Let me make this abundantly clear from the outset; my heart, thoughts
and prayers go out to each and every individual, family member or friend
that is in anyway affected by the shooting and murders
that occurred at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. I know from
personal experience, for those touched by this, that even time will
never heal these wounds.
Over two years ago in February 2010 I wrote an article Not Every Violent Act Amounts To Terrorism,
this stemmed from the Joseph Stack plane crash where he had committed
an act of suicide by flying his private plane into a building that
housed IRS offices in Austin, Texas.
At that time I explained the importance of using the correct terminology in order to combat issues of National Security.
order to defeat something we must be able to agree on its definition,
especially when it involves our national security. Bandying about terms
in an already flawed system does no one any good.
I explained in my article that when it comes to the Definition of terrorism there isn’t just one. There are thousands.
subject is, without a doubt, the most argued about subject with
terrorist experts and novices alike. The amount of books and papers on
the definition of terrorism alone is extraordinary. While studying
terrorism over the years, I have seen and heard more definitions and the
arguments for those definitions than there are terrorist groups
themselves. No two groups, organizations or countries can seem to agree
on a definition and this is one of the reasons that terrorism will
continue to exist on a worldwide scale. Without an agreed upon
definition to explain terrorism, let alone understand it, how can anyone
begin to defeat it? This is simple logic: before you can combat
anything, let alone live with or defeat it, you must first understand
I explained in my article that anytime I speak or lecture on
terrorism, I always devote a great deal of time on its definition. The
United Nations does not even have a definition on terrorism because they
could never come to an agreement on one. The various departments of our
own government cannot agree on a single definition of terrorism.
government agencies are required to follow the Intelligence Reform and
Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA); however, even in following the
IRTPA, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI), The National Security Agency (NSA), The Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) and The State Department all have different
definitions of terrorism. An Internet search on the “definition of
terrorism” will give you over 26.7 million results.
my biggest pet peeve in the counterterror or antiterrorism argument: How
can we, as a country, work together against something when our own
government cannot even agree on a single definition?
I am sure
that many of you reading this right now, especially anyone who is anyway
connected to the Aurora massacre are saying “what difference does it
make, a dozen people were murdered and dozens more injured, they were
terrorized and it therefore is terrorism." But when it comes down to the
legal system, the court system, charges, trials and convictions, it
During a press conference, Aurora police Chief Dan
Oates explained how James Holmes's “booby-trapped” his apartment. He
stated: “Make no mistake, this apartment was designed ... to kill
whoever entered it. And who was most likely to enter that location after
he planned and executed his horrific crime? It was going to be a police
Immediately following that statement virtually every
newscaster and pundit I heard stated that “since he [James Holmes] was
specifically targeting law enforcement, he had a political agenda and
therefore should be charged with terrorism."
Using that analogy every individual that ever assaulted a law enforcement official should be charged with terrorism as well.
9/11 and having studied terror for more than 26 years at the time, I
felt that a more complete and accepted definition of ‘terrorism’ was
needed. Up to that time, the most concise definition that I found was in
the book Political Terrorism by Schmidt and Youngman. They isolated the following recurring elements based on other definitions:
Violence, force (appeared in 83.5 percent of the definitions);
fear, emphasis on terror (51%);
psychological effects and anticipated reactions (41.5%);
discrepancy between the targets and the victims (37.5%);
intentional, planned, systematic, organized action (32%);
methods of combat, strategy, tactics (30.5%).
from their definition I wrote my own that still stands today to cover
each and every aspect of true "terrorism." Most definitions that I have
read exclude combat troops – as if just because one is a member of the
armed services, he cannot be a victim of terrorism. Others that I have
read did not include religion, and so on.
As I have explained
before, my definition will not be accepted by terrorist organizations or
those states that sponsor it, but I am not trying to be politically
correct – nor am I attempting to unite the world on one definition.
if the United States and or the United Nations adopted one definition,
they would immediately know and understand that as soon as any country
or organization dismissed the definition that they are probably
terrorists or supporters of terrorism themselves.
difference is that I do not make distinctions between domestic or
foreign terror, nor do I place terrorism into different categories. It
does not matter if you die in the United States or in a foreign country
just as it does not matter what type of terrorist kills you. Dead is
dead, just as terrorism is terrorism.
