Assessing Unconventional Applications of the 'Terrorism' Label
Forthcoming in The War on Terror & Beyond: Moving from Military Action to Civil Rights, Satvinder Juss and Clive Walker, eds. (Univ. of Penn. Press, 2015)
21 Pages Posted: 30 May 2015 Last revised: 4 Nov 2016
Date Written: 2015
This book chapter explores some non-conventional applications of the label of “terrorism” and considers calls for continued expansion of the definition of terrorism to encompass crimes that have not traditionally been considered terrorism.
Part one briefly lays out the working definition of terrorism on an international level, and the gray areas in which individual nations make their own determinations as to what constitutes terrorism and, on the other hand, what is often considered ordinary crime. Part two focuses on the definitions of terrorism under a number of common counterterrorism statutes in U.S. federal law, and then considers contexts that fall outside of the common usage of terrorism in the context of U.S. law, exploring instances in which gang violence and animal rights-based crimes are treated legally as terrorism. Part three briefly considers the application of the label of “terrorism” in India, where concerns that broad and vague definitions of terrorism, religious bias against Muslims and targeting of disfavored political minorities, combined with extraordinary powers granted to the government to deal with the threat of terrorism, pose a serious risk to due process and the rule of law.
Some have called on governments to continue to broaden the reach of counterterrorism law to reach other issues, such as sex trafficking or some hate crimes. The Author concludes that most such efforts are founded in a well-placed sympathy for the victims of crimes, and some are backed by powerful groups with political influence. However, because in many democratic nations terrorism is granted unique legal treatment as an area in which expansive government power with lessened oversight and protection for individual rights is considered acceptable, importing such standards into other contexts is inviting a distortion of the traditional limits on governmental power and would allow for increases in government abuse and overreach.
Keywords: terrorism, counterterrorism, anti-terrorism, international law, government, crimes
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