Terrorism has evolved over the years to become one of the most complex crimes that pose a significant challenge to the countrys national security interests. Recent terrorist attacks in the US such as the September 11, 2001 bombing in New York illustrate the advanced nature of acts of terror perpetrated by extremist individuals and groups. Today, terrorist employ indiscriminate targeting, where most of their casualties are civilians as opposed to explicitly targeting military organizations. Suicide attacks have also become prominent, where many of the terrorists are willing to kill themselves in the process of committing their crimes.
Threats posed by Domestic Terrorist Groups
While much of the discussion on terrorism tends to focus on international agencies, many domestic or local groups cause as much devastation, thereby causing a significant security threat to the country. Over the years, there have been many terrorist groups and movements that have come up in the country to promote different political or socioeconomic causes (Pastor, 2009). The manner in which these groups and organizations have conducted themselves to gain the attention of the government and the public has been through the perpetration of violent acts to cause terror and fear among citizens to coerce the government and relevant authorities to address their concerns (Korstanje, 2016).
Domestic terrorism refers to the unlawful use of violence or threats to use violence within the US and its territories against persons or property for purposes of intimidating or coercing the federal, state or local government or the public in promoting particular political or social objectives. Domestic terrorists usually act without foreign direction from other international terrorist groups or individuals (Pastor, 2009). The US Patriot Act recognized domestic terrorism as involving acts which are dangerous to human life in violation of the US law and which are intended to coerce, intimidate, or influence the government or civilians through mass destruction of life and property (Korstanje, 2016). Acts of domestic terrorism include mass violence, kidnapping, cyberterrorism, and assassinations which are perpetrated within the jurisdiction of the US (Pastor, 2009). Domestic terrorism is usually executed by American citizens or permanent residents of the country. The history of domestic terrorism in the country dates back several years before the current definition of the concept of terrorism.
There are two primary sources of domestic terrorism in the US. These are the right wing and the left-wing terrorist groups. The right-wing terrorist groups are characterized by their belief in racial supremacy. These groups usually embrace antiregulatory and antigovernment beliefs as the basis of radicalizing their members (Korstanje, 2016). The right-wing groups typically emerge and develop from the back of legal and constitutional safeguards such as the rights to free speech and assembly (Pastor, 2009). Some of the most notable right-wing terrorist organizations that continue to pose a significant challenge to the country on a national level include the Aryan Nations (AN), the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), the Jewish Defense League, the Black Liberation Movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and the National Alliance (NA) among others. Some of the terrorist groups have been altering their strategies by reducing their racial undertones but instead focusing on advancing their beliefs in antigovernment and antiregulation to appeal to a broader section of the population (Sageman, 2004). Nevertheless, racism-based hatred remains at the heart of the rightwing domestic terrorist groups.
Left-wing terrorist groups, on the other hand, often portray themselves as revolutionary socialist groups whose main agenda is to protect the people from the excess and dehumanizing consequences of imperialism and capitalism (Pastor, 2009). Their main aim is to change the current socioeconomic and political establishment in the country through a revolution rather than through the legal and constitutional political process (Korstanje, 2016). These movements and organizations were widely popular in the 1960s through to the 1980s. However, the fall of the communism in Eastern Europe, from where they derived their political ideologies and a crackdown from the law enforcement agencies in the country weakened most of the leftist groups and minimized their influence significantly. Some of the influential left-wing groups in the country include the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional Puertorriquena (FALN), an extremist Puerto Rican separatist organization that carried out a series of bombings and other violent crimes as a way of promoting the agenda of Puerto Rico becoming an independent nation from the US (Pastor, 2009). Other extremist and anarchist groups such as the Workers World Party have also grown and expanded to other parts of the world today (Sageman, 2004). They are known to reclaim streets in major cities and urban areas in Puerto Rico to push their agenda against capitalism. Other movements and groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) have emerged as some of the most influential socialist extremist groups in recent years, posing a significant level of threat to the countrys national security (Pastor, 2009).
To illustrate the nature of the threat posed by the domestic terrorist groups in the US, there have been several incidences of terrorism in the country over the years that have caused a lot of terror among the public. Some of the notable incidences of domestic terrorism that have taken place in recent years include the Orlando nightclub shooting of 2016, the San Bernardino shooting of 2015, the Charleston Church Shooting (2015), the Boston Marathon bombing (2013), and the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting, which occurred in 2012.
