The Demarcation of Terorrism


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr. 20140820

Part 1:

I do not believe America is doing enough to address “domestic” terrorism. My perception derives from the lack of political will to severely prosecute domestic terrorists which points to a wider theme. In 2009, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a report, supported by FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, indicating the growing threat of white supremacist extremist groups and their affiliation with military personnel (Baraka, 2014). Here, it is important to note that right wing extremism has produced more violence here at home than Islamic extremists. The right wing in Congress was offended and had the report rescinded and removed. In an article entitled, White Washing White Terrorism, which covers the Jewish Community Center shootings in Overland Park Kansas, author Ajamu Baraka boldly asserts,

“The rise of the racist, radical right is not a figment of the imagination, or a partisan political attack. When they show up at anti-Obama rallies with guns in hand or when they attack Jewish schools or gun down African Americans while wearing the uniforms of the police, all of us must recognize the very real threat that we face today in this period of intense anger, scapegoating, confusion and manipulation” (Baraka, 2014, para. 10).

Further, Terror from the Right, is a mind numbing account of plots, conspiracies, and racist rampages spanning from 1995 to 2012 that detail the politically violent acts of domestic terrorists countered with dull sentences (SPLC 2012). With the exception of McVeigh and a handful of others, many of these domestic terrorists have served less time than others prosecuted for much less criminal acts. There were too many to list in regard to those who planned or committed political violence, but were released in less than 10 years (SPLC 2012).


Part 2:

There is a wide consensus that domestic/international terrorism is differentiated by whether or not it transcends national boundaries. Section 802 of the US Patriot Act (Pub. L. No. 107-52) tends to agree with this assertion as acts that do not occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, “may be regarded as international terrorism” (ACLU, 2002, para 1).   For more reason than one, the ACLU considers this definition “overboard” (ACLU, 2002, para 4).

I argue, to question whether terrorist acts transcend national boundaries or not is to assume that national boundaries exist. As every astronaut and anyone that has viewed the earth from outer-space knows, the globe does not contain national boundaries. National boundaries only elucidate the demarcation of political power pockets which have evolved over time and will continue to consolidate through the process of globalization. That national governments still exist (a one world government has yet to be established), highlights the current order of security. Each government has the responsibility to protect its citizens from threats from both inside and outside their respective jurisdiction. More properly, domestic terrorism is, for the most parts, a way of defining whether the politically violent aggression of a terrorist was aimed toward an internal or external government. As Rand discretely points out, domestic terrorism is “not always by citizens of that nation” (Rand, 2014).

International terrorism forces said government to deal with a foreign government/s regarding a terrorist act, whereas, domestic terrorism forces said government to deal with internal government/s (state and local levels). As each level of government retains an interest in dividing their powers, who and what is/are considered domestic/international terrorism speaks to legal jurisdiction.

When governments operate with a unified commitment to international peace and security, a threat to one state is a threat to all. Thus, the blur between domestic/international terrorism prevails.


Because of the order of the current world system, demanding that citizens respect their local government is one way to address the problem of international terrorism. On that note, there should be zero tolerance for domestic terrorism. Following this logic, government attempts to severely punish a perpetrator of international terrorism would appear hypocritical in the face of loose prosecution of domestic terrorists. It would send a prejudicial message regarding who should be allowed to commit such acts. How a government reacts to domestic terrorism strongly signals its commitment, or lack of, to international peace and security. More clearly, weak penalties toward domestic terrorism translate to a lack of international peace, because the said government has proved its willingness to allow domestic terrorism to cultivate the instability of its internal jurisdiction, and therefore, cannot possibly be interested in the security of those external to its jurisdiction.

Stricter prosecution would decrease the motivation of the internal citizenry to corroborate with external radical groups. It is in the interest of the U.S. people and their government to minimize the opportunities that globalization offers for individuals and groups motivated toward terrorist activity to merge their efforts. Stricter implementation and enforcement of international counterterrorism policies along with fair, firm, and consistent punishment of those identified as terrorists would be a step in the right direction.


It would be blatantly dishonest for policy makers or academicians to question if an adult male or female who raped a six year old child should be categorized as a domestic or international rapist. Obviously, the psychological tendency to engage in such an act is not restricted by geography and whether the rapist would behave as such domestically or internationally would be a dichotomous notion. Terrorists engage in political violence because they have a score to settle with a government they perceive as offensive to them. To rid terrorism from the world would be equivalent to removing government offenses from the world. Yet, political violence is how states came into existence. From there, divisively rhetorical tactics and the perpetuation and propagation of security risks have maintained them.

I postulate that the research battle or political objective to properly categorize terrorist acts as “domestic” or “international” emulates an invisible war initiated by the forces of globalization producing a conflict of interest between singular states and the international community as a whole. Because domestic and international terrorism speaks to legal jurisdiction, asking whether a particular act of terrorism should be deemed as domestic or international is similar to asking who will benefit from the spoils of the “GWOT.”

Genuine efforts to unify toward a global peace would require deleting the “other “construct from the American psyche which is where it is arguably the most entrenched. However, doing so would work effectively toward delegitimizing state sovereignty which is anathema to those whose international influence of power is dependent on maintaining the state.

Have domestic terrorists become the modern catalyst in strengthening state legitimacy?

Finally, there is an inherent exploitative political value in both domestic and international terrorism. Domestic terrorism strengthens state legitimacy by cultivating psychological vulnerability and dependency through domestic insecurity. International terrorism offers the prospect of war justifications as evidenced by the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions.

The lumping of all terrorists into the same category would require a world government and world constitution which is currently being stifled by world plenipotentiaries and their pursuit to maintain the status quo by demarcating their power.



ACLU. (2002, December 6). How the USA PATRIOT Act redefines “Domestic Terrorism”. Retrieved from ACLU:

Baraka, A. (2014, April 21). White-Washing White Terrorism. Retrieved from

Rand. (2014). Domestic Terrorism. Retrieved from RAND:

Southern Poverty Law Center. Terror from the right. (2012).Retrieved from


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