Friday, May 4, 2012


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Where does the word terrorism come from?

The word was coined during Frances “Reign of Terror” in 17-4. Originally, the leaders of this systematized attempt to weed out traitors among the revolutionary ranks praised terror as the best way to defend liberty, but as the French Revolution soured, the word soon took on grim echoes of state violence and guillotines. Today, most terrorists dislike the label.

Defining terrorism

Terrorism by nature is difficult to define. Even though most people can recognize terrorism when they see it, experts have had difficulty coming up with a generally accepted definition. Terrorism can be described as the unlawful use of fear or force to achieve certain political, economical or social aims. Even the U.S government cannot agree on one single definition. The old adage, “one’s man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is still alive and well.

Help with essay on terrorism

The State Department defines terrorism as premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

The FBI defines terrorism as 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 objectives. The FBI further describes terrorism as either domestic or international, depending on the origin, base, and objectives of the terrorist organization.

Defense Department Terrorism is the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.

In another useful attempt to produce a definition, Paul Pillar, a former deputy chief of the CIAs Counterterrorist Center, argues that there are four key elements of terrorism

• It is premeditated�planned in advance, rather than an impulsive act of rage.

• It is political�not criminal, like the violence that groups such as the mafia use to get money, but designed to change the existing political order.

• It is aimed at civilians�not at military targets or combat-ready troops.

• It is carried out by subnational groups�not by the army of a country.

United Nations A terrorist is any person who, acting independently of the specific recognition of a country, or as a single person, or as part of a group not recognized as an official part or division of a nation, acts to destroy or to injure civilians or destroy or damage property belonging to civilians or to governments in order to effect some political goal.

Is terrorism a new phenomenon?

The oldest terrorists were holy warriors who killed civilians. For instance, in first-century Palestine, Jewish Zealots would publicly slit the throats of Romans and their collaborators; in seventh-century India, the Thuggee cult would ritually strangle passersby as sacrifices to the Hindu deity Kali; and in the eleventh-century Middle East, the Shiite sect known as the Assassins would eat hashish before murdering civilian foes.

Historians can trace recognizably modern forms of terrorism back to such late-nineteenth-century organizations as Narodnaya Volya (“People’s Will”), an anti-tsarist group in Russia. One particularly successful early case of terrorism was the 114 assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serb extremist, an event that helped trigger World War I. Even more familiar forms of terrorism�often custom-made for TV cameras�first appeared on July , 168, when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine undertook the first terrorist hijacking of a commercial airplane.

Features of terrorism

Terrorist acts are committed for various reasons. Some individuals and groups that use terrorism support a particular political philosophy. Others represent minority groups seeking liberation from governments in power. Dictators and totalitarian governments also use violence to frighten or eliminate their opponents. Most terrorist groups are small. They believe the threat or use of violence to create fear is the best way to gain publicity and support for their causes. Generally, terrorists attack people who oppose their cause or objects that symbolize such opposition. Common victims of kidnappings and assassinations include diplomats, business executives, political leaders, police, and judges.

Terrorists also attack churches, mosques, and synagogues, as well as oil refineries and government offices. At other times, terrorists choose any target certain to attract media coverage. Some terrorists hi-jack airplanes. Then they hold the passengers hostage and make demands to further their cause. They often threaten to kill the hostages if their demands are not met. Bombings make up about half of all terrorist acts. Terrorism may cross national boundaries. A quarrel in one nation may produce terrorist attacks in several other countries. Some governments secretly support certain terrorist groups by providing weapons, training, and money for attacks in other countries. Most terrorist groups fail to achieve their long-range political goals. Governments fight terrorism by refusing to accept terrorist demands and by increasing security at airports and other likely targets. Some countries train special military units to rescue hostages. All terrorist acts are crimes under international law.

