Last updated on: 5/28/2008 1:42:00 PM PST
What Is Terrorism?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime website (accessed Feb. 15, 2007), contained the following introduction to the difficulties in defining the term terrorism:

"The question of a definition of terrorism has haunted the debate among states for decades. A first attempt to arrive at an internationally acceptable definition was made under the League of Nations, but the convention drafted in 1937 never came into existence. The UN Member States still have no agreed-upon definition."

Feb. 15, 2007 - United Nations (UN) 

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, in a website section titled "Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism" (accessed Feb. 15, 2007), defined terrorism as follows:

"Terrorism means any act of violence or threat thereof notwithstanding its motives or intentions perpetrated to carry out an individual or collective criminal plan with the aim of terrorizing people or threatening to harm them or imperiling their lives, honor, freedoms, security or rights or exposing the environment or any facility or public or private property to hazards or occupying or seizing them, or endangering a national resource, or international facilities, or threatening the stability, territorial integrity, political unity or sovereignty of independent States."

Feb. 15, 2007 - Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) 

The US State Department, in a report titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism - 2000," released Apr. 30, 2001 by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, stated:

"No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:

  1. The term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant* targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

  2. The term 'international terrorism' means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country.

  3. The term 'terrorist group' means any group practicing, or that has significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism. The US Government has employed this definition of terrorism for statistical and analytical purposes since 1983.



* For purposes of this definition, the term 'noncombatant' is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed or not on duty... We also consider as acts of terrorism attacks on military installations or on armed military personnel when a state of military hostilities does not exist at the site, such as bombings against US bases in Europe, the Philippines, or elsewhere."

Apr. 30, 2001 - United States Department of State 
Patterns of Global Terrorism - 2000 (236 KB)  

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 51/210 (of Dec. 17, 1996), defined terrorism as follows:

"Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them."

Dec. 17, 1996 - United Nations (UN) 
UN Resolution 51/210 (1.35 MB)  

The 1937 League of Nations Convention stated:

"All criminal acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public."

1937 - League of Nations 

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000, 4th edition), defined terrorism as follows:

"The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons."

2000 - American Heritage Dictionary