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Terrorism
Definitions

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The term "terrorism" comes from Latin terrere, "to frighten" via the French word terrorisme, which is often associated with the regime de la terreur, the Reign of Terror of the revolutionary government in France from 1793 to 1794.
Few words are as politically or emotionally charged as "terrorism." A 2003 study by the US Army quoted a source (Schmid and Jongman 1988) that counted 109 definitions of terrorism that covered a total of 22 different definitional elements[citation needed]. Terrorism expert Walter Laqueur in 1999 also has counted over 100 definitions and concludes that the "only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence.

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American Heritage Dictionary

American Heritage Dictionary
  • The unlawful use or threatened use of force 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.
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Boaz Ganor

Boaz Ganor
  • Terrorism is the deliberate use of violence aimed against civilians in order to achieve political ends.
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Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins
  • Terrorism is the use or threatened use of force designed to bring about political change.
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British Terrorism Act of 2000
  • So as to include not only violent offences against persons and physical damage to property, but also acts "designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system". This latter consideration would include shutting down a website whose views one dislikes. However this, and any of the other acts covered by the definition would also need to be (a) designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, AND (b) be done for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause. [the latter three terms are not defined in the Act].
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Bruce Hoffman

Bruce Hoffman
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Central Intelligence Agency

Central Intelligence Agency Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d)
  • The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. 
  •  The term “international terrorism” means terrorism involving the territory or the citizens of more than one country.
  • The term “terrorist group” means any group that practices, or has significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism.

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Cindy Combs

Cindy Combs
  • Paraphrased: According to Combs, to be defined as terrorism an act must meet the following four criteria: (1) It must be an act of violence; (2) it has a political motive or goal; (3) it is perpetrated against innocent persons and; (4) it is staged to be played before an audience whose reaction of fear and terror is the desired results.
  • Combs, Cindy C. "Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century" Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003. ISBN 0-13-097519-2
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David Rodin

David Rodin
  • Terrorism is the deliberate, negligent, or reckless use of force against noncombatants, by state or nonstate actors for ideological ends and in the absence of a substantively just legal process.
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Department of Defense

Department of Defense
  • The calculated use of unlawful violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.
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European Union

European Union Article 1 of the Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism (2002)
  • This provides that terrorist offences are certain criminal offences set out in a list comprised largely of serious offences against persons and property which, "given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organization where committed with the aim of: seriously intimidating a population; or unduly compelling a Government or international organization to perform or abstain from performing any act; or seriously destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organization."
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FBI

FBI
  • 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.
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James M. Poland

James M. Poland
  • Terrorism 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.
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Jessica Stern

Jessica Stern
  • "Some definitions focus on the perpetrator, others on his or her purpose, and still others on the terrorist's technique. But only two characteristics of terrorism are critical for distinguishing it from other forms of violence. First, terrorism is aimed at noncombatants. This characteristic of terrorism distinguishes it from some war-fighting. Second, terrorists use violence for dramatic purpose: instilling fear in the audience is often more important than the physical result. This deliberate creation of dread is what distinguishes terrorism from simple murder or assault." (Terror in the Name of God, p. xx)
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National Counter Terrorism Center

National Counter Terrorism Center
  • "premeditated; perpetrated by a subnational or clandestine agent; politically motivated, potentially including religious, philosophical, or culturally symbolic motivations; violent; and perpetrated against a noncombatant target."
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Oxford English Dictionary

Oxford English Dictionary
  • (a) Policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; (b) the employment of methods of intimidation; (c) the fact of terrorizing or condition of being terrorized.
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Paul Medhurst

Paul Medhurst
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State Department

State Department
  • [P]remeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
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United Nations

United Nations On March 17, 2005, a UN panel described terrorism as any act
  • "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act."
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United Nations

United Nations Short Legal Definition
  • Also proposed by A.P. Schmid: an act of terrorism is the "peacetime equivalent of a war crime."
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USA Patriot Act

USA Patriot Act
  • "activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the U.S. or of any state, that (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, (ii) to 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, and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S."
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Walter Laquer

Walter Laquer
  • Terrorism constitutes the illegitimate use of force to achieve a political objective when innocent people are targeted.
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Webster's New International Dictionary

Webster's New International Dictionary
  • (a) Act of terrorizing, or state of being terrorized; specify: the system of the Reign of Terror. (b) A mode of governing, or of opposing government, by intimidation. (c) Any policy of intimidation.
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Webster's University Dictionary

Webster's University Dictionary
  • Systematic use of violence, terror, and intimidation to achieve an end.
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