America is home to people with varied cultural backgrounds who have been confined into one political and geographical territory. These people may have issues and conflicts but still find themselves living together because of shared territorial borders (Zalman, 2013). The United States has managed for a very long time to contain multitude of people with diverse religious, political, and cultural views in relative harmony. Incidences of terrorist attacks that have been meted out on America domestically, exemplifies the distrust people have with the American ideal of democracy where people from backgrounds can all claim loyalty to and the benefits of the American system. Domestic terrorism is not something unique to the 20th and 21st century America (Zalman, 2013). It is something that dates back to the pre-independence period when the colonialists used violence to proclaim independence. Colonists staged rebellion to the British authorities to into changing its policy of taxing colonist tea importers' imports, while offering a tariff-free trade to East India Tea Company (Zalman, 2013). This example paints the Boston Tea Party as the pioneer domestic terrorists. This classification is important when it comes to comparing the goals and tactics of different national liberation groups. The first terrorists in the United States based their ideology on white supremacy. White protestant Christians were deemed superior to other ethnicities and races. Public life was supposed to reflect this hierarchy (Freilich, Chermak & Caspi, 2009). This was rampant in the civil war era a period during which slavery was legal. The white supremacist became more vocal after the civil when the union and the Congress began enforcing equality of all races. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan emerged during this period. They used a variety of means to terrorize and harm African-Americans and their white sympathizers (Freilich, Chermak & Caspi, 2009). The Congress outlawed this group in 1871. This did not deter them from carrying out violent incarnations. The KKK as it is known exists to date. It continues to spread racist ideology against immigrants.
The Bolshevik Revolution in the Soviet Union in 1917 had some effect in the U.S. The 1920 bombing of the Wall Street was attributed to this. This was the first terrorist activity to be investigated by the FBI. Spates of unsolved bombings also took place in the 1920. This gave rise to the infamous Palmer Raids where Americans of Russian origins were arrested enmasse. The 1920s was also a period when KKK violence increased (Zalman, 2013). They terrorized African-Americans, Jews, Catholics, and Immigrants.
Domestic violence exploded in the period between 1960s-1970s. This is when plans were hijacked. Flights going to and from Cuba were frequently hijacked (Zalman, 2013). This was not motivated by political intention though. Meanwhile, post-colonial national liberation was taking place in different geographical locations in the world. Guerrilla warfare was the most widely used military tactic in Algeria, the Middle East, and Cuba (Zalman, 2013). This youthful fashion was also used in the United States. Youths who were opposed to what they termed American Imperialism, energized by the civil rights ideals of the blacks, women, gays, and others strongly opposed America's involvement in the Vietnam. The youths were very radical and violent. Such platforms gave rise to groups like the Black Panthers and Weatherman. A group like the Symbionese Liberation Army is famously remembered for kidnapping heiress Patty Hearst. Domestic terrorist activities have claimed lives of many Americans including Presidents and the Congressmen. Remember the right wing terrorist John Wilkes who shot President Abraham Lincoln in April 14, 1865 (Johnston, 2013). The Secretary of State William H. Seward was also separately injured by Wilkes accomplice Lewis Powell. President Lincoln succumbed to this gunshot the following day. On 4th May 1886, a bomb was thrown during labor rally at Haymarket Square that killed 7 policemen (Johnston, 2013). Many were reportedly injured. The police managed to kill four suspects. On 30th December 1905, a former Idaho governor, Frank Steunenburg was killed by a bomb. Many incidences perpetrated by domestic terrorists have been documented ranging from gunmen fire, plots to bomb fuel pipelines, hostage taking, use of liquid explosives on airlines, and radioactive source thefts (Johnston, 2013). However, the New York City, Alexandria, and Somerset County incidences stand out because of massive loss of human lives. The most recent one which received a lot of international media attention was in Newtown, Connecticut and Boston, Massachusetts. In Newton the perpetrators shot at elementary school children killing 20 children and 6 adults. The shooter eventually killed himself (Johnston, 2013). In Boston, the two bombing incidences killed 3 people including a child and injured 183 people. It took place during the Boston Marathon.
