According to Section 802 of the Patriot Act, the definition of domestic terrorism is one that encompasses acts committed within the borders of the United States, and is one where a person or organization commits an act that is: “””dangerous to human life”” that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) 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” (ACLU, 2002).
It is safe to say that the face of terrorism has always been changing, and domestic terrorism is not something new in the wake of 9/11; rather it is now run by smarter operations, elaborate infrastructures, and with perhaps strong connections to international terrorism groups and organizations. Domestic and internationally based groups have come to realize they can help one another in achieving their goals, or aiming at specific targets. Their common enemy is US Policy – be it domestic or foreign – and both types of organizations have made attacks at government agencies and bodies.
The most notable of recent domestic terrorism attacks, is perhaps that of McVeigh and Nichols and the Oklahoma City Bombing. Their target was the FBI headquarters, and there has been circulated discourse on the foreign connections Nichols had prior to the bombing. It has been also cited that he had domestic militant group connections, in particular Posse Comitatus: “He attended meetings in Michigan of the Posse Comitatus, a militant, right-wing organization founded by Col. William Potter Gale and headed by James Wickstrom.
Members of Posse Comitatus, according to legal documents released prior to McVeigh’s trial, have for years been in contact with Iraq and other rogue Arab nations that share a hatred of Israel” (O’Meara, 2001). Another such example of domestic terrorism is “They Army of God” and their crusade against gay night clubs, anti-abortion clincs, and doctors. They have been known to bomb clinics and nightclubs, having taken claim for 1997 bombings of a clinic and a nightclub in Atlanta, Georgia. It was also suggested, that the 2001 anthrax letters could have been connected to the group:
“That letter spoke of the “ungodly communist regime in New York” and called for “death to the New World Order” and bore the nom de guerre “signature” of accused abortion-clinic bomber Eric Rudolph. In addition to the letters sent to Daschle and Brokaw, more than 100 abortion clinics also received letters containing white powder, of which a handful made reference to the Army of God, an extremist antiabortion group” (2001). There is a connection of Rudolph with the Aryan Nation, another organization who has been referenced to have foreign connections.
What is significant in these examples is the opportunist attitudes of the domestic militant groups, and arguably, vice versa. The chief element is fear when it comes to how both domestic and international terrorism groups work, and in this way they certainly help each other. Domestic terrorism, however, is not just based on right-wing militants with political agendas. Left-wing and environmental groups aimed at ‘protecting’ society are often overshadowed by their right-wing counterparts.
“Notable early participants in left-wing terrorism were various socialist and anarchist groups from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Leon Czolgocz, who shot President William McKinley in 1901, embraced anarchist beliefs, though no anarchist group would accept him for membership” (Knight, 2004). However, it is perhaps religious- and social- militant groups labeled under “right-wing” that have been of more concern in recent times, despite heavy protest often seen by environmental and anti-globalization groups.
With the changes in the Patriot Act, and the steady advancement of technology, it is little wonder that the Internet be considered such a powerful tool in the fight against terrorism; as well as the fight for terrorism. Many militant and terrorist groups freely use the Internet to advertise, broadcast and relay messages to one another. It is no surprise, then that monitoring Internet usage should spark such a controversy. FBI and law enforcement should monitor activity of known militant groups, but it is such a hazy area in regards to First Amendment rights.
Were monitoring to become a daily occurrence on the Internet, no doubt there would be another means of communication and way to incite violence – as there was in the decades prior to the Internet. “In August, 2004, the Electronic Frontier Foundation compiled a best-practices list for online service providers (“OSPs”) wherein it recommended that OSPs set policies to minimize data retention to limit their liability risks, avoid the high cost of having to search through all their data upon the receipt of a subpoena, and protect the privacy of their users” (Gardella, 2006).
The Internet is the embodiment of First Amendment rights, with the exchange of ideas and the ability to converse freely at the heart of its ongoing success. Should legislation make Internet monitoring an acceptable practice, it could undermine the fabric of society and only force groups to work more underground than they already are. The innocent civilian would still be the victim. The grant-funded Hamm Report evaluated and compared the methods undertaken by domestic and international terrorism groups. Predominantly, it highlighted the different means favored by each organization and uncovered that:
“International jihad groups are statistically more likely than domestic right-wing groups to commit aircraft and motor vehicle-related crimes; violations of explosive materials; and firearms violations. Right-wing domestic groups are more likely to commit mail fraud; racketeering; robbery/burglary; and violations involving machine guns and destructive devices” (Hamm, 2005). What this largely suggests is that, not only are domestic groups more ready and able to work within the infrastructure of the country, but are prepared to commit small-scale “warfare” on national targets.
International groups, given distances and so forth, were more liable to commit terrorism acts of a larger scale, though not any less devastating than their domestic counterparts. What was also significant in the report was the “type” of person which domestic groups would recruit: “Unlike the jihadists, domestic right-wing groups recruit individuals specifically for their criminal skills. Typically headed by charismatic leaders, domestic groups are most successful at acquiring false identity documents, manufacturing illegal firearms, armored truck and bank robbery, and murder.
They are surveillance experts, often spending weeks taking into account every moment in the taken-for-granted order of daily routines in and around their targets” (Hamm) It is logical to consider, if not also alarming that many right-wing groups have branches and feelers within the penal system and arguably do a lot of recruiting from the inside. International groups, as noted in the Hamm Report, do not rely heavily on specialists for mundane tasks, however there is prestige considered in both groups – it is an honor to be chosen. The concept of terrorism is two-fold: the act itself, and the fear of an act occurring.
It is in this sense that domestic and international terrorism wave the same banner and are equally responsible for devastating lives – be it from bombing a nightclub, to an underground network behind car bombings. It is the threat that it could happen that has become imprinted in people’s minds. Arguably though, perhaps the more concern should be placed on domestic terrorism and the measures used to not only prevent it but to track the groups involved. They are using the system – from the postal system, to recruitment through the penal system – and this is as dangerous if not more so as an international group “training” overseas.
The threat, as they say, is in our own backyard and we can not combat other threats if we are unable to contain the ones running rife within our own borders. References _. “How the USA PATRIOT Act redefines “Domestic Terrorism”” ACLU, 2002 (http://www. aclu. org/natsec/emergpowers/14444leg20021206. html ) Gardella, T. M “Beyond Terrorism: The Potential Chilling Effect on the Internet of Broad Law Enforcement Legislation. ” St. John’s Law Review. Spring 2006. (http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_qa3735/is_200604/ai_n17173795 ) Hamm, M.
“Crimes Committed by Terrorist Groups: Theory, Research, and Prevention” Department of Justice, NCJRS, September 2005 (http://www. ncjrs. gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/211203. pdf ) Knight, J. “Terrorism, Domestic (United States)”. Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. (2004). (http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_gx5211/is_2004/ai_n19126728 ) O’Meara, K. P. “Iraq connections to U. S. extremists – Nation: Domestic Terrorism – Cover Story”. Insight on the News. Nov 19, 2001. (http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m1571/is_43_17/ai_80309410 )