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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Essay on History of Domestic Terrorism in the United States

            The United Nations as of today does not have a single and universally accepted definition of Terrorism. As of this time, every country has its own definition of terrorism.  In the United States, terrorism is defined under the Code of Federal Regulations as the “the unlawful use of force and 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.” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85) 

The FBI defines domestic terrorism as the “unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the US without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (“Congressional Testimony”, 2002, p.1) 

            A more recent definition of domestic terrorism is found under Section 802 of the USA Patriot Act which states that domestic terrorism are those acts 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."

            Based on these definitions, it follows that there have been many acts of domestic terrorism and many domestic terrorist groups operating in the United States.  It is sad, however, that the only act of terrorism everybody is familiar of was the September 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  While the September 2001 attack was the biggest and the deadliest act of terrorism it is by no means the first.  Research shows that domestic terrorism has been the problem in the United States since the start of the 20th Century.  One of the earliest known acts of domestic terrorism was the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley. 

The September 2001 terror attack was also not the last.  According to the FBI, between 2002 and 2005, there were twenty-four (24) terrorist attacks in the United States which were all done by domestic extremist groups.  Since the time the FBI started tracking and gathering data about terrorists in the mid-1970s, the FBI has found that a total of 457 incidents of terrorism took place in the United States from 1980 to 1999 ((“Terrorism in the United States, 1999” p.10).  Out of the 457 incidences, there are 272 terrorist incidents while there were 55 suspected terrorist incident and 130 prevented acts of terrorism (“Terrorism in the United States, 1999” p.10).

Ku Klux Klan
            One of the more notorious domestic terrorist group is the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).  The KKK is a racist and anti-Semitic group committed to using extreme violence to achieve its goals of racial segregation and white supremacy.  In its several decades of existence, it has targeted not only African-Americans, the white Americans who defended the African-Americans, but also the reconstruction government which supported their rights.  They also considered as their enemies the Jews, Catholics, socialists, communists, homosexuals and the different groups of immigrants. 

            The KKK was formed in 1865 in the town of Pulaski, Tennessee.  Their initial activities included innocent and non-violent activities such as wearing of disguises and roaming the town after dark.  Their secret and elaborate rituals and their hideous costumes, triggered panic and fear among the African-Americans (“Ku Klux Klan, 1868”, 2006, p.1). Amused by the fact that their horseplay created fear among the people, they took advantage began to inflict fear particularly against African-Americans.  They soon developed a reputation of being white supremacist group.  Because Anti-African American sentiment was common, other groups imitating the Ku Klux Klan were formed in other parts of the country.   Its reign however was short-lived as the Congress in 1871 enacted the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 authorizing the use of federal troops to suppress the violence of the KKK leading to its death.

            After a few decades, the name, rituals and philosophy of the original KKK were adopted by a new organization in 1915.  Its leader, Colonel William Simmons made the new KKK open to native-born, white, Protestant males, at least 16 years of age.  The targets of this organization were the Roman Catholics, blacks and the Jews.  Later on, it has evolved into preaching white supremacy and attacking alien outsiders, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, which they believed to be threatening traditional American ways and values.  Among its notorious activities was the burning of crosses on hillsides and near the homes of the people they wanted to scare.  Masked KKK members also marched to the streets in many communities carrying placards threatening various persons with summary punishment and warning others to leave town.  They were also believed to have committed kidnapping, flogging, mutilation and murder.  Other criminal activities include those committed in 2000 involving six KKK members who engaged in illegal gun trading scheme to finance a plan to bomb a courthouse, the building of pipe bombs designed to blow up buses carrying migrant workers, and the use of hand grenades to attack abortion clinics. 

The Weather Underground
            The Weatherman or the Weather Underground is a radical terrorist organization during the 60s and the 70s whose goal was to revolutionary overthrow the US government.  Thinking that the US was an imperialist country that should be defeated by the Communists in Vietnam, the Weathermen launched massive campaign of violence to promote communism and to encourage the young American public to join them in their cause (“Weathermen”, 2008, p.1). Among these acts of violence was the demolition of a statute dedicated to the memory of eight policemen who were killed in a riot in 1886 (“Weatherman” 2005, p.1).  The Weatherman also pillaged the Chicago business district, smashed windows and destroyed automobiles.  One of the most dangerous activities was the accidental detonation of a bomb by Weathermen members which killed at least three of their members (“The Weather Underground”, 2009, p.1). 

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            A comparison of the activities of the Weatherman and the KKK reveals that both their acts are violent and are dangerous to human life and violates existing criminal laws.  KKK members kidnapped, flogged, mutilated and even murdered their targets while Weathermen members likewise engaged in acts of violence the most dangerous of which was the preparation of a bomb.  Their activities were also intended to coerce and intimidate the civilian population and to influence the policy of the government.  In the case of KKK, their activities were not random acts of violence but they were for the purpose of showing their opposition against the actions of the government which at the time was supporting the rights of the African-Americans.  In the case of Weathermen, their violent activities were used as a means of introducing social and political change, specifically change in the imperialistic policies of US and the promotion of communism.

Symbionese Liberation Army
            The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) got their name from the word symbiosis which also means interdependence of difference species.  It is a group composed of people from different races and classes who advocated the slogan "Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people" (Chris Suellentrop, 2002, p.1).  One of the group’s more notorious acts include the murder of Dr. Marcus Foster whom the group condemned because of his plan to introduce identification card in Oakland schools which they considered as “Fascist.”  Other dangerous activities include the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst, the granddaughter of millionaire William Randolph Hearst.  According to the group, the Hearst Corp is the “corporate enemy of the people” and demanded that Hearst’s parents should distribute $6 million worth of food to the needy prior to her release (Chris Sullentrop, p.2). Their other crimes included murder, bank robbery and possession of explosives. 

New Black Panther Party
            The New Black Panther Party (NBPP) is a US based-black supremacist organization founded in Texas (“New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense”, 2005, p.1).  While its name is similar with the original Black Panther Party, the two organizations are independent from each other.  The NBPP advocated black empowerment, civil rights, and self-defense through confrontation.  Some of its known activities were the recruitment of members for racist purpose and the carrying of shotguns and riffles and marching the streets of Jasper, Texas to protect the black community.  Other activities include the act of its known leaders in organizing a series of confrontational protests in the Dallas area and in appearing in a radio station and urging the listeners to give money to NBPP. 
Jewish Defense League
            The Jewish Defense League (JDL) was a Jewish organization established for the purpose of protecting Jews against its enemies.  Founded in 1968 by Rabbi Meri Kahane, it aimed to protect the Jews from harassment.  Among the activities attributed to the JDL are: use of threat by mailing a note to a television reporter threatening vengeance against prominent Jewish critics and against those responsible for the murder of a Jewish leader.  Other criminal activities include the bombing outside the Syrian Mission to the United Nations and placing of bombs outside a New York building. 

            Similar with the New Black Panther Party, their violent and criminal activities were directed against those who opposed the Jews.  Though some of their actions involve bombings and have resulted to the death of several individuals, their criminal actions were motivated by their bias towards a specific group of persons who espouse a particular religion.  There was also no intention to threaten or coerce the entire civilian population or to influence the government to change its policy.  Thus, contrary to the other groups which also use bombs, the JDL is classified as a hate crime group because its activities are motivate by bias towards a particular group of people.  

Eric Rudolph and his Christian Identity Movement
            One of the more notorious individuals who performed acts of terrorism was Eric Rudolph and his Christian Identity Movement.  The Christian Identity is an extremist group whose religious ideology is popular in extreme right-wing circles. (Michael Barkun, 1997, p.3) The supporters of Christian Movement believe that the whites of European descents can be traced back to the “Lost Tribes of Israel.” They have a strong belief in God but they think that only they are God’s chosen people and the only ones who are right.  (Peter Ephross 2) They consider the Jews as the offspring of Eve and the Serpent while non-whites are created before Adam and Eve whom they call “mud people.”  The Christian Identity Movement is considered as extremely influential especially among the white supremacist and extreme anti-government movements. 

Rudolph was believed to be responsible for several bombings which were committed late in the 1990s.  The first of these bombings happed on July 27, 1996 in Atlanta Georgia.  It was the 9th day of the Summer Olympics.  Eric Rudolph placed a bomb near the main stage in the park.  When the bomb exploded, it killed Alice Hawthorne, a mother who went to Georgia together with her together to watch the Olympic Games, and Melih Uzonyol, a Turkish cameraman and injured more than one hundred people (Kristen Wyatt, 2005, p. 2). 

The Olympic Bombing was followed by two bombings in 1997.  The first of these two bombings were against an abortion clinic at the Sandy Springs Professional Building in Atlanta.  The target for this attack was the Northside Family Planning Service.  At the time of the bombing that abortion clinic was closed but there were personnel present in the clinic.  Rudolph targeted these employees and the facility itself.  The second of the two bombings in 1997 happened an hour after the first explosion.    According to Rudolph the target for this attack were the agents of the government who were the medical personnel, firefighters, police and other law enforcement officers.  The bomb injured four (4) people and injured more than fifty (50) people. 

The third bombing incident happened at a homosexual establishment called the Otherside Lounge.  In this attack, five people were injured.  The second explosive device did not cause damage as it was discovered before it exploded.  These bombings were followed by another bombing at the Birmingham, Alabama of the New Woman All Women Health Care.  The bomb killed Birmingham police officer Robert Sanderson who at the time was moonlighting as a security guard in the clinic and Emily Lyons, the clinic’s head nurse. 

            Domestic Terrorist groups and domestic terrorism are serious problems.  They have existed in the past and they will continue to exist in the future to sow fear and terror.  But more than the problem of violence that terrorism brings to our nation, is the problem of bias, hatred, prejudice.  What fuels the continued growth of the domestic terrorists are feelings of animosity towards other persons whom they feel are different from.   The reality is that terrorism cannot be stopped unless the reason why it exists is addressed.  Thus, instead of tracking terrorists and punishing them if they get caught, efforts should instead be devoted to creating establishing peace, fostering alliances and maintaining a discrimination-free nation.

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