Term Paper: Domestic Terrorism Has Become in Recent Decades

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Domestic Terrorism

Terrorism has become in recent decades one of the most important phenomena affecting the society, both inside a state and at the international level. The events that took place in the U.S. On September 11, 2001 represented an alarm signal for the world that terrorism is a flagellum that would influence the evolution of international relations to a degree never met before.

There are other forms of violence manifested inside a country which do not receive the same international attention. Domestic terrorism is one of them. Taking into account the fact that in most cases domestic terrorism is a matter which must be dealt with by the exercise of a state's sovereignty over its territory it rarely becomes the focus of international attention. Still, the history of the U.S. has often been affected by domestic terror acts conducted by American groups activating on the U.S. soil and against the authority of the American government. The Ku Klux Klan is one such group which uses violence and different subversive means to promote their beliefs and racial convictions.

The actions of the Ku Klux Klan have included serious attacks of the integrity of the black people in its early history, and of the civil rights movement workers in the early 20th century. However, it is rather hard to note the degree in which the KKK can actually be called a terrorist group, by comparison to other groups such as the American Nazi Party. However, from a thorough analysis, it can be said that the history of the KKK, along with the actions undertaken at different levels of subordination are representative and fall into the general lines of a terror organization as the term is understood today.

Domestic terrorism is an essential aspect of the security of the state. James F. Jarboe, Domestic Terrorism Section Chief, Counterterrorism Division at the FBI testified before the House that domestic terrorism is in fact one of the two distinctive perspectives of security in the U.S. In this sense, there is international terrorism seen by the FBI as "violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state," whereas domestic terrorism is "the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." (FBI, 2007) According to the definition given by the Bureau, domestic terrorism thus focuses solely on achieving its goals on the U.S. territory whereas its aims are strictly related to interests inside the country. In this sense, dealing with terror groups such as the KKK or the American Nazi Party is a matter of internal policy.

This distinction being made, it is important to take into consideration each component of the definition in order to have a clear image of what the KKK represented both for the history of the America people and for the evolution and development of the domestic terrorism phenomena.

First and foremost, the definition given by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the accredited governmental body to deal with issues related to internal security, places an essential importance to the idea that domestic terrorism is, above all, a means through which violence is unlawfully used. Traditionally, it is considered that the sole legitimate violence is that of the state, more exactly that the government through its legal devices and agencies is the only accredited entity which can legally employ violent means. Thus, any action that is in breach of or undermines the authority of the state is considered illegal and action by the state is taken against the perpetrators.

The KKK has a long tradition of subversive actions. The history of the Klan begins in the aftermath of the Civil War dating back to the late 19th century. (Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 1996-7) the emancipation of the black population had brought the White Southerners on the verge of despair. Lincoln's determination and legal action to give the right to vote to each citizen of the U.S., regardless of the color of its skin has made the free slaves to reconsider their position inside the American society. However, the Civil War had brought destruction and poverty to the Southern regions of the country and this situation only added to the growing frustration among the white population. (Jenkins, 1997) in this historical context "in an effort to terrorize the newly enfranchised black voter, the Ku Klux Klan was born." (Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 1996-7)

The first means to express their convictions were considered to be rather peaceful, without the use of any guns. Studies have showed that in the first instance the organization was a rudimentary version of a social club, an exclusivist one however. (Horn, 1939) in the beginning they did not employ weapons, but considered that their costumes, the white hoods, would scare black people off and would somehow ensure a pleasant sight for the white people. From the perspective of the use of non-violent means in the beginning of their actions, there are those that do not consider the Klan to be a terrorist group. Moreover, taking into account the fact that their actions or reaction came as retaliatory to certain aspects of the governmental environment, it can be said that the Klan did not encompass entirely the elements of the FBI definition.

The evolution of their activities however brought along the adoption of different violent means of expression. Thus, "adopting the uniform of a white cloak and hood and the symbol of the burning cross, members of the KKK pillaged black neighborhoods and murdered black leaders. The cloak and hood, (...) served to hide the identity of the Klansmen, (...) frightened black southerners with a ghostly image of deadly terror. Violence against blacks was so widespread that President Ulysses S. Grant was forced to commit large numbers of federal troops to put down the Klan." (Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 1996-7) However, this evolution was considered to be the only means available at the time for the whites to prevent the spread of the Black influence in the South. In this way, the goal of the Klan was obvious that of limiting the assimilation of the freed slaves from Southern states in the societies dominated by former slave owners and plantation managers.

The turn of the century however represented a change in the perspective of the group as well. To a certain point, until the legislation allowed the restriction of the blacks to vote through barriers such as literacy and various additional taxes, the Klan had a rather modest activity. Thus, "convinced that it had succeeded in preserving the antebellum South, the hooded knights vanished." (Schaefer, 1971) Yet, in 1915, in the midst of the First World War, the organization reshaped its strategies and goals and included among the social elements against which they must act also Jews, immigrants, foreign born people, and Catholics. (Rice, 1962) They employed similar violent means in this period as well which included killings, violation of properties, or harassment. However, due to serious corruption scandals and dissensions among its members, the power of the Klan faded especially during the years of the Depression.

A final part in the history of the organization is represented by the period of the Civil Rights movement when racial attitudes were reaching high levels. The legal decisions made in issues such as segregated schools, common places for both whites and blacks left the Klan with an increase desire to act against the blacks and their gaining social status. However, as the Civil Rights movement began to show its effects and as the American society was emerging towards a racially unbiased condition, the Klan soon began to lose its influence and its adepts. By the end of the 80s, it no longer represented a powerful force against the blacks. Furthermore, the lack of unity inside the organization led to the establishment of different other groups that promoted the supremacy of the white race, such as "White Aryan Resistance (WAR), Aryan Brotherhood, and various skinhead and militia groups." (Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 1996-7)

Secondly, a domestic terrorist group, according to the FBI definition, must be based and act solely on the territory of the U.S. This is an important element to be taken into account because to a certain extent it allows the difference between international terrorism and domestic terrorism. International terrorism, despite the fact that it still lacks a comprehensive definition at the international level, engages groups and movements from different countries in the world and thus gives their goal a global dimension. Their main object of denial is not restricted to the borders of a single state,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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