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1. In comparing domestic and international terrorism, both forms of terrorism promote and commit violent acts as either a group or as individuals to influence their government to further their political causes. Domestic terrorism contrasts with international terrorism in that it focuses on violent acts committed in their own country, state, or county. The ideological goals of domestic terrorists are more specific than international terrorism in that they can commit acts of violence on issues based on religion, race, and the environment (FBI, 2016)
There are many reasons why preventing homegrown or domestic terrorism is more challenging than international terrorism. The first challenge is that the federal government does not have a clearly outlined definition of domestic terrorism. A violent act by a group or individual that is actually an act of domestic terrorism can be prosecuted as only a hate crime and vise versa. Two such cases were the Dylann Roof shooting in 2015 and the attempted bombing by Kevin Harpham in 2011. Additionally, the federal government and law enforcement agencies commonly refer to domestic terrorists as extremists, making it more difficult for lawmakers to get an accurate picture of what is and is not a domestic terrorist or domestic terrorist attack. So it is difficult to prevent domestic terrorist attacks if our government does not accurately identify who is a domestic terrorist (Bjelopera, 2017).
A more obvious reason it is more challenging to prevent homegrown terrorist attacks versus international attacks is that many domestic terrorists act as lone wolves or in small groups. By working as lone wolves or in smaller groups, domestic terrorist training and activities are harder to detect by law enforcement. Adding to the difficulty of preventing a domestic terrorist attack are the detection and communications of would-be domestic terrorists on internet-based platforms. Many of the more recent mass shooting suspects should be called domestic terrorists, posted videos, the plan of their attack, or got the idea for their attack the day of or days before, and someone else on line knew about it but did not report it. Detecting and preventing domestic terrorist attacks because of technology, the internet, and the laws protecting people’s privacy have to be one of the biggest challenges to preventing terror attacks in our country (White House, 2021).
In 2012, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) partnered in research to identify people who are being radicalized into terrorism and research on preventing people from becoming radicalized. In this study, the researchers determined that there was no truly accurate way to identify or deter homegrown terrorists after studying thousands of people, young and old. The researcher found multiple risk factors to help identify individuals who may be radicalized into domestic terrorist groups or lone wolf acts. Still, more research is needed, and even though someone shows a risk factor, they may not be radicalized. One interesting analysis that was discovered in the research involved the risk factors associated with lone-actor domestic terrorists. The study found that males with at least a bachelor’s degree and who lived alone had a higher risk of becoming radicalized. It also encouraged more people to pay attention to their family and friend’s social relationships and to reach out to someone they think has the risk of being radicalized (Smith, 2018).
2. The primary difference between domestic and international terrorism is the country in which a violent extremist decides to commit the act of terror. International terrorist organizations incorporate fighters from around the globe. Their message spreads a global goal that spreads beyond the borders of the country where the organization was founded. Domestic terrorism on the other hand is conducted by violent extremist within their country of citizenship. All of the other aspects remain the same, to include a political and ideological goal, use of violence to intimidate and try to spark change, and inspiration by a leader, group, or ideology. One of the primary differences in modern religious terrorism, such as international Islamic terrorism and domestic Islamic terrorism, is how the connection is made to the leader. In international terrorist organizations fighters will often travel to and train at a foreign training camp. This travel will allow direct contact with inspirational leaders. In domestic violence cases, often the connection to inspiration is made in cyberspace. Americans can become inspired to commit violence through social media postings and online content that can be accessed at the push of a button. There is no need for direct contact to an inspirational figure.
Oversees terrorist activity is easier to track and defeat because known violent organizations are monitored by a myriad of international law enforcement, intelligence, and diplomatic agencies. People that are potential threats have their travel monitored or stopped completely. Funds used by these organizations are confiscated by governments and supplies are difficult to move across borders. Domestic terrorists do not have this level of monitoring. Within the US, Americans expect a certain level of personal privacy which allows online activity to remain difficult to track. Also, the logistics of an attack are substantially easier when they do not involve international travel. Guns and supplies are readily available through both legal and illegal means within the US.
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