Causes of Domestic Terrorism

1.0 Introduction

Over the years, Americans have witnessed a series of attacks in unrelated incidents carried out by home-grown terrorists. The domestic terrorism concerns range from violent biker gangs involved in organized crime to anti-abortion extremists who attack clinics and health care workers. Moreover, the top domestic terror threat is eco-terrorism, which involves violent acts, sabotage, and damage of property driven by the motivation of environmental and animal concern (McCord, 2003). The eco-terrorists were reported to have committed more than 1,100 criminal acts and vandalism estimated at a cost of more than $110 million since 1976. Domestic terrorism is thus a big problem to the government and nation and needs urgent address through counterterrorism and deterrence strategies.

2.0 Domestic Terrorism

Domestic terrorism is defined as the intentional use of violence by individuals or groups with extremist ideologies to obtain a political or social objective by intimidating a large audience of their own country beyond that of the immediate victims. Further, the Federal Bureau of Investigations lists domestic terrorists as individuals who commit crimes based on ideologies that purport to support animal and environmental rights, anti-government ideals, anarchism, white supremacy, black separatism, as well as anti-abortion beliefs (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2000). However, these terrorist lack foreign tactical or philosophical influence and direction.

Further, domestic terrorists are multi-faceted in that they engage in attacks on soft targets, increase in panic, fear, mass casualties, and religious backed opinions. However, they also induce psychological side effects which make their next moves even much more successful. An evaluation of the circumstances surrounding specific acts of domestic terror which have already occurred, make the efforts to evaluate proven methods of deterrents, and attain a deeper understanding of the recommendations of the existing measures of preparedness, which security agencies can create and implement to ensure that future attacks similar to those which have already drastically changed the nation do not occur again (Davies, Nutley & Smith, 2000).

Some of the alleged efforts by domestic terrorists are chilling, for instance in a former Tennessee case, the terrorist had inquired a place to obtain nuclear waste and materials. The suspect, Cocker was mentioned to have had enormous hatred for the government therefore made a bomb that he could detonate at a government building, especially a federal or state courthouse. The suspect confided to an undercover FBI agent that he wished someone detonate a weapon at the houses of congress while in session and added that he had great admiration for the former Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler. Consequently, the suspect went ahead and bought “sarin gas” and C-4 explosive from the undercover agent. His arrest led to a thwarting of a possible attack, which was seen as a step by the government to fighting domestic terrorism. Moreover, the government asserts that they are arresting more people for plotting terror attacks than the actual numbers of the actual perpetrators of the attacks (Smith, Damphousse, Jackson & Sellers, 2002).

3.0 Historical incidents of Domestic Terrorism

Some of the recent attacks after the 9/11 include the Fort Hood, Texas incident in which the accused, Major Hassan, a psychologist for the U.S. Army shot and wounded dozens of people among which 13 lost their lives. The attack took place on November 5th, 2009 and concluded with a police shootout and the accused paralyzed from the waist down. Hassan’s motive ranged from religious to personal, for instance the negative impact his beliefs and career. Moreover, the accused was also linked to a radical cleric who disdained the United States of America. 

This incident was a classic case of domestic terrorism if one took out the aspect of personal feelings, belief and religious preference. Further, it proved that smaller scale attacks can ignite panic and fear within the public even if the attacker uses a small firearm. Americans became concerned with the effectiveness of security in the country because if such an attack could happen inside a secure and guarded base, how about a civilian place. The attack also raised the question of where the accused was acting alone and whether it was an isolated event, or it was a first on a series of attacks on military installations around the country as part of a well-orchestrated domestic terrorism activities. 

However, such smaller scale attacks might appear to be unrelated and without a specific timeline or agenda, but an evaluation is needed to ensure that they are connected in any motive. Consequently, on the 30th of November 2012, an incident involving an Iraqi refugee set off an Improvised Explosive Device outside the Arizona Social Security Administration Office. Security agents found similar traits to the Fort Hood shootings by Major Hassan. Both of these attacks were aimed at soft target and Social Security Administration Offices. 

