Last modified on July 6, 2021, at 03:28


Terrorism is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense as "the unlawful use of -- or threatened use of -- force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives." According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2018, seven potential terrorists try to enter the U.S. every day.[1]

The government definition, however, is too narrow. Atheistic terrorism consists of publicity-seeking acts of murder, such as that at Columbine High School, consistent with existentialism or nihilism, which do not necessarily seek to intimidate or coerce government, although in other cases, such as that of the Naxalites, atheistic communists do this. Environmentalist terrorism consists of the destruction of property in a manner designed to bring free publicity to the movement.

The term itself was coined as a result of the French Revolution, referring in particular to Maximilien de Robespierre's Reign of Terror, although it was closer to state-sponsored terrorism.


One who uses terroristic tactics to coerce behavior in another person or group is generally considered to fall under the definition of the term "terrorist". One who uses such terroristic tactics (suicide bombing, sniper, assassination, random bombing, etc.) can often be described as such. Aeroflight in the UK [1], defines it as: "One who utilizes the systematic use of violence and/or intimidation to achieve political objectives, while disguised as a civilian non-combatant. The use of a civilian disguise while on operations exempts the perpetrator from protection under the Geneva Conventions, and consequently if captured they are liable for prosecution as common criminals."


Terrorism is the use of terror (fear), violence, and intimidation to achieve an end. Terrorism also refers to any fear and subjugation produced by this. The term is also used to describe violence or other harmful acts committed (or threatened) against civilians by groups or persons for political or ideological goals. Terrorism is the unlawful use or threatened use, of force, intimidation, and/or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

Leftist (Radical) Terrorism

Leftist Terrorism, often referred to as radical terrorism, is terrorism that embraces the fringe left side of the political spectrum (Countries that are hostile to dissident terrorist movements often also see violence from the far left as well). Radical terrorists are future orientated. That is, radicals believe that they are currently being oppressed by some current government, ideology or regime, and therefore they should overthrow that oppressor and install a better government. Radical terrorists often operate with the belief that it is possible to create a utopia for the people. Radicals generally follow the beliefs of Karl Marx and Lenin, with emphasis on the idea of Lenin's vanguard party. Marx himself had also advocated for Revolutionary Terror in one of his correspondences with fellow Communist founder Friedrich Engels and specifically wanted to reenact the year 1793 (fitting, as the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror via the Jacobins, Gironquists, and Cordeliers Club among others were the ones who coined the term terrorism). Leftist terrorists often choose symbolic targets that emphasize what they see as an oppressor to the working class. Leftist terrorist tend to target buildings and governmental structures that represent capitalism, or assassinate government leaders and capitalists. Leftist terrorists are self-characterized as the young, self-educated elites of society, who are destined to both weaken the oppressive government and at the same time expose the weakness of the government to the exploited workforce. Radicals also tend to be more exclusive with what issues they champion. Often, very narrow radicals will focus on one issue, resulting in animal rights, feminist, and eco-terrorists. Radical groups often operated in highly organized and clandestine groups, easily recognizable and orderly. However, leftist groups often had internal divisions in the larger groups that often broke off to create new group.[2]

Famous Radical Groups

Right (Reactionary) Terrorism

Historically, reactionary terrorism has been less organized and less symbolic than leftist terrorists. Reactionary terrorists, like radical terrorists, see the current government as corrupt, but unlike radical leftists, reactionaries do not see the current government as needing revolutionary change. Rather, reactionaries view the government as a perversion of some older, better, government or social order. Reactionary terrorist violence is an attempt to regain the lost government and return to "order" and status quo. Reactionary violence is often justified by a use of mysticism about the old order. Scapegoating is a common tactic among reactionary terrorists to create an enemy for which to blame for the current order. Historical scapegoats among reactionary terrorists have included Jews, foreigners, homosexuals, atheists, leftists, blacks, illegal immigrants, and other racial minorities. Reactionary groups often defined by racial supremacy and a sense of order. Goals of reactionary terrorist include the delegation of minorities back to secondary status with respect to the national majority and a creation of a strong government to sustain order and prevent chaos through a police state. It should be noted however that due to conspiracy theories prevalence in the American fringe right, American reactionaries do not seek the creation of a strong government. Reactionaries often act as individuals or small groups and are not as discriminate with their targets as are leftist groups. This is partially due to the lack of unity between reactionaries and the scope of reactionary targets, often encompassing entire races.[3]

Famous Reactionary Groups

Atheistic terrorism

See: Atheism and terrorism

Islamic terrorism

The most common form of terrorism in modern time is Islamic terrorism.

Domestic terrorists

In describing domestic terrorism before the House Resources Committee on February 12, 2002, James F. Jarboe, Domestic Terrorism Section Chief of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, stated:

"Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives. During the past decade we have witnessed dramatic changes in the nature of the terrorist threat. In the 1990s, right-wing extremism overtook left-wing terrorism as the most dangerous domestic terrorist threat to the country. During the past several years, special interest extremism, as characterized by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), has emerged as a serious terrorist threat. Generally, extremist groups engage in much activity that is protected by constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly. Law enforcement becomes involved when the volatile talk of these groups transgresses into unlawful action. The FBI estimates that the ALF/ELF have committed more than 600 criminal acts in the United States since 1996, resulting in damages in excess of 43 million dollars." [2]

The following organizations have been accused by the FBI of being involved with domestic terrorism:


Terrorism and the Media

The prime goal of any terrorist is mass media exposure. Terrorism cannot recruit new initiates like regular armies, rather when they run out of discontented radicals within their state, they must rely on the media to spread their message. Therefore, media outlets and the press must be careful when choosing a story, as often running a story about a terrorist attack just creates more support for a terrorist cause.

Groups Considered by the United States to be Terrorist Organizations


Groups directly or indirectly supporting terrorists

The following organizations within the United States have either directly supported terrorist organizations worldwide through the use of money contributions or media influence, or have prevented enforcement of the laws on the books via court petitions and lawsuits:

Groups receiving CIA support

The American CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has the stated objective of "Conducting covert action at the direction of the President to preempt threats or achieve US policy objectives."[3]. Over the course of its well-documented history, this has involved the establishment, funding and organization of various organizations some have regarded as terrorist, including:

War on terror

Fighting terrorism

See also

External links


  1. Dinan, Stephen (January 29, 2018). Seven potential terrorists a day try to enter the U.S.: DHS chief. The Washington Times. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  2. Gus Martin. Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues.
  3. Gus Martin. Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues.
  5. Reed Lindsay,Cold War returns to US backyard, The Observer, March 7, 2004