Terrorist Threats in Historical Perspective

Terrorist Threats in Historical Perspective



Terrorist Threats in Historical Perspective

This paper is going to cover the definitions of terrorism and how they differ between different groups. The groups that will be covered are articles by Walter Laqueur, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S Department of State. The similarities and differences will all be described here.

Terrorism according to Laqueur

When it came to Laqueur views and thoughts on terrorism comes from the perspective of his Jewish background. His thoughts that terrorism would eventually burn itself out is a questionable argument. He believed that if people paid less attention to terrorism, there would not be a “curious imbalance”. He also believed that if terrorism received less publicity, it would lessen the acts. He also attacks the Muslim people as a whole, casting them as militants and a violent culture of people. His belief that Islamic terrorism would burn out but not before attacks using weapons of mass destruction, is something that seems to be coming true. “One of the main targets of terrorism in Iraq was the oil industry. It is no longer a secret that the carriers of international terrorism operating in Europe and America hail not from the poor, downtrodden, and unemployed but are usually of middle-class origin” (Laqueur, 2004).

Terrorism according to the FBI

“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” (FBI.gov, 2015). Terrorism is also classified as being domestic and international and is investigated without prejudice. Race, religion, national origin, gender as well as political or religious group plays no part in the way the FBI handles terrorism. As far as the FBI is concerned, terrorist represent a small minority of the social context, which is a far cry from the belief of Laqueur, who believes that all Muslims are violent terrorists and encompass a large group such as in the Middle East.

Terrorism according to the CIA

When it comes to the C.I.A and how they define terrorism, there are several points that they touch on.

 “the term terrorism means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents” (CIA, 2007).

 “the term international terrorism means terrorism involving the territory or the citizens of more than one country” (CIA, 2007).

 “the term terrorist group means any group that practices, or has significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism” (CIA, 2007).

Terrorism according to the U.S Department of State (Defense)

“The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological” (Azdema.com, 2012).

Comparing and Contrasting each Definition

Each group shares the similarities that terrorism pertains to a group of people that may or may not reside in one area; however there is a contrast of Laqeuer against the other groups because his theory is that all the people of one group (Muslims) are violent terrorists. The FBI does not definition, saying that not all people of one group, area or religion labels them as terrorists.


Defining terrorism is one of the largest topics when it comes to studies on terrorism and there is no universally accepted definition. That is because there are so many scenarios and environments in which terrorism can be defined that there will never be a socially accepted answer. The most socially accepted definition was created in 1983 by the U.S Department of State.


Laqueur, Walter. “The terrorism to come.” Policy Review 126 (2004): 49+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.

“Terrorism FAQs.” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, 6 Apr. 2007. Web. 17 Oct. 2015.

“Various Definitions of Terrorism.” Azdema.com. Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, 6 Dec. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2015.

“What We Investigate.” FBI. FBI, 5 Nov. 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.