On the second incident, a major damage was done to the structural integrity of the building and vehicles in the parking lot. Both individuals had similar religious belief and felt that they were acting in accordance with their religious teachings. The Arizona attack suspect was quickly apprehended because of the actions of an observant and quick thinking citizen helped to prevent another possible attack, therefore leading to the conclusion that detail-oriented people can help authorities thwart a possible domestic terror attack. 

Another domestic attack happened in Oklahoma City, where two American citizens, Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh exploded a 5,000-pound bomb from a Ryder truck outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The explosion killed 168 people. The motive of the attack was McVeigh’s anger at the Federal government following the events of the “Waco Texas Massacre”. The attack happened on the anniversary of the Waco Texas Massacre event and with assistance from Terry Nichols.  This was another case of casualty and soft targeting as portrayed in the other examples of domestic terrorism. McVeigh insisted that he was working alone but investigators found a link between him and Ku Klux Klan as well as the Aryan Nation.

Another case involved a fugitive, lee Waagner who mailed hundreds of threat letters enclosing bogus anthrax to abortion clinics across 24 U.S states. The suspect was found to hold close ties with the Army of God, who seek to fight abortion through violence against abortion providers. More anthrax-containing letters were mailed to various people across the country and subsequently led to the death of 5 people while 20 others were admitted in hospitals, leading to mass panic. Meanwhile another domestic terror suspect, Krar was arraigned in court for stockpiling enough sodium cyanide to kill all the occupants inside a 30,000-square-foot building. The suspect was also a white supremacist and had nine machine guns in addition to 67 sticks of explosives. Krar was sentenced along with his wife for conspiracy to possess illegal weapons. 

In May 2012, seven members of an animal rights group with terrorism by the FBI’s domestic terrorism unit after investigating claims of crimes against the use of animals for product-testing. The activists were members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. The group has also been behind the campaign to shut down Huntingdon Life Sciences, a New Jersey company that specializes in animal product-testing. The activists committed the domestic terror attack by setting fire to Huntingdon employees’ cars, vandalized the company shareholders’ homes and threatened their families. They were later charged with conspiring to commit terrorism against an enterprise that uses animals for research.


4.0 The Effectiveness of Deterrents and Existing Antiterrorism Measures 

4.1 Deterrence

The rising costs of anti-terrorism efforts have become a growing problem since billions of dollars are been spent to create anti-terror technologies, form crisis management training and enhance security staffing throughout the country. Stakeholders feel that deterrence could be an effective tool for policymakers to use to prevent future domestic terrorist attacks on the U.S. soil. However, this strategy would have the government pursue policies that come into direct conflict with American core values. The reason lies behind the premises that deterrence is both too limiting and too naïve to be applicable to the war on domestic terrorism (Barros, 2003). Therefore, the White House has chosen to focus on defensive and preemptive counterterrorism strategies. 

Establishing a deterrent mechanism against terrorist networks the government agencies would have to explore a number of extremely heavy-handed policy options, such as expanding targeted killing operations to included terrorists’ family members and loved ones. However, deterrence is complex due to the ability of terrorists getting highly motivated thus willing to risk anything, such as their lives and valuable time to accomplish their mission. Moreover, their political missions may also be ambiguous to the government agencies fighting terrorism in addition to the difficulty involved in locating them. Domestic terrorists are hard to pinpoint thus making it hard for the government agencies to know who they are unless they receive a tip-off from citizens (Sherman, Farrington, Welsh & MacKenzie, 2002).

Further, it is hard to work against an enemy that understands that the ultimate policy goal of the government is to eradicate them thus they will disguise themselves in all manners to ensure that their missions succeed. In the past, it has been seen that domestic terrorists have used the collateral damage caused by retaliatory efforts to foment more support for their organization or broader cause. Domestic terrorist organizations, such as Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty are comprised of many actors, each with different responsibilities and roles. It is only the fanatical individuals who are arrested for carrying out the attacks while the real perpetrators, religious figures, recruiters and state supporters are left out at large (McCord, 2003).

Establishing a deterrent mechanism requires focused and consequential retaliation. Because effective deterrence would necessitate that the government involve in direct threatening of targets of value to terrorist elements, which raises the question of whether the government would be willing to carry out the necessary actions to credibly communicate to terrorist elements that what they value is at risk if terrorist acts occur. However, the effectiveness of deterrence is hard to achieve since many of the domestic terrorists are prepared to die for their cause thus making retaliatory threats of punishment inconsequential as they are willing to give their lives in the first place. If the anti-terror government agencies can remove the benefits of the domestic terrorist families receive from carrying out an act of violence, it may be possible that attackers would be more hesitant to engage in that action if investigations show that they are about to commit terror attacks (Sherman et al., 2002).