History of terrorism

Terrorist tactics have been used for centuries. An American group, the Ku Klux Klan, used violence to terrorize blacks and their sympathizers in the late 1800s and the 100s. In the 10s, the dictators Adolf Hitler of Germany, Benito Mussolini of Italy, and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union used terrorism to discourage opposition to their governments. Another wave of terrorism began in the 160s. Terrorist groups included the Red Brigades in Italy, which was active until the late 180s, and the Red Army Faction in West Germany, which was active until the early 10s. Both groups sought the destruction of the political and economic systems in their home countries and the development of new systems. Before the independence of Israel in 148, a Jewish group used terror to speed the end of British rule in Palestine and create a Jewish homeland. Since 160, Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah, have carried out campaigns of terrorism aimed at establishing an independent Palestinian state. In Northern Ireland, Roman Catholic and Protestant extremists have used violence to push for, respectively, the end of, or the continuation of, British rule. Terrorists from other parts of the world, especially the Middle East, continue to set off bombs and commit other crimes.

In 1, a bomb exploded in the parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City. The next year, a federal court convicted four men, including two Palestinians, of planning the bombing. Another major terrorist bombing occurred in Oklahoma City in 15. Two Americans were convicted for their role in the attack.

Classifications of terrorism

There are two kinds of classifications, according to terrorist beliefs or the weapons and technology they use.

While these categories are not written in stone, experts have identified at least six different sorts of terrorism nationalist, religious, left-wing, right-wing, and anarchist.

• Nationalist terrorism

Nationalist terrorists seek to form a separate state for their own national group, often by drawing attention to a fight for “national liberation” that they think the world has ignored. This sort of terrorism has been among the most successful at winning international sympathy and concessions. Experts say that nationalist terror groups have tended to calibrate their use of violence, using enough to rivet world attention but not so much that they alienate supporters abroad or members of their base community.

IRA bombing of department store,Nothern Ireland,17

Nationalist terrorism can be difficult to define, since many groups accused of the practice insist that they are not terrorists but freedom fighters.

Examples of nationalist terrorist groups- nationalist terrorist groups include the Irish Republican Army and the Palestine Liberation Organization, both of which said during the 10s that they had renounced terrorism. Other prominent examples are the Basque Fatherland and Liberty, which seeks to create a Basque homeland separate from Spain, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which seeks to create a Kurdish state independent from Turkey. Earlier nationalist terror groups sought to expel colonial rulers; such groups included the Irgun and the Lehi (both Jewish militias opposed to British rule in Palestine in the 140s) and the National Liberation Front (opposed to French rule in Algeria in the 150s).

• Religious terrorists seek to use violence to further what they see as divinely

commanded purposes, often targeting broad categories of foes in an attempt to bring about sweeping changes. Religious terrorists come from many major faiths, as well as from small cults. This type of terrorism is growing swiftly; in 15 (the most recent year for which such statistics were available), nearly half of the 56 known, active international terrorist groups were religiously motivated. Because religious terrorists are concerned not with rallying a constituency of fellow nationalists or ideologues but with pursuing their own vision of the divine will, they lack one of the major constraints that historically has limited the scope of terror attacks, experts say. As Hoffman puts it, the most extreme religious terrorists can sanction “almost limitless violence against a virtually open-ended category of targets that is, anyone who is not a member of the terrorists’ religion or religious sect.”

Examples include Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, the Palestinian Sunni Muslim organization Hamas, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, the radical Jewish groups affiliated with the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, the Israeli extremists Baruch Goldstein (who machine-gunned Muslim worshipers in a Hebron mosque in 14) and Yigal Amir (who assassinated then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 15), some American white-supremacist militias, and the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult in Japan.

• Left-wing terrorists are out to destroy capitalism and replace it with a

communist or socialist regime. Because they see most civilians as suffering from

capitalist exploitation, left-wing terrorists sometimes have limited their use of violence to avoid hurting the victims they say they want to save. Left-wing terrorists sometimes focus instead on such tactics as kidnapping tycoons or bombing monuments. Examples

The Baader-Meinhof Group (Germany), the Japanese Red Army, the Weathermen (170s America), and the Red Brigades (Italy) are examples of left-wing terrorist groups.

• Right-wing terrorists are among the least organized terrorists, often associated

with neo-Nazi street rioting in Western Europe, especially in the early 180s. These groups, often dominated by skinheads, seek to do away with liberal democratic governments and create fascist states in their place. Neofascist terrorists frequently attack

immigrants and refugees from the developing world and are both racist and antisemitic.

