Last Updated 17 Jun 2020

Domestic Terrorism

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Domestic Terrorism in the United States Thomas A. Salisbury HSM 305 Survey of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Professor Erick Stone January 22, 2012 Domestic Terrorism in the United States Domestic terrorism is a real threat to this country. This type of attack is nothing new to this country but until the threat of international terrorism became prominent, there was not a large focus on domestic terrorism. With a look at history, domestic terrorists are a greater threat to security than international terrorists. Some of these threats are easily preventable and others are more difficult to see coming.

The Department of Homeland Security needs to focus on domestic terrorist threats with the same effort as they do for international threats. The official definition of terrorism according to the 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 goals”. (Smith, 1994 p6). This definition guides how the FBI takes defines possible terrorist organizations and takes action against them.

Terrorists may be left or right wing, from any religious background or any race. This is what makes identifying these groups of people very difficult. While law enforcement would like to say that a typical terrorist is a young, affluent, white male, for example, it is impossible to make that distinction. There is no profile that would fit terrorists in their entirety. It is possible for a terrorist from a certain group to fit a certain profile. A white supremacist group would have a certain type of person as a member. A black militant group would have a totally different type of person.

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With this being the case, it is important to identify the group of people rather than the individual. Some groups focus on a single issue such as anti-nuclear power or anti-fur trade while others call for greater changes in politics or ideology. A single, lone terrorist or small cell is the most difficult to detect and stop. In the history of this country, there have been numerous cases of domestic terrorism. Most people were unfamiliar with domestic terrorism until the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. This is because most cases of domestic terrorism do not involve such a large loss of life.

In many cases, the loss was financial and casualties were low, if any at all. Animal-rights groups have targeted fur dealers by setting fires in vehicles and buildings to destroy these businesses. The Ku Klux Klan may have killed people but the tended to do so one at a time. This does not create as much of a media buzz as a bombing that kills dozens. By doing this, some of these groups may stay out of the spotlight but in reality, they are more deadly than a single bomber. When unions were forming early in the twentieth century, there were incidences of terrorism on both sides.

Strikers were attacked and factories were sabotaged. Some of these incidents resulted in the loss of life and almost all involved financial losses. Sometimes, these conflicts are taking place today. Political change is the aim of some of these groups. Communist organizations wanted to make the United States a Marxist country. Organizations also united under a common cause such as in 1981 when the Weather Underground (WU), the Black Liberation Army (BLA) and the Black Panther party united to form the May 19th Communist Organization (M19CO). (Smith, 1994).

This group robbed armored cars to fund operations that resulted in the deaths of security officers. A crime that is in the headlines may actually be a terrorist attack used to gain money. Law enforcement must investigate fully to find out why the crime took place. A look back in history may show that terrorists were active even during the Revolution. The Boston Tea Party was staged by colonists who were protesting taxes imposed by the English. (Les Benedict, 2006). This incident, along with others, like the burning of a revenue ship in Rhode Island, was done to effect a change in English policy towards the colonies.

The English would have viewed these acts as terrorism by today’s standards. Terrorism has also taken place during the Atlanta Olympics and at an abortion clinic when Eric Rudolph planted bombs that killed and injured people. Only an alert security guard at the Olympics prevented a tragedy. A current threat of terrorism is through the use of gangs by international organizations. Al-Qaeda has been closely working with the gang Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13. MS-13 has many ways of passing security at the Mexican border and wants to make money.

Al-Qaeda can use them to provide resources and people to use. (Starita, 2009). MS-13 also wishes to have an international presence and a cooperation would give them prestige. Gangs in general present a threat to homeland security and this gang is one of the largest. According to some sources, there are as many as 96,000 members and many sympathizers. (Starita, 2009). This presents a large threat with the potential of many operatives and resources in place already. As with other terrorist groups, these gangs can come together if there is a common cause that suits all of them.