4.2 Counterterrorism

Counterterrorism strategies include use of metal detectors and increasing security screening in areas prone to attacks, such as public institutions, motels and clinics. However, metal detectors may serve to reduce hijackings, they may also lead to displacement or substitution effects thereby increasing other forms of terrorism. Other interventions may also be used to increase protection through fortification of embassies and other government offices though no findings showing that the strategy could fully help reduce terrorist attacks. Military interventions and retaliations could also be employed as an effective counter terror strategy. It is however noteworthy that anti-terrorism policies need to be evaluated for effectiveness or be better informed by existing scientific evaluations. The government need also review the importance of funding to encourage scientific evaluations of counter-terrorism programs (Barros, 2003).

In order to determine the effectiveness of counter-terrorism strategies, the interventions should be connected to some measurable, desired outcome. A survey may be conducted to get people’s views on whether the policy works thereby generating the necessary information to allow for a determination to be made regarding the effectiveness of the strategy. Further, government agencies should pay attention to scientific research about counter-terrorism programs when deciding upon policy choices.  

5.0 Recommendations 

It would be important for the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and state, local and private sector agencies to cooperate and work together to create and implement emergency plans, response and action, domestic terror incidence would go down. Physical presence would thus prove material since the attackers would have the knowledge that they are being watched hence abort the attack. Moreover, the Drug Enforcement Agency would be strengthened to ensure that it can link possible terror funding to drugs. Collaboration of information and agency cooperation would prove crucial in detecting patterns of attacks to find possible motives and groups of individuals who are planning attacks, thus ensuring the nation’s safety.

The move to compromise morality of the nation to deter domestic terrorism would signal to terrorists that the things they value most are actually in grave danger. Deterring the financiers of domestic terrorism is perhaps the most straightforward move the government can use to mitigate the crimes. Moreover, the government should also develop strong declaratory policies that precisely communicate threats of dire punishment for the people and organizations that fund domestic terrorists. To effectively deter financiers from transferring explosives and weapons to terrorists, the government needs to develop its ability to identify the origin of such materials used in an attacks. 

Determent strategies may also be boosted by increasing research and development as well as communication of the willingness to retaliate against attacks. The government could also employ the tactic of targeted killing of members of the terror organization or groups linked to domestic terror acts. The leaders of these groups should be arrested since they are also the chief financiers. If the attackers are arrested, they could be interrogated to extract information about their financiers and linked groups for information about future attacks. However, there is a risk of the attackers claiming that they acted alone though the government can still use threats of attacking family members if the attacker does not produce the needed information (Barros, 2003).

Improving data quality through the introduction of reporting standards and reliability measures would go a long way to enhancing these initiatives that evolve from the intelligence community while mirroring the increased collaborations between researchers and police. Moreover, counter-terrorism policy should be carried out in a rational and effective manner as to cause as little harm as necessary. 

6.0 Conclusion 

To curb domestic terrorism the deterrence and counterterrorism strategies should be fully employed by the government agencies. This may be achieved through research funding directed towards the evaluation of the existent counter terror programs rather than description of procedures to ensure that they were carried according to plan. The evaluations made should be moderately rigorous in design quality to ensure reliability.  Moreover, the funding agencies need to encourage improved ways to measure the effectiveness of counter-terrorism programs, such as experimental and quasi-experimental designs. The interventions for counterterrorism measures should be intended reducing both the criminality and the related risk factors.

At times the stock market performance may be used as a measure of the effectiveness of counter-terrorism strategies, such as targeted killings. Moreover, the government agencies should measure outcomes that lead to lowering the events related to terrorism as well as the frequency of activities related to terrorist groups. The measurable outcomes would therefore include mitigation of the public’s fear of terrorism or even the feelings of security from it, the increased ability to respond to such events, the reduction in the level of risk of the occurrence of the events as well as the ability to detect the terrorism mechanism, for instance mails containing anthrax bacteria.

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