• Anarchist terrorism

From the 1870s until about 10, anarchist terrorism was a major global phenomenon. Revolutionaries seeking to overthrow established governments launched a wave of bombings and assassinated a series of heads of state; one such victim was President William McKinley, killed in 101 by a young Hungarian refugee influenced by anarchist sentiments. Some experts see signs of a new interest in anarchist violence arising out of the recent wave of protests against globalization.

The other classification would be technological terrorism, nuclear terrorism, cyberterrorism, biological and chemical terrorism.

• Technological terrorism

The United States is the most technologically advanced superpower in the world. Technology has opened new doors to the future, which many Americans have taken for granted. Other national competitors have taken advantage of the United Statess nonchalant attitude toward technology at times, but the United States stands as one of the masters of new industrial and technological techniques. Along with Japan and Western Europe, the United States is a technologically oriented society.

The irony of U.S. success with technology is that the country has become vulnerable to attacks on technology and by technology. One does not have to agree with Brian Clarks political position to understand that the United States is dependent on technology. While the military has taken precautions to shield defense and weapons systems from interference, civilian industry has fallen behind. Given U.S. dependence on technology, this has created a window of opportunity for terrorists.

The experts point to several areas of vulnerability. Metropolitan water supplies are subject to contamination. Although poisons would dissipate in a large volume of water, general public reaction would be one of panic. In addition, criminal organizations have attempted to produce chemical weapons for extortion and assassination. The capacity for mass destruction is a recent historical development. In the past, killing many people required many people to do the killing. Technology has changed this.

It is clear states that terrorism based on massively destructive weapons involves skills that few terrorist groups possess. Technical weapons require technical skills and support networks. Many groups lack these capacities, but the past may not be indicative of the future. The capability for mass destruction exists.

The most common type of terrorist weapon is a bomb. It has been historically popular, it is easy to deliver, and it poses a difficult puzzle for police to solve. Kupperman and Trent say that when groups mature, they move toward more sophisticated weaponry, but in their initial stages, groups find that bombs are cheap and effective tools. Recent experience demonstrates that even sophisticated conventional bombs can destroy civilian aircraft.

Attacks with this “primitive weapon” (the bomb)on technological targets are another way to achieve mass destruction without the need for technological weapons. The terrorists can paralyze the economy by attacking targets necessary for production and service. Electrical power grids are important from this standpoint, and the most likely targets are transmission lines and transformers. Gas and petroleum lines are even more vulnerable, and conventional and nuclear power plants present tempting targets. Another point about the vulnerability of the United States has been raised by many analysts. If a mass destruction threat developed, the initial public reaction would probably be one of panic. A fear of chemical weapons and radioactivity pervades popular culture. If the American public believed a major city was in jeopardy, there is reason to believe fear would sweep the nation. In a climate of fear, cherished liberties can be destroyed.

Another potential target of technology and terrorism is the energy industry. Oil and gas are the United Statess chief means of energy. The transportation and storage of fossil fuels is not safe as people tend to assume.

• Nuclear terrorism

A Dirty Bomb The most accessible nuclear device for any terrorist would be a radiological dispersion bomb. This so-called dirty bomb would consist of waste by-products from nuclear reactors wrapped in conventional explosives, which upon detonation would spew deadly radioactive particles into the environment. This is an expedient weapon, in that radioactive waste material is relatively easy to obtain. Radioactive waste is widely found throughout the world, and in general is not as well guarded as actual nuclear weapons.

In the United States, radioactive waste is located at more than 70 commercial nuclear power sites, in 1 states. Enormous quantities also exist overseas � in Europe and Japan in particular. Tons of wastes are transported long distances, including between continents (Japan to Europe and back). In Russia, security for nuclear waste is especially poor, and the potential for diversion and actual use by Islamic radicals has been shown to be very real indeed. In 16, Islamic rebels from the break-away province of Chechnya planted, but did not detonate, such a device in Moscows Izmailovo park to demonstrate Russias vulnerability. This dirty bomb consisted of a deadly brew of dynamite and one of the highly radioactive by-products of nuclear fission � Cesium 17.