Responsibility for preventing terrorist incidents starts with the average citizen. Law enforcement agencies have many types of incidents to respond to and anti-terrorism is only one of them. If a person notices something suspicious such as a person buying many weapons and ammunition, looking for information on bomb-making and materials or becoming radical in their ideology, it would be extremely helpful to notify an agency for an investigation. Many times the first signs of an impending attack would be noticed by a civilian. This could be a friend, family member, coworker or a store clerk.

A bystander may also notice an unattended package or suspicious person in an area. This may be just enough to ward off the attack if the police are notified promptly. A major difficulty facing law enforcement in the prevention of these incidents is working within the justice system of the United States. The police have to follow procedures and rule laid out in the Bill of Rights and subsequent laws. These laws restrict the rights of law enforcement and protect the rights of the citizens. The First Amendment gives the freedom of religion and speech and of the press.

A person can go to a mosque or church that may be radical in their teachings. They may voice their radical opinions as long as it is not an outright threat. Even printed materials about their views are legal. According to the Second Amendment, a person can buy arms and ammunition legally. In order for police to obtain a search warrant, probable cause must be present. (Les Benedict, 2006). Just because a person goes to a radical mosque, a search for bomb-making materials cannot be obtained without probable cause that the materials are there. A person cannot be persecuted based on loose suspicions.

Therefore, a tip has to be followed up by an investigation to see if the person is doing something illegally. Only if reliable information is present can the police obtain the warrant and execute it. The warrant can be very specific on what can be searched instead of being broad. This may hamper the police from finding evidence as well. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, President George Bush, along with Congress, passed the USA-PATRIOT Act. The Act is an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. Del Carmen, 2009). While the act was passed as a reaction to an international terrorist incident, it applies to domestic terrorism as well. This act provided new rules for electronic surveillance such as wiretaps and using technology to gain evidence. These new rules relaxed the requirements for obtaining these types of surveillance. Access to personal information was gained by using fusion centers for intelligence on suspects. The use of these centers has been criticized as being a violation of civil rights by some people. (Del Carmen, 2009).

Some provisions of the act have been declared invalid by some courts and the fight against the act will continue into the future. With the provisions of the act, law enforcement has broader authority in investigating individuals and organizations that are suspected of planning terrorist acts. This authority has to be used with good police work like investigations in order to prosecute the right people. Another difficulty law enforcement has is that the process of stopping domestic terrorists is not just intelligence work and conducting a military-style operation to eliminate the threat.

Criminal procedure has to be followed. Evidence must be collected in order to prosecute the offenders at a later date. This means the rules of evidence must be followed to include chain of custody, proper collection techniques, and documentation. Care must be taken to protect evidence during operations and after the operation is conducted. Multiple agencies may be involved and coordination is necessary between those agencies. A simple incident of a white powder coming from an envelope in the mail involves many agencies. A Hazardous Materials Team would test the powder and most likely take evidence from the scene.

Not only would local police be involved but possibly state police and definitely federal law enforcement such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Postal Service Inspectors. Due to many state and federal laws being involved, there has to be coordination between these agencies as to who gets control of the evidence, suspects, and is the prosecuting agency. These difficulties have to be managed in order to prosecute properly. By prosecuting properly, this may deter future incidents. Without this determent, the terrorist may feel that they can make future attacks without penalty.

Response to an incident of domestic terrorism is a multifaceted operation. In most cases, many agencies will be involved. The type of incident that takes place and its location will determine what agencies become involved. All of these agencies have to be prepared to respond and also to cooperate with other agencies on the scene of the incident. Agencies not on the scene may also have a stake in the response and they have to be included as well. The National Incident Management System was created by a Homeland Security Presidential Directive in 2004 in order to provide for a national Incident Command System. Bullock, 2013). The ICS had been used by many agencies in the past but had not been used on a national scale. ICS was created to deal with California wildfires in the nineteen-seventies and was adopted by many fire departments to manage their incidents effectively. (Bullock, 2013). The system uses a single Incident Commander or Unified Command in a leadership position to manage the whole incident. The IC can call on other functions such as command, operations, logistics and finance as the management if the incident progresses. (Bullock, 2013). Use of this system is critical to a good response and recovery.

