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domestic terrorism

Domestic terrorism in the United States

In the United States, acts of domestic terrorism are generally considered to be uncommon. According to the FBI, however, between the years of 1980 and 2000, 250 of the 335 incidents confirmed as or suspected to be terrorist acts in the United States were carried out by American citizens.

Definitions of domestic terrorism

The statutory definition of domestic terrorism in the United States has changed many times over the years; also, it can be argued that acts of domestic terrorism have been occurring since long before any legal definition was set forth.

According to a memo produced by the FBI's Terrorist Research and Analytical Center in 1994, domestic terrorism was defined as "the unlawful use of force or violence, committed by a group(s) of two or more individuals, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Under current United States law, set forth in the USA PATRIOT Act, acts of domestic terrorism are those which: "(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (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 United States.

Organizations associated with domestic terrorism in the US

The Ku Klux Klan

From Reconstruction at the end of the civil war to the end of the civil rights movement, the Ku Klux Klan used threats, violence, arson, and murder to further its white-supremacist, anti-semitic, anti-Catholic agenda.

The Weathermen

The Weathermen were a U.S. radical left organization active from 1969 to 1975. Its members referred to themselves as a "revolutionary organization of communist women and men." Their goal was the revolutionary overthrow of the U.S. government. Toward this end, and to change U.S. policy in Vietnam, they bombed a number of police and military targets. The group collapsed shortly after the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975.

The Symbionese Liberation Army

The Symbionese Liberation Army (S.L.A.) was an American self-styled, radical-left "urban guerrilla warfare group" that considered itself a revolutionary vanguard army. The group committed bank robberies, two murders, and other acts of violence between 1973 and 1975.

Army of God

The Army of God (AOG) is a loose network of individuals and groups connected by ideological affinity and the determination to use violence to end the legal practice of abortion in the United States. Its affiliates consist of right-wing Christian militants who have committed violent acts against abortion providers. Acts of anti-abortion violence increased in the mid-1990s culminating in a series of bombings by Eric Rudolph, whose targets included two abortion clinics, a gay and lesbian night club, and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Letters Rudolph sent to newspapers claiming responsibility in the name of the Army of God focused attention on the issue of right-wing extremism.

Animal Liberation Front

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a name used internationally by animal liberation activists who engage in "direct action" tactics on behalf of animals. This includes removing animals from laboratories and fur farms, and sabotaging facilities involved in animal testing and other animal-based industries. According to ALF statements, any act that furthers the cause of animal liberation, where all reasonable precautions are taken not to endanger life, may be claimed as an ALF action. The group is listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a domestic terrorist organization.

Earth Liberation Front

The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is a group associated with environmental extremism and advocates "direct action" against alleged high polluters. Several fire bombings of SUV dealerships have been attributed to the ELF.

Black Panthers

During 1970, 21 Black Panthers in New York were charged with plotting to assassinate police officers and blow up buildings while Black Panther chief of staff David Hilliard awaited trial on charges of threatening the life of President Richard Nixon.

Black Liberation Army

A splinter group made up of the more radical members of the Black Panther Party, the BLA sought to overthrow the US government in the name of racial separatism and Marxist ideals. The Fraternal Order of Police blames the BLA for the murders of 13 police officers. According to a Justice Department report on BLA activity, the Black Liberation Army was suspected of involvement in over 60 incidents of violence between 1970 and 1981.

Notable acts of domestic terrorism

Bombing of Los Angeles Times building

(As per New York Daily News, October 2005): The bombing of the Los Angeles Times on October 1 1910, which killed 21 people. The brains of this crime were The McNamara Brothers (James and John McNamara), two Irish-American brothers who wanted to "unionize" the paper, and who were only caught after a dogged, relentless search by a private investigator using his own funds.

Wall Street bombing

The Wall Street bombing was a terrorist incident that occurred on September 16, 1920, in the Financial District of New York City. A horse-drawn wagon filled with 100 pounds (45 kg) of dynamite was stationed across the street from the headquarters of the J.P. Morgan Inc. bank. The explosion killed 38 and injured 400. Even though no one was found guilty, it is believed that the act was carried out by anarchist followers of Luigi Galleani.


From 1978 to 1995, neo-luddite radical and former mathematics professor Theodore "Ted" Kaczynski - known by the codename "UNABOMBER" until his identification and arrest by the FBI - carried out a campaign of sending letterbombs to academics and various individuals particularly associated with modern technology. In 1996, his Industrial Society and Its Future was published in The New York Times and the Washington Post, under the threat of more attacks. The bomb campaign ended with his capture.

Oklahoma City bombing

This truck bomb attack by right-wing extremists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 people – the deadliest domestic-based terrorist attack in US history and, after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the deadliest act of terrorism in US history. It inspired improvements to United States federal building security.

Centennial Olympic Park bombing

The first of four bombings carried out by Christian fundamentalist Eric Robert Rudolph.

See also


Further reading

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