Extreme versions of such gamma-ray emitting bombs, such as a dynamite-laden casket of spent fuel from a nuclear power plant, would not kill quite as many people as died on Sept. 11. A worst-case calculation for an explosion in downtown Manhattan during noontime more than ,000 deaths and many thousands more suffering from radiation poisoning. Treatment of those exposed would be greatly hampered by inadequate medical facilities and training. The United States has only a single hospital emergency room dedicated to treating patients exposed to radiation hazards, at Oak Ridge, Tenn.

A credible threat to explode such a bomb in a U.S. city could have a powerful impact on the conduct of U.S. foreign and military policy, and could possibly have a paralyzing effect. Not only would the potential loss of life be considerable, but also the prospect of mass evacuation of dense urban centers would loom large in the minds of policy-makers.

Attack on Nuclear Power Plants

A terrorist attack on a commercial nuclear power plant with a commercial jet or heavy munitions could have a similar affect to a radiological bomb, and cause for greater casualties. If such an attack were to cause either a meltdown of the reactor core (similar to the Chernobyl disaster), or a dispersal of the spent fuel waste on the site, extensive casualties could be expected. In such an instance, the power plant would be the source of the radiological contamination, and the plane or armament would be the explosive mechanism for spreading lethal radiation over large areas.

Diversion of Nuclear Material or Weapons The threat from radiological dispersion dims in comparison to the possibility that terrorists could build or obtain an actual atomic bomb. An explosion of even low yield could kill hundreds of thousands of people. A relatively small bomb, say 15-kilotons, detonated in Manhattan could immediately kill upwards of 100,000 inhabitants, followed by a comparable number of deaths in the lingering aftermath.

Fortunately, bomb-grade nuclear fissile material (highly enriched uranium or plutonium) is relatively heavily guarded in most, if not all, nuclear weapon states.

Nonetheless, the possibility of diversion remains. Massive quantities of fissile material exist around the world. Sophisticated terrorists could fairly readily design and fabricate a workable atomic bomb once they manage to acquire the precious deadly ingredients (the Hiroshima bomb which used a simple gun-barrel design is the prime example).

• Cyberterrorism

Terrorism that involves computers, networks, and the information they contain. Computer networks have been attacked during recent conflicts in Kosovo, Kashmir, and the Middle East, but the damage has mostly been limited to defaced Web sites or blocked Internet servers. However, with American society increasingly interconnected and ever more dependent on information technology, terrorism experts worry that cyberterrorist attacks could cause as much devastation as more familiar forms of terrorism.

Computer security training program, Northfield, Vt.

Terrorists try to leverage limited resources to instill fear and shape public opinion, and dramatic attacks on computer networks could provide a means to do this with only small teams and minimal funds. Moreover, “virtual” attacks over the Internet or other networks allow attackers to be far away, making borders, X-ray machines, and other physical barriers irrelevant. Cyberterrorists would not need a complicit or weak government (as al-Qaeda had in Afghanistan) to host them as they train and plot. On-line attackers can also cloak their true identities and locations, choosing to remain anonymous or pretending to be someone else.

Terrorists might also try to use cyberattacks to amplify the effect of other attacks. For example, they might try to block emergency communications or cut off electricity or water in the wake of a conventional bombing or a biological, chemical, or radiation attack. Many experts say that this kind of coordinated attack might be the most effective use of cyberterrorism.

Like other terrorist acts, cyberterror attacks are typically premeditated, politically motivated, perpetrated by small groups rather than governments, and designed to call attention to a cause, spread fear, or otherwise influence the public and decision-makers.

Hackers break in to computer systems for many reasons, often to display their own technical prowess or demonstrate the fallibility of computer security. Some on-line activists say that activities such as defacing Web sites are disruptive but essentially nonviolent, much like civil disobedience.

