The authorities do not recognize domestic terrorism as a real threat

Why domestic terrorism is an underestimated national threat

The authorities do not recognize domestic terrorism as a real threat

Maria Omelicheva, professor at the National Military College of the United States, on the causes of domestic terrorism in the United States

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States has been actively fighting international terrorism, however, as we see, during this time, domestic terrorism has intensified. Why is this happening and what may have been overlooked?

Yes, indeed, after the September 11 attacks, the fight against international terrorism took first place in the security policy of the United States. First, at that moment, the threat of international terrorism, Al-Qaeda, was a real threat to the country’s national security. Secondly, the interaction of the United States with Islam played a role. And thirdly, it is necessary to mention the practice of investigating crimes of internal terrorism and legal proceedings in these cases. Historically, the highest echelons of government in the United States do not recognize domestic terrorism as a real threat to the country’s internal security..

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That is, the problem is that domestic terrorism, in fact, is not viewed as terrorism.?

Yes. Because at the moment there is not even such a federal crime as “domestic terrorism”. That is, most extremist acts are classified as hate crimes, and not as crimes of domestic terrorism..

On wording and what is called domestic terrorism: Last week, the San Francisco City Council passed a resolution that recognized the National Rifle Association (NRA) a terrorist organization and encouraged other US cities to follow suit. As you can comment on this decision, it has some kind of power?

It seems to me that this decision is political, declarative. It has no legal force. In the United States, the State Department determines that organizations are terrorist. And only if a criminal, an extremist is recognized as a member of an international organization, which is on this list of the State Department, is this one of the prerequisites for qualifying the act as “internal terrorism”.

Are there any neo-Nazi organizations on this list??

No, they are not on this list. Let me explain with examples: if a person sponsors ISIS, he is on the list of terrorist organizations. This will qualify as a terrorist crime. But if the same person offers funding to a neo-Nazi organization, then this will no longer be a crime..

So maybe resolutions such as in San Francisco will lead to the fact that later neo-Nazi organizations will also be included in this list.?

It seems to me that the discourse on domestic terrorism is highly politicized. And I think that in order to change the legislation, it is necessary to change the public and political discourse – how we discuss domestic terrorism, how we talk about these crimes. Until now, the focus has been on radical Islam as the main threat to US national security. But now we see some positive changes – more and more discussions and debates are being conducted specifically on domestic terrorism. So in this sense, the resolution of the San Francisco Council can play a positive role..

You have listed the reasons why the United States has been concentrating all this time on the fight against international terrorism. Can you name three reasons why there is now a surge in domestic terrorism??

First of all, I want to say that the problem of domestic terrorism is not new to the United States. But it is very difficult to analyze domestic terrorism because there is no high-quality statistical information. I have already said that most of the acts that fall under the definition of domestic terrorism are classified as other crimes. Therefore, we do not know if their surge is really happening now or if the frequency has not changed. However, independent research shows that the frequency has not changed. The mortality rate of these cases has changed: they have become more widespread, they result in a greater number of victims. This is the first thing. Secondly, it is necessary, speaking about the reasons, to separate the reasons that contribute to the commission of the crime, facilitate it, and the reasons that directly lead to the commission of these acts. I would like to dwell on the reasons that accompany the commission of crimes. This is, of course, the Internet. Now there is no need to gather rallies or demonstrations to spread extremist ideas – this can be done on social networks. Social media also offers a platform for the anonymous Internet cells from which the lone terrorists emerge. The second reason is the economic downturn that has been observed in the United States since 2008, since the crisis. And third, I would like to celebrate the election of the first African American as the first president of the United States, because during the election campaign there were rumors that Obama was a Muslim, and these rumors, as well as new interfaith contradictions, were superimposed on the already existing manifestations of interracial hatred..

Barack Obama became the first African American president in the history of the United States

So I would formulate the main reasons as follows: the Internet, the economic downturn, the election of an African American president and the exacerbation of interracial tensions.

How much of this is the role of the gun ownership debate??

Here you can hear different opinions – and everything will depend on the political affiliation of the speaker. If you ask this question to Republicans, they will most likely answer that weapons are simply a method of executing crimes, not a cause. And therefore, no restrictions will solve the problems, since the true reasons are in something else..

At the other end of the spectrum are Democrats and more liberal Americans. They support constraints.

However, according to some reports, there are so many weapons in circulation now that no restrictions will really help. This is another point of view.

Different states have different laws and regulations. Synchronization of legislation could help the situation?

This synchronization can only happen at the federal level. And it will be very, very difficult to enforce such legislation: there are too many political differences and the influence of various political groups.

It seems to me that it is necessary to change the public attitude to the problem. When the public accepts the idea of ​​the need for restrictions on the possession of firearms and begins to reach out to their representatives in parliament, this can help to take the necessary measures..

Also, as I said, changing the wording can help. Especially if it is accompanied by changes in the powers of the justice authorities and the FBI – they are the ones who are engaged in internal terrorism. But so far, the law restricts them in the investigation of such crimes..

  • Ksenia Turkova

    Journalist, TV and radio host, philologist. She started as a correspondent and presenter on NTV under the direction of Evgeny Kiselev, worked on TV6, TVS, REN TV, radio stations Echo Moskvy, City FM, Kommersant FM. From 2013 to 2017, she lived and worked in Kiev, participated in the creation of the information radio station Radio Vesti, directed the Russian-language broadcasting of the Ukrainian channel Hromadske TV, was a host and executive producer. Since 2017 works for Voice of America in Washington DC.

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