Introduction to Contemporary Terrorism
The first module is a review of terrorism legal issues, terminology, the military organization as it relates to terrorism and a basic overview of what terrorism is. Legal restrictions on investigating terrorism includes the Posse Comitatus Act, which limits the use of the military for policing, except by an act of Congress.
The USA PATRIOT Act, which had little impact on the military, provided a lot more support to police to investigate terrorism, and increased the information flow between federal agencies.
Inside the US, the FBI determines who meets the legal definition of a terrorist. (FBI, 2005) They are governed by the Attorney General. Outside the US, this is determined by the Department of State, in consultation with the FBI based on an Executive Order. (State Department, 2001)
Definitions of Terrorism
The Army (and Department of Defense) definition of terrorism (2002) is:
The calculated use of violence, or threat of violence used to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.
The FBI (2001) definition of terrorism 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.
The same FBI source as above also includes the Department of State definition of terrorism from US Code 2656f(d) which is:
Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience
There are a number of movements, or types of terrorism based on their motivating factors to the individuals involved.
Politically motivated terrorists hold extremist political views. Examples include FARC in Columbia and Sendero Luminoso in Peru. Religiously motivated terrorists hold extremist religious views. Examples include Al Qaeda in Iraq and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. State terrorism involves terrorism propagated by governments, like North Korea or Cuba.
Less common types of terrorist movements are mercenaries who provide their services to the highest bidder. The example given in this module is the El Rukn street gang in Chicago and special interest groups, like the Earth Liberation Front (concerned with environmentalism) and the Animal Liberation Front, focused on animal rights.