Attacks on the physical components of the information infrastructure would resemble other conventional attacks for example, a bomb could be used to destroy a government computer bank, key components of the Internet infrastructure, or telephone switching equipment. Another option would be an electromagnetic weapon emitting a pulse that could destroy or interrupt electronic equipment.

Attacks launched in cyberspace could involve diverse methods of exploiting vulnerabilities in computer security computer viruses, stolen passwords, insider collusion, software with secret “back doors” that intruders can penetrate undetected, and orchestrated torrents of electronic traffic that overwhelm computers�which are known as “denial of service” attacks. Attacks could also involve stealing classified files, altering the content of Web pages, disseminating false information, sabotaging operations, erasing data, or threatening to divulge confidential information or system weaknesses unless a payment or political concession is made. If terrorists managed to disrupt financial markets or media broadcasts, an attack could undermine confidence or sow panic.

Attacks could also involve remotely hijacking control systems, with potentially dire consequences breaching dams, colliding airplanes, shutting down the power grid, and so on.

• Biological and chemical terrorism

The threat of Bioterrorism, long ignored and denied, has heightened over the past years and needs to be publicly addressed. There are three possible solutions to this threat that are within grasp. The first of which would be a nation wide vaccination against all agents that could be used. Second, we could educate people to more efficiently spot the symptoms of such an act, or to protect themselves from an act that has already taken place. The last solution would be to prevent the act from occurring, detect it as soon as it occurs, and destroy the destructive pathogen used. Even with all of these solutions, an act of Bioterrorism is an major threat that could occur undetected and must be dealt with immediately in order to save lives.

Biological warfare has been used from the cadavers poisoning water supplies, to modern technology allowing munitions, and advanced deployment of biological weapons. Both nations, and dissident groups exist that have some of the most dangerous, and deadly pathogens, along with the ability to deploy them. Bioterrorism presents a threat to all people of the world, and will always remain a threat for three main reasons. One, it is very easy for anyone to obtain samples of harmful agents, such as anthrax or small pox. Two, An act of this terrorism could occur at any time, any place, and there would be no reaction for days or weeks. And third, many of the agents that can be used in such acts have no treatments, let alone cures. a group, or nation had funding and a moderate laboratory they could produce, and deploy some of the worlds deadliest pathogens undetected. For example, in 15, the Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, released the nerve gas Sarnin in the Tokyo subway . The cult also had other plans set up. In its arsenal police found large quantities of nutrient media, Botulium culture, anthrax cultures, and drone aircraft equipped with spray tanks. Members of this group have even traveled to Zaire in 1 to obtain samples of the Ebola virus. Terrorist groups exist today that have a large quantity of diseases, chemicals, and viruses to choose from.

Information on how to culture and obtain such things is available on the Internet. Deadlier samples of such viruses, as small pox, and even Ebola, may be just at the fingertips of major terrorist groups. After the cold war a Russian Bioweapons facility, Vector, became a high concern . Before the cold war, vector was a 4000 person, 0 building facility with an ample Biosaftey level 4 laboratory. The laboratory housed the small pox virus, as well as work on the deadly Ebola virus, Marbug, and the hemorrhagic fever viruses .

Because these weapons are inexpensive to produce and deploy there are concerns that they may be the agents of choice for some states that sponsor terrorist activity. The World Health Organization has estimated the lethality of these weapons. The lethality of smallpox, anthrax, and plague are given in the table below


Case Fatality Rate

Treatment and Prevention






Vaccination, Antibiotics



Vaccination, Antibiotics

Terrorist Groups

• Al-Qaeda (Afghanistan, Islamists)

• Osama bin Laden (al-Qaeda leader)

• Hamas, Islamic Jihad (Palestinian Islamists)

• Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Palestinian nationalists)

• PFLP, DFLP, PFLP-GC (Palestinian leftists)

• Hezbollah (Lebanon, Islamists)

• Jamaat al-Islamiyya, Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Egypt, Islamists)

• Armed Islamic Group (Algeria, Islamists)

• Harakat ul-Mujahedeen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad (Kashmir, Islamists)

• Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (Iranian rebels)

• Abu Nidal Organization (Iraq, extremists)

• Kach, Kahane Chai (Israel, extremists)

