Terrorism or criminal act?
Notes and shirts sit outside Woolwich Barracks on May 23 – after a Muslim extremist killed an off-duty soldier who was wearing a "Help for Heroes" shirt when he was killed.
May 30th, 2013
09:03 AM ET

Terrorism or criminal act?

By Libby Lewis, CNN

Editor's Note: Listen to the full story in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.

(CNN) - Remi Brulin loves tracking the way America thinks about and talks about terrorism. He’s been doing it for years. He’s a visiting scholar at NYU’s Journalism Institute.

[1:47] Most people sort of agree on what terrorism should be. There’s violence of course, or the threat of violence. There’s the political aspect of it – and then there’s the issue of the target. Most people would agree the targets have to be civilians or non-combatants. There is a sort of agreement – until you start applying it to particular cases.

Then, Brulin says, all bets are off.

One reason is, no one can quite agree on a definition. A corollary of that is: it’s hard to keep politics out of it.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert who’s director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, remembers following the media coverage when Chechen terrorists laid siege to a school in Russia in 2004.

[3:34] All of the newspapers went out of their way to avoid using the word ‘terrorists’ and to call them fighters, militants, separatists. And I thought to myself, Gosh, if a bunch of armed people taking over a school with children – forcing children and their parents and their relatives and their teachers to live in horrible conditions for days on end, threatening them with death – I mean, if that’s not terrorism, what is? And yet, almost no newspaper of record or major media would call them terrorists.

That’s because the Chechens were fighting Russia – and at the time, Russia was no friend of the U.S.

Now, Hoffman says, terrorism has become a subjective term. He thinks there’s almost a fear of using the word and triggering a reaction – that’s a legacy of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. antiterrorist

    what is wrong with people terror means to create fear using force, violence or any means to make people suffer, THIS IS TERRORISM, and those who created should not be treated like humans since they stepped beyond that line and that is why should be treated like beasts without any right. damn the world has become something so stupid

    June 4, 2013 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  2. Justin

    I believe there is terrorism in the U.S. every day and that it is completely overlooked. All of these gang members run around shooting, killing and dealing drugs. These groups cause areas to become violent and very dangerous to live in. how is it fair that we send thousands of soldiers all over the world and spend billions of dollars helping other countries and "hunting" terrorists and yet we have cities like Detroit, L.A, New York and Chicago. I'd like to know when we can get help in our own country from the officials we put in office to help us.

    June 3, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bs1

    "Most people would agree the targets have to be civilians or non-combatants" – This. Attacks on government / military targets are not terrorism, they are more properly termed guerilla attacks.

    June 3, 2013 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Their Eagle of the Apocalypse

      An attack on a military target is meant to destroy or disable that target so it can no longer be used for the purpose of war. The victim in this case wasn’t killed so he would be removed from the fighting. He was killed as a symbolic act to create fear. Think man…

      June 4, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. E H

    For some reason people are afraid to call this terrorism. So much is spoken about the so called lone wolf. Understand that these people can act without any direct orders from anyone and just act when they get good and ready. I'd like to show a small diagram of why we can't catch these people as the web is very complicated and most people won't take the time to learn how it works. Once this happens then they can close this down. So here we go I make it basic.

    Person A Person B Person C
    / \ / \ / \
    1 2 1 2 1 2
    / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \
    a b a b a b a b a b a b

    So I break it down simple as I can. Person A, B and C may or not be known to each other as they are at the upper echelon of the group. Under A there is person 1 and 2. Here is where you have to follow me close. 1 has two people under him that I will call a and b. Person 1 knows both a and b but they don't know each other. Then person 1 has two people under him . He knows them but they don't know each other. Same with Person B he knows person 1 and 2 but they don't know each other. Person 1 and 2 have two people under them. They don't both know each other. So you have a web of people that could include brothers or cousins as part of a big criminal enterprise and not know each other until it is time to react. How many of the 09/11 hijackers were brothers?

    I have posted this on several new agencies boards and have to my surprise when I posted this got no replies. Either it's too complicated or people don't really care enough to understand.


    June 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. E H

    this in real terms is called Industrial Espionage. There is no way that one company could fall on such hard times. It's important to look behind the stories and look at what is not being told. With all the big shot security experts you have on television. I'm surprised that one of them has not spoken about this.

    June 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • E H

      Made mistake posting the comment in the wrong place. Forgive me. I thought I was posting about the cruise liner and all of it's recent events. My apologies. Will reply on new post. Again my apologies

      June 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mickey1313

    Just like, a muslem goes into work a few months ago and kills one coworker, and is charged with terrorism. But the pos in aurora CO killed a bunch and wounded a bunch in the theater, and he gets normal charges. Where is the consistancy, where is the equal treatment? the aurora shooter should be held in gitmo on terrorism charges.

    June 1, 2013 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Their Eagle of the Apocalypse

      It’s isn’t about the number of people killed. You don’t even have to kill anyone. It’s the intent, the objective. If you kill or threaten in the name of your god or your politics as a statement its terrorism. If you are insane and kill a bunch of people simply because you are insane…that ISN’T terrorism. Think man…

      June 4, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bib

    hostile elite you must live a sad life.

    May 30, 2013 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. hostile elite

    Mass non-White immigration is the real terror. this is not left vs right, GOP vs Dems, Socialism vs liberty. This is war against White people.

    Why do hostile globalist elite defend Israel as a Jewish ethnostate with Jewish only immigration, but ravage White majority Europe/North America into a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Gulag with dystopian non-White colonization?

    The world is 93% non-White, only 7% White. But 3rd world colonizers, Muslims, Sikhs, Hispanics, are aggressively advancing their agenda to annihilate gullible Whites, just as China annihilates Tibet.

    How long will gullible Whites cuckold for murderous anti-White elite, who confiscate our guns, infiltrate/subvert our banks/FBI/CIA, indoctrinate White kids in academia/mass media, plunder White jobs/wages, & butcher White soldiers in bankrupting wars?

    "Native" Americans invaded from East Asia. Yellow & Brown races committed 10-times more genocide, slavery, imperialism than Whites. Since Old-Testament, Whites have been victims of Jewish/Crypto-Jewish, Turkic, Muslim, N.African imperialism, slavery, genocide.

    Gullible Whites should reject subversive ideologies- libertarianism, feminism, liberalism- & reject hostile slanders of racism. Peace to all humanity, but White people must organize to advance their interests, their fertility, their homelands. Spread this message. Reading list: goo.gl/iB777 , goo.gl/htyeq , amazon.com/dp/0759672229 , amazon.com/dp/1410792617

    May 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |