic terrorist activity in the United States. The FBI terms actions against American abortionists as domestic terrorism because the perpetrators of these crimes are U.S. citizens against their fellow citizens. Anti-abortion aggression is the cruelty carried out against organizations and individuals who offer abortion services. The violence against this people involves property destruction, stalking, vandalism, assault, kidnapping, murder and attempted murder, bombings and arson. Although violence against abortionists occurs in other countries such Canada and Australia, the United States regularly experiences such violence. Anti-abortion violence is a form of terrorism.

Anti-abortionist resort to public demonstration and engage in difference form of violence with the sole purpose of putting to an end premature termination of pregnancy. Although it is hard to justify the actions of abortionists to innocent unborn children, the way in which the pro-lifers deal with this issue raises more questions on their ethical values and morality. We might not support or justify the actions against the unborn. Nevertheless, the best solution to the issue of abortion is to let the state law dictate the crime committed by the abortion doctors especially in a country where abortion illegal. Although saving lives of many unborn children is the motif behind killing of abortionists such as Dr. Nocare, such actions are acts of terrorism. What make terrorists are the acts of terrorism that they perform. The provision in article 2 in U.S. Draft Agreement, underlines terrorism as actions of people that are dangerous to a person’s life or activities that create a risk of harm to property, and these activities get perpetrated in order to coerce the government to act on a preferred issue (Walter, 2005).

The Hill v. State, 656 So.2d 1271 case, which is a true testimony of a terrorist attack, reflects terrorist’s activities. Hill killed Dr. Britton, an abortionist, using a gun, a weapon considered as a weapon of mass destruction. During the trial, Hill said that he had planned to kill to salvage the lives of many innocent unborn children (White, 2011). From this notion, his killing was intentional just like the killing of other abortion doctors. Terrorism unlike other forms of violence is a systematically practical threat that encompasses use of illegitimate force with an intention of achieving a preferred goal. Just like Paul Hill, the pro-lifers plan to carry out their terrorists act, hence; their violence is not accidental but intentional. Terrorists’ actions make use of a plan to instill terror to the citizens thereby constituting an act of terrorism. Notably, an individual compelled to detestable attacks founded on certain beliefs without other people’s support or knowledge is a domestic terrorist. Such people claim to act on behalf of others.

Other forms of domestic terrorism in the United States include violent behaviors carried out by (ALF) Animal Liberation Front. Such people get involved in direct actions against perpetrators of crimes against animals. Animal activists engage themselves in sabotage of resources that help in animal testing. They perform all forms of actions that support animal liberation in a questionable manner. Their actions make the ALF action be listed as domestic terrorist institution by the United States Department of Homeland Security. For instance, in 2000, animal rights activists placed a bomb in a McDonald’s restaurant, in Minnesota while protesting animal rights violations (Norwitz, 2008). More so, bank robberies in protest of the banking system, violent actions against homosexuals, hate crimes and mixed race relationships are other forms of domestic terrorism in the United States.


In conclusion, Terrorism is the use of violent acts that put fear in people to perpetrate a preferred goal. Terrorists do not regard the safety of civilians as far as they reach their goals. The goals of terrorism range from religious, ideological as well as political (Mark, 2009). The United States of America has struggled to combat terrorism. The country fights terrorism through different measures to deny the terrorism their access and attacks and deny them access to their targets. This way the terrorists get denied the chance to affect the country negatively through their attacks. Particularly, the post 9/11 broad public debate centers entirely on techniques of preventing, deterring and disrupting international terrorist groups. The United States National Security Strategy uniformly leaves domestic terrorism out of the debate. Notwithstanding that terrorism is a serious point of a country’s general National Security Strategy, the international war on terror seems not to include domestic groups.

Through the National Security Strategy, The U.S.A. has been able to strengthen the union in efforts of fighting global terrorism and at the same prevent raids of the states and its associates. This policy works to resolve states conflicts, prevent enemies from posing threats with mass destruction weapons, and helps in igniting global economic growth through free trade and free markets. The strategy predominately focuses on external threats and not domestic terror. The exclusion of domestic terrorism from the National Security Strategy is deliberate because the Congress and other legislators are knowledgeable of the threat posed by domestic terrorism. However, the FBI has the powers to investigate both international and domestic terrorism in the country. Same measures in fighting terrorism are worth considering while fighting domestic terrorism. This is because the lethal intentions of domestic terrorists are not in any way different from those of international terrorists. Therefore, it is evident that, despite the harm caused through domestic terrorism, the policies and laws making the distinction between domestic and international terrorism strengthens the idea that domestic terrorists are less threatening.


Borgeson, K., & Valeri, R.(2009). Terrorism in America. Texas: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Mark, R.(2009). Homeland security intelligence: Perceptions, statutory definitions, and approaches. International Journal of Terrorism & Political Hot Spots, 4(4):275-295.

Norwitz, J.(2008). Armed groups: Studies in national security, counterterrorism, and conmuterinsurgency: Studies in national security, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency. New York: Government Printing Office.

Walter, M. (2005). America’s unpatriotic acts: the federal government’s violation of constitutional and civil rights. New York: Peter Lang.

White, R.(2011). Terrorism and homeland Security. New York: CengageBrain.

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