What is terrorism?

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

"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 (OIC), in its website section titled "Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism" defined terrorism in the following passage (accessed Feb. 15, 2007):

"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 Department of State, in an Apr. 30, 2001 report titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism - 2000," released 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 - Patterns of Global Terrorism (552 KB)  
US Department of State 

The United Nations General Assembly's Dec. 17, 1996 resolution 51/210, 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 Resolution 51/210  1 MB 

[Editor's Note: Consensus among UN member nations has not been reached about the above definition. Dissent is based upon whether or not a distinction should be made between terrorism and the "struggle against foreign occupation." Resolution 51/210 was adopted without a vote.]

The League of Nations Convention of 1937 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 (1920-1946) 

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