The word “terrorism” often conjures up nothing but confusion and fear in the minds of civilians, government officials, attorneys and those groups who deal with terrorist acts such as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The FBI defines terrorism as “the use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof in the furtherance of political or social goals.”
There is a terroristic threat statute in Utah that considers making any threat with the purpose to disrupt with the use of violence terroristic. Those who are caught are typically only charged with a misdemeanor.
Douglas Bodrero, Commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety, says there is quite a debate over what is classified as terrorism. Bodrero is responsible for training government leaders, making policy assessments and training law enforcement officers in how to respond to threats of terrorism.
“There are two aspects to terrorism, and people get confused. Even the media gets confused,” Bodrero said.
Anti-terrorism initiatives are set up in an attempt to prevent terrorist acts from ever occurring and may include threat assessments. Counter-terrorism, also known as consequence management, represents the response to a situation that has already occurred.
Bodrero suggests that as subcategories of domestic terrorism, there are extremist terrorist groups and terrorist groups which represent special interest groups. Extremist groups would include local militia groups, neo-nazis, constitutionalists and others who feel that the government is corrupt and is attempting to take away their rights.
Special interest groups commonly involved with terrorism include environmental terrorists and animal rights activists. In the western United States, religious activists are also common,
The acts of these groups often include vandalism, tree-spiking, and releasing animals which are being tested in scientific studies. “Monkey-wrenching” is a term which refers to environmental terrorism in general.
Confusion also exists in some cases as to whether the ATF or the FBI has jurisdiction over particular occurrences. Jeff Sarnacki, special agent for the ATF, says the ATF has jurisdiction over a bombing or a fire because of the crime involved.
The ATF is concerned with the act, not the motivation behind the act.
“If it’s purely an act of terrorism the FBI has primary jurisdiction whether it be international or domestic,” Sarnacki said.