The first agencies to respond will most likely be local fire and police departments. They are the agencies with the most resources close to the scene at the outset. The fire department and emergency medical services will primarily deal with life safety and mitigating hazards that are potentially life threatening. The local police will be the first to gather witnesses and evidence. It is important for these agencies to notify other agencies when the incident requires it. Arson may turn out to be a terrorist incident even though not readily apparent at the outset.

A bombing will probably be more apparent. Recognizing an incident for what it is will help an agency bring in the appropriate resources quickly. Some other agencies that may need to be involved include the National Guard, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If the incident involves radioactive material or biological hazards, the Department of Energy or the Center for Disease Control may be needed. Private companies may be needed for equipment or expertise. All of these entities have to be managed by an Incident Commander.

Recognizing the hazards and the incident nature quickly is important. During the 1995 bombing of the Alfred Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, first responders noticed the crater left by the bomb and immediately consulted the FBI. (Cook, 2009). Originally the incident was thought to be a natural gas explosion. By recognizing the incident as terrorism, the proper agencies were then brought in to protect and handle evidence as well as provide some protection to the first responders. In the case of a mass casualty incident, a critical incident stress team may be needed as well.

It is important for first responders to protect themselves during a terrorist incident. A secondary device may be present to kill or injure them in order to hamper rescue and recovery efforts. Eric Rudolph planted a secondary device during a bombing at an abortion clinic. This device was planted where the incident command center would be set up. (Ostrow, 1998). Rudolph has observed first responders during multiple false alarms and noticed where command was set up. All Hazards Response was a system that came about after the attacks of 9/11.

The Nation Response Plan was created to facilitate an efficient response to a major incident. (Bullock, 2013). This framework helps agencies responding to an incident to integrate with other agencies and pool resources to mitigate the incident. Many agencies may be responding to an incident and a plan to handle the response was necessary. By using NIMS, ICS and the National Response Plan, agencies are coordinated the same way across the country. No matter where the incident takes place, agencies can know what to expect for a system in place before their arrival on the scene.

Exercises like Vigilant Guard take agencies such as the National Guard, first responders, state and federal agencies and put them together to practice a response to an incident. In order to become better at responding, these exercises must be held, and agencies willing to take part, to be successful. Domestic terrorism is a real threat to the country. The history of this country shows that this is nothing new and it can be expected to be a threat in the future. Proper planning and the use of exercises are needed to practice the coordination of various agencies.

Intelligence and prosecution of offenders has to be a priority to prevent future attacks. The public has to be vigilant and notify the authorities of any suspicions. Prevention of domestic terrorism is a real threat and it is the responsibility of the whole country to prevent attacks as well as respond properly to them. References: Bullock, J. , Haddow, G. , & Coppola, D. (2013). Introduction to homeland security: Principles of all-hazards risk management (4th Ed. ). Waltham, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann. Starita, Cynthia. (2009).

Mounting Threat of Domestic Terrorism: Al-Qaeda and the Salvadoran Gang MS-13. El Paso, TX: LFB Publishing. Retrieved from http://site. ebrary. com/lib/ashford Cook, Alethia. (2009). Emergency Response to Domestic Terrorism: How Bureaucracies Reacted to the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing. Retrieved from http://site. ebrary. com/lib/ashford Cordesman, A. H. (2002). Terrorism, Asymmetric Warfare, and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Defending the U. S. Homeland. Praeger. From: http://web. ebscohost. com Smith, B. L. (1994).

Terrorism in America: Pipe Bombs and Pipe Dreams. State University of New York Press. From: http://web. ebscohost. com Kamien, D. (2010). The McGraw-Hill Homeland Security Handbook. (1st Ed. ). USA: McGraw-Hill Les Benedict, M. (2006). The Blessings of Liberty. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning Del Carmen, R. (2009). Criminal Procedures. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning Ostrow, R. (1998, October 15). Survivalist Charged in Olympic, Other Atlanta Blasts. Los Angeles Times. p 20. Retrieved from: http://search. proquest. com. proxy/library. ashford. edu/docview/421436549? accountid=32521

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