There is no universally
accepted definition of terrorism and even when people agree on a definition
of terrorism, they sometimes disagree about whether or not the definition
fits a particular incident. In order to understand terrorism, one must
assess the different views of what exactly constitutes terrorism. Reaching
a general conclusion on the definition of terrorism has generated much
debate in the social sciences and internationally. No single definition
seems to satisfy the wide interpretation of what specifically is terrorism.
Since September 11th a large coalition has been formed to combat Terrorism.
In order for this coalition to work there will have to be a universally
excepted definition in order for the coalition to form plans and act.
J.R's GLobal Security
Resource uses the definition set forth
by the U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation:
is the unlawful use of force or 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.
is the use or threatened use of force designed to bring about political
is the unlawful use or threat of violence against persons or property to
further political or social objectives. It is usually intended to intimidate
or coerce a government, individuals or groups, or to modify their behavior
Task Force, 1986
consitutes the illegitimate use of force to achieve a political objective
when innocent people are targeted.
is the premeditated, deliberate, systematic murder, mayhem, and threatening
of the innocent to create fear and intimidation in order to gain a political
or tactical advantage, usually to influence an audience.
Source: Terrorism Research Center
League of Nations Convention (1937):
acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state
of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the
UN Resolution language (1999):
condemns all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable,
wherever and by whomsoever committed;
that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror
in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political
purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations
of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or
other nature that may be invoked to justify them". (GA Res. 51/210 Measures
to eliminate international terrorism)
Short legal definition proposed by A. P. Schmid to United Nations Crime
Terrorism = Peacetime Equivalent of War Crime
Academic Consensus Definition:
is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by
(semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic,
criminal or political reasons, whereby - in contrast to assassination -
the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate
human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity)
or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population,
and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication
processes between terrorist (organization), (imperilled) victims, and main
targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it
into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention,
depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily
sought" (Schmid, 1988).
"terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated
against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents,
usually intended to influence an audience. The term "international terrorism"
means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country.
The term "terrorist group" means any group practicing, or that has significant
subgroups that practice, international terrorism.
U.S. Government has interpreted "noncombatant" to include, in addition
to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed
or not on duty. Similarly, the U.S. Government considers attacks on military
installations or on armed military personnel when a state of military hostilities
does not exist at the site to be terrorist attacks.
this context, sub-national means a grouping not recognized as a nation-state.
This includes groups like the Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican
Army, HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement) or Kahane Chai.
example would be the attacks on dissidents carried out by secret agents
of the Iranian government.
22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)