Domestic Terrorism Essay

Define domestic terrorism

 Terrorism is categorized in two different types: domestic terrorism and international terrorism. Professionals made this distinction owing to the difference in the characteristics between domestic and international terrorism. The main characteristic of domestic terrorism is the absence of foreign direction, aid or assistance in the undertaking of a terrorist attack inside the country. In the case of US, what they consider as domestic terrorism are acts that are planned, designed, funded and undertaken by individuals who are all American citizens, executed inside the country or its territories – a definition that the Federal Bureau of Investigation provides. Under domestic terrorism are three different types of groups – the special interest groups and the left-wing terrorist groups and the right-wing terror groups.

The groups considered as responsible for actions defined as domestic terrorism are usually motivated by concerns that are social and political. There are many different groups that are categorized under domestic terrorism and undertake acts of domestic terrorism. The anti-African American Ku Klux Klan or KKK is one of the prominent groups responsible for some acts constituted as domestic terrorism. Other groups may include Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), two groups that focus on the politics of animal welfare and environment welfare and utilizing terrorist actions to push for change, limiting their actions inside US because it is only the US government and its policies that they are focused on.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

In what ways is it functionally different from international terrorism?

Understanding international terrorism and comparing it to domestic terrorism requires the basic understanding of the concept of international terrorism. Gus Martin (2006) explained the characteristic that defines international terrorism, citing particular qualities of a terrorist action for it to become a form of international terrorism, and that includes (1) attacks, even if done domestically, which have international profile; (2) the operation of those involved inside and outside of the country where the attack happened; and (3) international implications of the attack (Martin, 2006, p. 275).

Domestic terrorism is functionally different from international terrorism because the target of operation that leads towards the undertaking of an act of terrorism is exclusively domestic and remains domestic. This is because of the paradigm of action followed by groups that undertake domestic terrorism. International terrorism involves American or non-American terrorists operating in US or outside and targeting US locations or locations found outside of the US. But despite this established difference, real-life analysis away from theoretical understanding between domestic and international terrorism is not as easy as it seems. Specialists believe that “the distinction between domestic and international terrorist attack is, however, far from clear (Evangelista, 2005, p. 251)”, citing the occurrence of the September 11 bombing of World Trade Center and the Pentagon as an example of this vagueness. Evangelista explained that “September 11 illustrates similarly blurred lines between domestic and international terrorism (Evangelista, 2005, p. 251).”

Distinguish between domestic terrorism from above vs. domestic terrorism from below

The difference between terrorism from above and terrorism from below is that terrorism from below are actions done by smaller groups meant to challenge or terrify more established, majority groups. Similarly, terror from above usually means the actions described as terrorism sponsored by the state or directly affiliated or related entities. Syria’s show of support for the actions of Hamas and Hizballah is a very concrete example of what is considered as terrorism from above or state sponsored terrorism. Examples of terrorism from below, on the other hand, include the actions of rebels and revolutionaries. Take for example the presence of the National People’s Army in the Philippines and the instances wherein they bomb government and private infrastructures so that they can sow fear among government officials as well as fear in the hearts of the public.


Evangelista, M. (2005). Peace Studies. Routledge.

Knight, J. (2008). Terrorism, Domestic (United States). Advameg Inc. Retrieved February 8,

2009, from

Martin, G. (2006). Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. Sage