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'If a Tree Falls' in Context

Domestic Terrorism in the United States: Defining the Term

The USA PATRIOT Act amended the list of federal crimes of terrorism contained in the U.S. Code of laws (section 2331 of title 18) and provided new and enhanced laws to prosecute terrorism.

Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Act expands the type of conduct the government can investigate when investigating "terrorism" and provides a definition of "domestic terrorism." According to section 802, "A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act 'dangerous to human life' that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. Additionally, the acts have to occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States and if they do not, may be regarded as international terrorism."

Still, there is no one universal definition of terrorism. Different wording is used by federal agencies from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the U.S. State Department to the FBI itself, and the United Nations has struggled to define terrorism for decades.

Photo caption: ELF fire at Superior Lumber Credit: Courtesy of Roy Milburn
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