• Chechen Terrorists (Russia, separatists)

• East Turkestan Islamic Movement (China, separatists)

• Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Turkey, separatists)

• Jemaah Islamiyah (Southeast Asia, Islamists)

• Abu Sayyaf Group (Philippines, Islamist separatists)

• Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Sri Lanka, separatists)

• Irish Republican Army (U.K., separatists)

• IRA Splinter Groups (U.K., separatists)

• Northern Ireland Loyalist Paramilitaries (U.K., extremists)

• Basque Fatherland and Liberty (Spain, separatists)

• November 17, Revolutionary People’s Struggle (Greece, leftists)

• FARC, ELN, AUC (Colombia, rebels)

• Shining Path, Tupac Amaru (Peru, leftists)

• Aum Shinrikyo (Japan, cultists)

• American Militant Extremists (United States, radicals)

• Al-Qaeda

Afghanistan, Islamists

Al-Qaeda is an international terrorist network. It seeks to purge Muslim countries of what it sees as the profane influence of the West and replace their governments with a fundamentalist Islamic regime.

The term “al-Qaeda” is Arabic for “the base.”

al-Qaeda operates around the world. Al-Qaeda has autonomous underground cells in some 60 countries, including the United States. Law enforcement has broken up al-Qaeda cells in the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Albania, Uganda, and elsewhere.

In important question is was al-Qaeda behind the September 11 attacks?

Many in the Arab world doubt its guilt, but on several videotapes, important al-Qaeda operatives�including one of the hijackers of United Airlines Flight and Osama bin Laden himself�have effectively acknowledged responsibility for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Before September 11, al-Qaeda attacked U.S. interests many times. In 15, a car bomb outside the Saudi National Guard building in Riyadh killed seven people, five of them Americans. In 18, simultaneous bombings at the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 4 people, including 1 Americans. In Yemen in 000, a small boat laden with explosives hit the destroyer U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 American sailors. Other al-Qaeda plots�such as 15 plans to simultaneously blow up a dozen American airliners over the Pacific and to reportedly crash a plane into CIA headquarters�were uncovered before they could be executed.

• Hamas, Islamic Jihad

Palestinian Islamists

Hamas is the Palestinians’ major Muslim fundamentalist movement. With an extensive social service network and a terrorist wing that plots suicide bombings in Israel, it is the main opposition to Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority, a determined foe of Israeli-Palestinian peace, and a major player in the current Middle East crisis.

In Arabic, the word “hamas” means zeal. But it’s also an Arabic acronym for “Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya,” or Islamic Resistance Movement.

Hamas combines the ideas of Palestinian nationalism and religious fundamentalism. Its founding charter pledges the group to carry out armed struggle, try to destroy Israel and replace Arafat’s government with an Islamist state on the West Bank and Gaza, and raise “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Hamas leaders gloated openly over a March 00 suicide bombing that killed 8 Israelis at a Passover seder, calling it “a great success,” welcoming Israeli retaliation as a way to recruit more supporters, and hailing the weapon of suicide bombings as the “F-16” of the Palestinian people. Hamas believes “peace talks will do no good,” said the group’s main spokesman, Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi. “We do not believe we can live with the enemy.”

• Irish Republican Army

U.K., separatists

The IRA is an organization dedicated to ending British rule in Northern Ireland and unifying the province with the neighboring Republic of Ireland. Sinn Fein is its political wing. The IRA is not anymore a terrorist group, according to the State Department, which considered the IRA to be a terrorist organization as late as 000. In July 00, on the 0th anniversary of the 17 “Bloody Friday” bombings, the IRA startled its sympathizers and enemies alike by offering “sincere apologies and condolences” to the families of its civilian victims. The IRA does still consider itself an armed force opposing an illegal foreign occupation of its country; jailed members called themselves “political prisoners.” And two IRA splinter groups, the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, still practice terrorism.