My definition is as
follows; a terrorist incident is a premeditated violent act or an act
dangerous to human life, which is politically or religiously motivated
and perpetrated against noncombatant and combatant targets alike by sub
national groups or clandestine agents without regard to race, religion,
national origin, gender or age. These acts are intended to: intimidate
or coerce a civilian population; influence social objectives; the policy
of a government; or affect the conduct of a government by mass
As I stated in the beginning, it is far too early to
speculate on motives that James Holmes did or did not have, but as more
information trickles out about this man it is seems obvious that he is
nothing more than a psychopath with a high IQ.
history I recall another individual that fell into that same category
that murdered more people than James Holmes yet was classified as a
"mass murderer," not a terrorist.
Charles Joseph Whitman was a
student at the University of Texas at Austin who shot and killed 14
people and wounded 31 others from the observation deck of the
University's Main Building of The University of Texas at Austin on
August 1, 1966.
Although some reports state that Whitman’s
autopsy revealed that he had a brain tumor which may have led to his
rampage, he still had no political agenda or anything else that fit the
So, once again you may ask what
difference does any of this make. Let us look at Nidal Hasan, the Fort
Hood shooter. As I explained in my article Beyond Stupid: Fort Hood Killings are “Workplace Violence.”
while Major Nidal Hasan screamed “Allah Akbar” as he shot and killed 14
people in cold blood (14 actually died since 21 year old victim
Francheska Velez was 3 months pregnant, making two lives in my book) and
wounded 29 others, this act was nothing more than “Workplace Violence."
Hasan screamed “Allah Akbar” as did the terrorists crashing the planes
on 9/11. Evidently people seem to think that “Allah Akbar” translates
from Arabic to “Nothing to see here, move along”, rather than “God is
Nidal Hasan has not been charged with so much as even one
count of terrorism despite the fact that Hasan exchanged as many as 20
emails with Anwar Awlaki, had ‘SOA’, (Soldier Of Allah) on his business
cards and Awlaki declared Hasan a hero, it was still not classified as
The 86 page report by the Pentagon never mentions
his motives even though he screamed “Allah Akbar” as he shot his fellow
soldiers in cold blood. What’s more is that the words “Islam” or
“Muslim” is never mentioned in any of the 86 pages. Not even once.
about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas day bomber who
successfully set himself on fire while trying to bring down Northwest
Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009? Three days later, while on
vacation in Hawaii, Obama called him an “isolated extremist." This was
after it was already a known fact that he had admitted to being trained
and sent by al-Qaida. Let’s not forget that after a whopping 50 minutes
this “isolated extremist” was also read his Miranda Rights and given an
While ABC News chief investigate correspondent Brian
Ross was covering the Colorado theater shooting early Friday morning he
did a live report trying to show a possible connection between shooting
suspect James Holmes and the Tea Party despite having absolutely no
evidence other than the two men shared the same name and location. As it
turns out, Ross was wrong. What a shocker. ABC released an apology for
An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a
Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect,
but that report was incorrect. ABC News and Brian Ross apologize for the
mistake, and for disseminating that information before it was properly
Yes, the main stream media will continue to politicize
every tragedy when it gets the chance, I guess they’ll just continue to
take former White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel’s advice that “You
never want a serious crisis to go to waste”.
It doesn’t matter,
terrorist or psychopath; after all, it’s only our National Security
that’s at stake. Makes one wonder who the ‘Joker’ really is here.
Editor Gadi Adelman is a freelance writer and lecturer on the history
of terrorism and counterterrorism. He grew up in Israel, studying
terrorism and Islam for 35 years after surviving a terrorist bomb in
Jerusalem in which 7 children were killed. Since returning to the US,
Gadi teaches and lectures to law enforcement agencies as well as high
schools and colleges. He can be heard every Thursday night at 8PM est.
on his own radio show “America Akbar” on Blog Talk Radio. He can be
reached through his website gadiadelman.com.