Apropos much of what has been discussed here lately, there was a very interesting piece on Rachel Maddow’s show yesterday in which the legal meaning of the word “terrorism” was discussed. By people who actually know what they are talking about.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Comments

  1. #1 Juice
    November 13, 2009

    Where are the other 2 shooters?

  2. #2 ABradford
    November 13, 2009

    “Where are the other 2 shooters?”

    The grassy knoll

  3. #3 Tom Coward
    November 13, 2009

    C’mon Rachel, get with the program! No fair using an actual expert with actual knowledge to talk about an important legal point!

  4. #4 Deen
    November 13, 2009

    Impressive display of jumping to conclusions in the first part of the video.

  5. #5 NewEnglandBob
    November 13, 2009

    The idiot right wingnuts do not understand English.

    The FBI, etc. did NOT say it is not terrorism, they said they have no evidence AT THIS TIME.

  6. #6 MadScientist
    November 13, 2009

    Forget about legal definitions, just look at how the word was used before Dubbyah used it to mean “anyone who disagrees with me” (as every despot uses the word). Terrorists use violence to create fear in an attempt to push their agenda – whatever that may happen to be. Terrorists may be individuals or (more commonly) groups.

    I have no doubt the 9/11 hijackers are in fact terrorists – but the news reporting was so damned bad that I still don’t know what their agenda was.

  7. #7 daedalus2u
    November 13, 2009

    But wait, isn’t making illegal acts committed on the basis of things like race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation for the purposes of intimidation sort of like terrorism?

    Don’t we need hate crimes legislation to deal with things like this?

    You know, for individuals who are in a terrorist cell of one?

    For people who commit terrorist acts retail instead of wholesale?

    Maybe we could get atheism classified as a religion for the purposes of a hate crime?

  8. #8 doug l
    November 13, 2009

    Conspicuous by its absence is the word “treason”.
    Whether he managed to kill anyone or not he had effectively switched sides to support the aims and goals of “the enemy”, who may indeed use terrorism, including murder and threats of harm, as a means to accomplish its goals of weakening its opposition.
    Here; check out the legal definition.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treason
    It is punishable by death.
    Of course another definition that no doubt will come into play as this case emerges is “sanity”.
    Terrorism is a modern buzzword more than a techinical term, at least for now. Why use the term terrorism when the definition of treason covers quite effectively the actions of Major Hasan? I think it has to do with advertising revenues than precision, but I am something of a cynic when it comes to whatever passes for journalism in the modern media which clearly is a profit motivated activity rather than an objective information source.

  9. #9 Stephanie Z
    November 13, 2009

    doug, I wouldn’t want to try to prove treason. You’d need to be able to specify that Hasan wanted to aid the Taliban specifically, rather than him feeling that the U.S. was targeting Islam in general and wanting to stop that. From the information I’ve seen, that would be very difficult to do.

  10. #10 jake
    November 13, 2009

    This is completely off-topic (but related): If anyone didn’t see “The Way We Get By”, you can watch it online right now: http://www.pbs.org/pov/waywegetby/ .

    The “we” are a small sample of individuals, mostly elderly, mostly veterans, that give their lives meaning by greeting US troops as they come home. It’s one of those movies that everyone should watch. No politics, just raw emotion.

  11. #11 Kapitano
    November 13, 2009

    If terrorism is “the use of violence or the threat of violence as a force for political change”…that makes every country that’s ever gone to war a terrorist state.

    If the definition is extended to the use of violence to protect the political status quo, that could include peacekeeping forces.

    Sounds like a word best avoided.

  12. #12 Azkyroth
    November 13, 2009

    If terrorism is “the use of violence or the threat of violence as a force for political change”…that makes every country that’s ever gone to war a terrorist state.

    If the definition is extended to the use of violence to protect the political status quo, that could include peacekeeping forces.

    I think the formal definition includes a clause referring to deliberate and specific indiscriminate targeting of civilians for violence. It does not explicitly refer to having subsequently lost the conflict, but that’s more or less in there too.

  13. #13 Tom
    November 13, 2009

    What is it going to take to get us off this word “terrorism” and look at precisely what is is going here in the world in terms of the history of human political nature?

    It is not terrorism we have to be concerned with as much as an international system of religious based rogue “intelligence.”

    That’s right: I argue that from a constructive tolerant perspective these guys who sing to God just before they kill someone are doing so because they believe they are part of a movement of political agency more so than fundamental belief in a particular Iman’s vision of God’s will.

    This is most certainly true for those guys who always give the orders while never ever taking the risk of strapping on the explosive device or pulling the trigger: just like our own CIA or MI-5 or Russian, Chinese, Korean or Japanese equivalent.

    If this same thing happened in Irag or China or North Korea, the charge would be espionage not terrorism. Unfortunately for the Major, he would be just as executed ultimately, regardless.

    Moreover, If we look at the past hundred years or so, “terrorism” has never been an ideology. It has been a tactic designed to affect a specific political outcome. And it has always been sustained by organizations of “human beings” whose sole purpose has always been the pursuit of power over a dominant and competing national interest: just like our own CIA and FBI ( anyone remember Richard Nixon, J Edgar Hoover COINTELpro or Cambodia?).

    Now did the Major send and receive correspondence from the organizations we call “terrorist?” If he received correspondence then he should be tried on charges of espionage.

    If he did not receive any reply from his e-mails then, regardless of what he says, he is not in full command of his faculties and should be put away for the rest of his natural life.

    I am but a humble cab driver in a small midwestern city, but it appears obvious even to me, we will get a lot farther in understanding the way things are today in terms of what is and what is not terrorism when we start calling a spade a “spade.”

    A controversial position from
    Tom

    PS
    Someone tell Rachel Maddow I love her.

  14. #14 Kapitano
    November 14, 2009

    Me: “If terrorism is “the use of violence or the threat of violence as a force for political change”…that makes every country that’s ever gone to war a terrorist state.”

    Azkyroth: “I think the formal definition includes a clause referring to deliberate and specific indiscriminate targeting of civilians for violence.”

    Fair enough, but that still includes most, probably all, wars.

    If you drop bombs on a town, destroy a dam so the water floods factories in its path, or have soldiers on the ground conducting “mop up” operations, shooting anyone in the wrong place on the chance they’re not civillians – that’s indiscriminate targeting of non-military targets.

    At the very least, it’s attacking the military or the country’s infrastructure and not caring about civillians who get in the way.

    Some might accept that distinction – but to do so would make flying a couple of planes into the twin towers an act presumably of war, but not of terrorism, on the grounds that it was an attack on the economic infrastructure that happend to cause civillian deaths.

    No, it seems to me any definition of terrorism involves double standards.

  15. #15 Katkinkate
    November 14, 2009

    From how I’ve seen it used over the last 10 years or so, ‘terrorism’ has become one of those words that has accumulated so much baggage, you can’t use it in general conversation any more without explaining how you define it, so everyone listening knows what you’re talking about. It’s become a political word, used to define an enemy to the public, rather than a specific kind of illegal behaviour.

  16. #16 katydid13
    November 15, 2009

    I have to say that one thing that bothered me about this piece when I saw it was that it was rather dismissive of the idea of domestic terrorism. I think American anti-goverment crazys are a bigger threat to most of us than foreign anti-American crazys.

    However, I’m totally willing to admit that as country we have gone a little nutty about terrorism.

    Of course I’m also bothered by the fact that we seem to be worrying more about Hassan the security risk than about the fact that security risk or not he was displaying behavior that should have had people questioing his ability to treat military trauma patients. That seems like it should have been pretty obvious to many people.

Current ye@r *