CJ290-06 Terrorism Today
Professor Patrick Morley
February 3, 2009
Terrorism, according to the FBI, is a term used to describe "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 FBI further describes terrorism as either domestic or international, depending on the origin, base, and objectives of the terrorist organization". (White, J., 2006)
The definition of terrorism is inherently controversial. The use of violence for the achievement of political ends is common to state and non-state groups. The difficulty is in agreeing on a basis for determining when the use of violence (directed at whom, by whom, for what ends) is legitimate. The majority of definitions in use have been written by agencies directly associated to a government, and are systematically biased to exclude governments from the definition.
Some such definitions are so broad, like the Terrorism Act 2000, as to include disruption of a computer system where no violence is intended or results.
The contemporary label of "terrorist" is highly pejorative; it is a badge, which denotes a lack of legitimacy and morality. For terrorist groups and their government sponsored supporters, it is crucial that they not be labeled a terrorist group; so as not to be labeled "terrorists" and by association as "terrorist nations". Groups that have described themselves as terrorists are therefore unknown. It is equally important for a group's opponents that the label "terrorist" be applied. The appellation "terrorist" is therefore always deliberately disputed. Attempts at defining the concept invariably arouse debate because rival definitions may be employed with a view to including the actions of certain parties, and excluding others. Thus, each party might still subjectively claim...