Terrorism and Terrorists

Authored by: Emilio C. Viano

The Routledge Handbook of Deviant Behavior

Print publication date:  June  2011
Online publication date:  April  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415482745
eBook ISBN: 9780203880548
Adobe ISBN: 9781134015580


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The statutory definition of terrorism that the United States government uses is: “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience” (22 USC 2656f (d)). Thus, terrorism has several elements:

Premeditation—there must be an intent and a prior decision to commit an act that entails this type of violence.

Political motivation, thus eliminating criminal violence for monetary gain or personal revenge.

Attacking people who cannot defend themselves or respond in kind.

Planned and carried out by a group. (Whether there can be a case of “individual” terrorism is debated. The place and the role of clandestine agents and subnational groups are delicate because many governments, including the United States, have utilized both.)

Some consider the threat of violence as terrorism as well.

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