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There is another type of warfare — new in its intensity, ancient in its origin — war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him . . . It preys on unrest. . . .
President John F. Kennedy
Address to the Graduating Class,
U.S. Naval Academy, June 6, 1962


Criminal law[]

Terrorism is

an offense that is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.[1]

This includes terrorist acts committed within and outside U.S. national boundaries.[2]

Insurance industry[]

Terrorism means

activities against persons, organizations or property of any nature committed by an individual or individuals acting on behalf of any foreign person or foreign interest:

1. that involve the following or preparation for the following:

a. use or threat of force or violence; or
b. commission or threat of a dangerous act; or
c. commission or threat of an act that interferes with or disrupts an electronic communication, information, or mechanical system; and

2. when at least one of the following applies:

a. the effect is to intimidate or coerce a government or the civilian population or any segment thereof, or to disrupt any segment of the economy; or
b. it appears that the intent is to intimidate or coerce a government, or further political, ideological, religious, social or economic objectives or to express (or express opposition to) a philosophy or ideology.[3]


Terrorism is

any activity that —

(A) involves an act that —

(i) is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources; and
(ii) is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States; and

(B) appears to be intended —

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.[4]

U.S. military[]

Terrorism is

the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.[5]


  1. 18 U.S.C. §2332b(g)(5)(A). Subparagraph B enumerates the specific crimes covered by this definition. The FBI differentiates hate crimes and other criminal activity from domestic terrorism partly by assessing the intent of the criminals involved in specific incidents. Hate crimes “generally involve acts of personal malice directed at individuals” and lack the broader motivations and driving acts of domestic terrorism. In addition, the lines are not always clear between ordinary criminal acts and domestic terrorism. In these instances, FBI investigations also focus on clarifying the motives of the suspects involved—such as profit, personal malice, or an ideologically driven agenda.
  2. The extraterritorial jurisdiction for terrorism crimes is specified in 18 U.S.C. §2332b(e) and (f).
  3. Insurance industry definition (full-text).
  4. 6 U.S.C. §101(16).
  5. U.S. Army Field Manual No. FM 3-0, Chapter 9, 37 (14 June 2001).

See also[]