domestic terrorism | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Homeland Security

Domestic terrorism is the act of committing terroristic activities within a nation’s borders, often fueled by political, religious, or social ideologies.

When you think of terrorism, you might picture events happening far away. But terrorism can happen close to home too. That’s what we call domestic terrorism. It involves violent acts carried out by individuals or groups inside their own country. These acts aim to create fear and chaos and are driven by various beliefs.

What Motivates Domestic Terrorism?

You might wonder what motivates someone to commit such violent acts in their own country. Such terrorists are often driven by strong ideologies. These can be political, religious, or social beliefs. They may be extreme left-wing or right-wing views, religious fanaticism, or radical environmental ideas.

For instance, they might target government buildings to express political discontent. They might aim to force the government to change policies or laws. In other cases, they might attack civilians to create fear and destabilize society.


This form of terrorism can take many shapes. It might involve physical violence like bombings or assassinations. But it’s not just about physical attacks. It can also include cyber attacks. These might aim to disrupt critical infrastructure or spread fear and confusion.

The Role of the FBI

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is in charge of dealing with this type of terrorism. They define domestic terrorism as violent acts committed to further domestic ideologies. These ideologies can be political, religious, social, racial, or environmental.

The FBI’s job is to investigate and prevent these acts. They work closely with other law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community to identify potential threats. They also work to disrupt planned acts of terrorism before they happen.

Domestic Terrorism vs. International Terrorism

Domestic terrorism is different from international terrorism. Domestic terrorists operate within their own country’s borders. They are often motivated by issues within their own country.

On the other hand, international terrorism involves individuals or groups based outside a country’s borders. They usually have goals that go beyond one nation. For instance, they might aim to create global fear or change international policies.

The Impact

Domestic terrorism has a significant impact. It creates fear and can disrupt everyday life. It can also lead to loss of life and property damage.

But the impact isn’t just physical. Domestic terrorism can also divide communities and cause long-term psychological effects. It’s a serious issue that requires ongoing attention and effort to prevent.

Tackling Domestic Terrorism

Tackling domestic terrorism requires a multifaceted approach. It involves law enforcement efforts to investigate and prevent attacks. It also requires education and community outreach to counter extremist ideologies.

Moreover, it’s not just a job for law enforcement. Everyone has a role to play. By promoting tolerance and understanding, individuals and communities can help to prevent the spread of extremist ideologies that fuel domestic terrorism.

In conclusion, domestic terrorism is a serious issue that affects countries worldwide. It involves acts of violence committed within a country’s borders, driven by various ideologies. By understanding what domestic terrorism is and what motivates it, we can all play a part in preventing it and creating safer, more peaceful communities.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/16/2023

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