Though the United States has been engaged in a Global War on Terror for more than a decade, the U.S. Government surprisingly does not have a standardized definition of terrorism that is agreed upon by all agencies.
The State Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and a number of other government agencies all utilize differing definitions of what constitutes an act of terrorism.
This lack of agreement has allowed individual agencies to present different and, in some cases, far more inclusive definitions of terrorist acts enabling the use of expanded investigative procedures that might not be applicable in other agencies.
The FBI utilizes a definition of terrorism based upon the agency’s general functions under 28 CFR § 0.85. Under this regulation an act of terrorism is defined by “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
The USA PATRIOT Act expanded this definition to include domestic acts within the definition of terrorism. Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Actmodified the legal definition of terrorism (18 USC § 2331) to include a category of “domestic terrorism” that is defined by “acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State” intended to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population”, “influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion” or “affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping” that are conducted primarily within the jurisdiction of the U.S.