Since the late 160s, the IRA has killed about 1,800 people, including about 650 civilians. The IRA’s primary targets were British troops, police officers, prison guards, and judges�many of them unarmed or off-duty�as well as rival paramilitary militants, drug dealers, and informers in Ulster. Major IRA terrorist attacks include

the July 17 bombing spree known as Bloody Friday, in which downtown Belfast was rocked by bombs in 75 minutes, leaving nine dead and 10 injured;

the 17 assassination of Lord Mountbatten, Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle;

the 184 bombing of a Brighton hotel where then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet were meeting, which wounded several British officials and killed four other Britons;

a 1 car bombing in London’s financial district that killed one person and caused $1 billion of damage;

mortar attacks on the British prime minister’s 10 Downing Street residence and London’s Heathrow Airport in the early 10s;

and high-profile bombings of civilian targets, including pubs and subway stations, in Northern Ireland and mainland Britain throughout the 170s, 180s, and 10s.

Terrorism and media

The most important problem is are terrorists interested in publicity?

Intensely. The scholar Brian Jenkins declared in 174 that “terrorism is theatre,” and terrorists themselves have long seen it much the same way. Narodnaya Volya, the late-1th-century Russian anarchist group, conceived of its violent activities as “propaganda by deed.” Ever since, terrorists have tailored their attacks to maximize publicity and get their messages out through all available channels. Experts say the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, for example, were designed to provide billions of television viewers with pictures symbolizing U.S. vulnerability, and they prompted extensive reporting on al-Qaeda and its Islamist agenda.

However, some experts say that the nature of terrorism may now be changing. Jenkins has famously said that terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead. But the emergence of religious terror groups with apocalyptic outlooks and the availability of weapons of mass destruction may indicate that inflicting mass casualties has supplanted publicity as the primary goal of some terrorist campaigns.

Modern terrorism is tailored to the media. Terrorists want governments and the public to pay attention, and the media provide the conduit. Experts say terrorism is calculated violence, usually against symbolic targets, designed to deliver a political or religious message. Beyond that, terrorists’ goals might also include winning popular support, provoking the attacked country to act rashly, attracting recruits, polarizing public opinion, demonstrating their ability to cause pain, or undermining governments.

The media attention does actually help terrorists. The old saying that any publicity is good publicity has often been applied to terrorism; even when an assassin misses or a bomb doesn’t go off, an attack can raise awareness about the terrorists’ cause. Terrorism, which garners a disproportionately large share of news coverage, can also move neglected issues to the top of the political agenda�as a series of attacks in the 170s and 180s did for the cause of Palestinian nationalism. Terrorism can also provoke policy debates and public discussion by highlighting both the terrorists’ radical views and the visceral anger of terrorism’s victims and their families.

But experts doubt that media coverage really helps terrorists. Attacks can spin out of control or have unintended consequences; too much slaughter can alienate potential supporters and sympathizers; terrorist activities have different meanings for different audiences; and even when terrorists’ attack plans work, they cannot necessarily control how their actions are covered or perceived. Finally, being saddled with the pejorative label “terrorist” focuses attention on a group’s methods, not its message, and can delegitimize its cause in the public eye.

Experts say terrorists have learned to adapt their methods and messages as the media have evolved. Hijacking passenger airplanes, for example, became a common terrorist strategy only after the launch of the first international television satellite, which allowed viewers worldwide to watch hijackings as real-time dramas. More recently, al-Qaeda’s strategy of not claiming responsibility for attacks�unlike earlier generations of terrorists�helps perpetuate insecurity and drive media coverage. The growth of satellite networks such as the Arabic cable news network al-Jazeera and of the video capabilities of the World Wide Web let terrorists make video recordings�for example, ones showing the murder of Daniel Pearl or Palestinian suicide bombers’ last testaments�that can be seen even if CNN and the BBC decide not to show them.

Osama bin Laden on al-Jazeera news channel, Oct. 7, 001.

(AP Photo/Al Jazeera)

Terrorists have learned to use the Internet for secret communications among themselves, facilitating planning and fund-raising, and they have promotional Web sites. However, experts say that information flow on the World Wide Web is hard to predict or control, and the Internet isn’t yet a way to reach everyone at once, as carrying out a spectacular televised attack is. However, rumors spread via the Internet sometimes filter up into other media.

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