Extremism and Domestic Terrorism, Which is which
Discussions regarding domestic terrorism are often muddied by the lack of clear distinction between domestic terrorism and extremism. Extremism is often applied to homegrown actors whether they are domestic terrorists or adherents of jihadist ideologies. Law enforcement agencies have reportedly viewed extremism as something that is synonymous with terrorism (Smith, 2011). Matters have been worsened by the fact that domestic terrorist activities are not uniformly treated in the United States. Extremism involves hewing to particular ideologies that may take the shape of criminal activity all with the view to advancing ideologies. Anarchist extremists' belief in particular ideologies drives them into adopting certain criminal tactics. Extremism is all about an ideology outside a society's key values. Belief in such ideologies may drive somebody into supporting racial or religious supremacist ideals and divorcing core principles of democracy and human rights. Home grown violent extremist are often classified as domestic terrorists (Smith, 2011). They should not be classified as domestic terrorists in actual sense. The Department of Homeland Security defines homeland violent extremists as persons of any citizenship who have lived or operated primarily in the United States and are engaging or preparing to engage in ideologically motivated terrorist activities to further their social or political objectives promoted by foreign terrorist organizations. The homeland Violent Extremist according to DHS and FBI are not domestic terrorists. Homeland violent extremists and domestic terrorists are two distinct groups of terrorist actors. The federal government has been a little bit reluctant in coming up with official and public list of domestic terrorists organizations and individuals. However, the following organizations can be classified as domestic terrorist organizations (Masters, 2011).
Examples of Domestic Terrorist Organizations
Domestic terrorists are a threat to America's peace. Unlike foreign terrorist organizations that have to engage in risky border crossing, domestic terrorists are already within the American territory. They have undue access to important installations like the road transport, the railway transport, the air transport. They can carry out lethal attacks if due diligence is not practiced by the security agencies. A number of organizations can be categorized as domestic terrorist organizations because of the scope of their activities. One such organization is Occupy Wall Street. They are currently being investigated by the FBI despite their members' appeal that they are a peaceful organization. Despite the fact that OWS is not as violent as other terrorist organizations the activities they engage in betray them. They have destroyed property worth millions of dollars. Remember the fire at Fort Collins that destroyed many homes and condominiums. Occupy Wall Street gatherings are synonymous with assaults, rapes, rampant drug use, murders, stealing, and vandalism. In their past gatherings the self appointed leaders chanted for the execution of President George W. Bush.
Phineas Priesthood also falls within the category of domestic terrorists. It is a Christian-based terrorist organization that uses violence to promote its hateful messages. The organization's teaching goes against the doctrines of Christianity as it teaches hatred to everyone different from them. They are against interracial relationships, homosexuality, abortion, Judaism, multiculturalism, and taxation. They look forward to America strictly occupied by white Christians (Freilich, Chermak & Caspi, 2009). They have in the recent past attacked abortion clinics and doctors. The FBI has labeled them as a terrorist organization.
The Jewish Defense League is another example of a domestic terrorist organization. This religious organization uses violence to promote its ideals. The organization is resolute that they will stop at nothing to end anti-Semitism while at the same time being vocal against acts of terrorism. The organization was established in 1968. It gained notoriety for its harsh criticism of the Soviet Union. Its members are willing to fight for their cause. According to an investigation done by the FBI in 2004, the JDL perpetrated at least 15 terrorist attacks in the 1980s. Its leader Rubin Irv was in 2001 arrested and charged with plotting to blow up a mosque in Los Angeles.
Earth Liberation Front has cells in virtually all western world countries. They call themselves the Elves. They use Guerilla warfare tactics in their quest to halt destruction of the ecosystem (Parson, 2008). These tactics include destroying expensive and important infrastructure like power lines and businesses (Ackerman, 2003). In the United States they burn down ski resorts, logging camps, and Park Ranger offices. They are also…