Threats posed by International Terrorist Groups
The US also continues to face a significant level of threat from international terrorist organizations. These are organizations that emerge and develop in foreign nations, but whose main agenda is to cause harm and terror in regions beyond their home countries (Korstanje, 2016). Thus, international terrorism can be described as the terrorism that extends beyond the geographical boundaries in terms of the types of methods used to cause terror, the people or places targeted, and the specific locations from which the terrorists operate (Sageman, 2004).
The emergence of Al Qaeda in the 1990s represents the epitome of international terrorism. The Al Qaeda terrorist organization conducted a series of terrorist activities directed at the countries in the West, with the US and its allies being a high priority target. The Al Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden and many other Arab volunteers who participated in the fight against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1980s (Korstanje, 2016). It is a militant multinational organization that is founded on the religious beliefs of the Sunni sect of Islam (Sageman, 2004). The rise of the organization in the 1990s through a series of international terrorist acts made international terrorism almost synonymous with Islam. Some of the most notable terrorist incidences that the Al Qaeda conducted include the 1998 bombings of the US Embassy in Kenya and Tanzania, the September 11 attacks in New York, and the 2002 Bali Bombings (Korstanje, 2016).
Other terrorist groups have established themselves in the Middle East in recent years and grown to international status, posing a significant level of threat to the US and its allies. One such group is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This is a jihadist movement that began in 1999 as a Pro-Al Qaeda movement. ISIL fought against the invasion of Iraq by Western nations before it grew in prominence in the Iraq and Syria region. The organization has proclaimed itself as a World-Wide Caliphate controlling al Muslims in the world with an objective of establishing an Islamic state (Sageman, 2004). It is known for its videos of executions and other terrorist acts on both civilians and military personnel.
Despite the ongoing international War on Terror by the US and its allies, organizations such as the Al Qaeda and ISIS still have both the capability and intention of directing their terrorist acts to the US and other countries in the West. The two groups have been able to grow and recruit more people into their ranks with the help of technologies such as the internet and social media.
The Measures Required to Guard Against These Different Types of Threats
Given the nature of the domestic and international threats to the national security of the nation, there is need for a well-developed response to counter the growing threat. The Intelligence Community has organized itself in recent years to strengthen its counterterrorism programs both domestically and internationally through developing strong partnerships with foreign allies (Pastor, 2009). Several measures ought to be implemented or enhanced to make the war on terror more effective. For example, there is need to strengthen the counterterrorism Center managed by the FBI by providing it with more resources including workforce (Pastor, 2009). This will go a long way in ensuring the FBI has the necessary capacity that can allow it to detect and respond to terrorist threats within the country as well as those emanating from outside.
The other important measure that needs to be improved is interagency cooperation. The Intelligence Community in the country comprises of several agencies and organizations whose primary objective is to gather relevant information and data that can help the nation develop and strengthen its national security programs. Given the unprecedented scope of terrorism in the world today, the US Intelligence Community has to improve on its collaborative efforts in gathering and processing information that could help abate terrorism (Spindlove, & Simonsen, 2013). The US Intelligence Community brings together several organizations and individuals to collect relevant data and information that enables the country to identify, prevent, or respond to terrorist attacks and threats. The Intelligence community brings together several agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) among other organizations (Spindlove, & Simonsen, 2013).
The Role of a Lone Terrorist in a Domestic Versus an International Terrorist Threat
There has been a notable shift in the operational intensity of the various terrorist groups, including both state-sponsored and other formal terrorist organizations and their affiliates. This has been manifested in the emerging tactics and methodologies that terrorists use to produce mass casualties. This also underscores the magnitude of the level of threat that the country faces from international terrorist organizations (Spindlove, & Simonsen, 2013). In the same way, the US continues to meet severe challenges from domestic terrorists. Lone terrorists are mostly suicidal individuals who could either act on their motivations or be directed by the groups they owe allegiance to participate in terrorist acts. They are usually committed to the cause based on the radicalization process they undergo. This makes it complicated and difficult to deal with terrorism this nature. On the other hand, international terror threats are mostly propagated through technologies like the internet and social media. The terrorist groups can post messages, videos, and other forms of communication to send out specific messages of terror.
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