What is terrorism?

ter·ror·ism (tr-rzm) n.

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.

What is terrorism?

FBI Policies and Guidlines

In accordance with U.S. counterterrorism policy, the FBI considers terrorists to be criminals. FBI efforts in countering terrorist threats are multifaceted. Information obtained through FBI investigations is analyzed and used to prevent terrorist activity and, whenever possible, to effect the arrest and prosecution of potential perpetrators. FBI investigations are initiated in accordance with the following guidelines:

  • Domestic terrorism investigations are conducted in accordance with The Attorney General Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise, and Domestic Security/Terrorism Investigations . These guidelines set forth the predication threshold and limits for investigations of U.S. persons who reside in the United States, who are not acting on behalf of a foreign power, and who may be conducting criminal activities in support of terrorist objectives.
  • International terrorism investigations are conducted in accordance with The Attorney General Guidelines for FBI Foreign Intelligence Collection and Foreign Counterintelligence Investigations. These guidelines set forth the predication level and limits for investigating U.S. persons or foreign nationals in the United States who are targeting national security interests on behalf of a foreign power.Although various Executive Orders, Presidential Decision Directives, and congressional statutes address the issue of terrorism, there is no single federal law specifically making terrorism a crime. Terrorists are arrested and convicted under existing criminal statutes. All suspected terrorists placed under arrest are provided access to legal counsel and normal judicial procedure, including Fifth Amendment guarantees.


There is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in theCode of Federal Regulations as “…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.ER. Section 0.85)

The FBI further describes terrorism as either domestic or international, depending on the origin, base, and objectives of the terrorists. For purposes of this report, the FBI will use the following definitions:

  • Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by * group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or its territories 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.
  • International terrorism involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping. International terrorist acts occur outside the United States or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to coerce or intimidate, or the locale in which the perpetrators operate or seek asylum.


  • A terrorist incident is a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, in violation of the criminal laws of the United States, or of any state, to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
  • A suspected terrorist incident is a potential act of terrorism for which responsibility cannot be attributed to a known or suspected group. Assessment of the circumstances surrounding the act determines its inclusion in this category.
  • A terrorism prevention is a documented instance in which a violent act by a known or suspected terrorist group or individual with the means and a proven propensity for violence is successfully interdicted through investigative activity.
Ari in Hebron as a young boy

Initially, the Brooklyn Bridge Shooting was classified as an act of “road rage.” After constant pressure that was put on the FBI to reclassify the case as a terrorist act, the case was finally reopened. In November 2000, an Independent Review and Assessment of the Brooklyn Bridge Shooting was published by the American Jewish Committee’s Division on Middle East and International Terrorism. In it, the review examines the murder of Ari and underlines Rashid Baz’s desire to avenge the victims of Hebron through a terrorist act he committed on March 1, 1994. In the reviews summation of Baz’s terrorist act, it reads, “Ten days after the Brooklyn Bridge shooting, the Hamas movement in Gaza released a communique praising Rashid Baz’s attack on the van. With great pride the movement bestowed upon him the tile of mujabid , a holy warrior and Ibn Islam , a son of Islam, meaning one who serves as a role model and inspiration to others: We will retain the cry of condemnation on your hearts and our hand is backed by millions of Muslim hands that are ready to carry out their execution role against Jews. Only Islam is the legitimate and exclusive representation of our people and its predicament; and the living proof of to this is namely the holy warrior and Lebanese immigrant Rashid Al-Baz, the son of Islam who took action against the souls of the evil dregs of the Jews in Brooklyn in America. His deed proclaims that you (i.e., the Jews) do not have the ability to tear Palestine away from our hearts, may a curse be on your heads. To read this independent review in depth, please visit the American Jewish Committee website or click here

Nearly a month following the publication of the review, seven years after Ari’s death, the FBI has finally reclassified the Brooklyn Bridge Shooting as a clear act of terrorism. In a letter to Ari’s mother dated December 5, 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice writes, “It is fair to conclude on the basis of this evidence that the murder of Ari and the shooting at the van were motivated in significant part by Baz’s views and his desire to retaliate against Jewish people and, as such, were, in our view, the crimes of a terrorist as described by the state prosecutor at the time of Baz’s sentence: All of these things culminated on the morning of March 1 with the defendant committing an act which, based on the psychiatric testimony that we’ve heard in this case, can only be considered as an act of terrorism. Insofar as what appears to be clear is that the defendant targeted these youths, targeted innocent civilians to make what was in essence a political situation in the Middle East which as we heard from the defense psychiatrist, the defendant has always deeply personalized. And more particularly on the events that had occurred three or four days earlier in Hebron where a Jewish settler from Brooklyn had killed a number of Arabs praying at a mosque. It seems clear that the defendant targeted these boys because they were obviously Jewish.” Your son’s tragic murder cannot be righted. But his death can and does serve as inspiration to all in law enforcement who strive to combat terrorism wherever it occurs whatever form it occurs.”

In a second letter from Barry Mawn, Assistant Director in charge of the FBI, dated December 11, 2000, he writes, “The FBI’s Counterterrorism Threat Assessment and Warning Unit publishes an annual publication which summarizes both domestic and international terrorism incidents which occurred during the previous year. Included in each publication is a chronological summary of terrorism incidents in the United States since 1990. I assure you your son’s murder will now be included in this chronology and published annually.”

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