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In the United Statesmarker, acts of domestic terrorism are generally considered to be uncommon. According to the FBImarker, 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."

Terrorist organizations

Animal Liberation Front

Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a name used internationally by 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 Securitymarker as a domestic terrorist organization.

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 force to end abortion in the United States. Acts of anti-abortion violence increased in the mid-1990s culminating in a series of bombings by Eric Robert Rudolph, whose targets included two abortion clinics, a gay and lesbian night club, and the 1996 Olympics in Atlantamarker. Letters sent to newspapers claim responsibility for the bombing of the abortion clinics in the name of the Army of God.

Black Liberation Army

A splinter group made up of the more radical members of the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army (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 Departmentmarker report on BLA activity, the group was suspected of involvement in over 60 incidents of violence between 1970 and 1980. Even though they united black people and kept kids above bad influences by creating groups similar to the boy scouts (because in white communities black children could not join boy scouts) and uniting black people. After being disbanded bad influence came back into black society and the Crips and Bloods were created.

Jewish Defense League

The Jewish Defense League (JDL) was founded in 1969 by Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York Citymarker, with its declared purpose the protection of Jews from harassment and antisemitism. FBImarker statistics show that, from 1980 to 1985, 15 terrorist attacks were attempted in the U.S. by JDL members. The FBI’s Mary Doran described the JDL in 2004 Congressional testimony as "a proscribed terrorist group". The National Consortium for the Study of Terror and Responses to Terrorism states that, during the JDL's first two decades of activity, it was an "active terrorist organization." Kahane later founded the far right Israelimarker political party Kach. The JDL's website currently condemns all forms of terrorism.

Ku Klux Klan

From Reconstruction at the end of the civil war to the end of the civil rights movement, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) used threats, violence, arson, and murder to further its white-supremacist, anti-Communist, anti-semitic and anti-Catholic agenda. Domestic terrorists with agendas similar to the KKK include neo-Nazis and white power skinheads.

Symbionese Liberation Army

The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) was an American self-styled, far 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. Among their most notorious acts was the kidnapping and brainwashing of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.


The Weather Underground Organization was a far left organization active from 1969 to 1975. It originated in 1969 as a faction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) composed for the most part of the national office leadership of SDS and their supporters. The group collapsed shortly after the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975.

Notable attacks associated with domestic terrorism

Bombing of Los Angeles Times building

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. The McNamaras became a cause celebre amongst the labor movement in the United States, though their support eroded when they admitted their guilt.

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 followers of Luigi Galleani.

Unabomber attacks

From 1978 to 1995, neo-luddite radical and former mathematics professor Theodore "Ted" Kaczynski - known by the codename "UNABOM" 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 manifesto 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, before 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 Centennial Olympic Park bombing was a terrorist bombing on July 27, 1996 in Atlanta, Georgiamarker, United States during the 1996 Summer Olympics, the first of four committed by Eric Robert Rudolph, former explosives expert for the United States Army. Two people died, and 111 were injured.

2001 anthrax attacks

The 2001 anthrax attacks in the United Statesmarker occurred over the course of several weeks beginning on September 18, 2001. Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senator, killing five people and infecting 17 others. In mid-2008, the FBI narrowed its focus to Bruce Edwards Ivins, a scientist who worked at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrickmarker in Frederickmarker, Marylandmarker. Ivins was told of the impending prosecution and on July 27 committed suicide, by an overdose of acetaminophen.

Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting

An elderly man with believed ties to neo-Nazi groups opened fire on June 10th, 2009 at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, killing one guard. James W. Von Brunn, 88, who hails from Maryland, reportedly entered the museum shortly before 1 p.m. EDT, took out what appeared to be a rifle and fired at a security guard. Two other security guards returned fire, striking the shooter, according to reports.

See also


  1. Militant Extremists in the United States - Council on Foreign Relations
  2. Rise of Domestic Terrorism and Its Relation to United States Armed Forces
  5. Anti-Defamation League on JDL
  6. Federal Bureau of Investigation - Congressional Testimony
  7. JDL group profile from National Consortium for the Study of Terror and Responses to Terrorism
  9. Wakin, Daniel J., "Quieter Lives for 60's Militants, but Intensity of Beliefs Hasn't Faded", article The New York Times, August 24, 2003, retrieved June 7, 2008
  10. New York Daily News, October 2005

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