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Home : American History : 20th Century 
AMERICAN HISTORY : 20th Century

 

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Terrorism In the United States

Background

Over the past few years the United States have become more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. There have been newspaper headlines that described the World Trade Center bombing, the Unabomber's arrest, and the bombings in Oklahoma City and Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. Though investigators didn't find evidence that an explosion caused the crash of TWA Flight 800 was a bomb, the airline security has risen drastically. While the lawmakers debate which steps to take to prevent any future attacks, many Americans wonder what they may have to sacrifice to stop or at least lower terrorist attacks. Are air travelers going to be willing to wait longer in lines at the air port so they can use the high sensitive equipment to check for explosives? Are they willing to pay extra prices for the airline tickets so the new equipment can be bought? Are Americans willing to sacrifice there freedom of movements as well as privacy?

Domestic Terrorism

Most of this is domestic terrorism. The FBI defines domestic terrorism as the "unlawful use of force or violence, committed by a group(s) of two or more individuals, 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 number of terrorist attacks in the 1990s have made American realize the vulnerability among themselves. The World Trade Center Bombing. In February 1993, a bomb exploded in the World Trade Center in New York City. The World Trade Center is the second tallest building in the world, where more that 100,000 people work and visit ever day. The bomb exploded in the parking area underneath the building, damaging the under lying base and the subway tunnels. Smoke reached the top of the building in minutes. Six people were killed; more than 1,000 were injured. The FBI joined the Joint Terrorist Task Force in the investigation. They ended up putting 22 Islamic fundamentalist conspirators on trial. At the end of the trial it revealed that they had major plans to ruin government facilities.

Identifying the Unabomber: A Possible Breakthrough. In April 1996, federal agents arrested Theodore Kaczynski and charged him with crimes committed by what they called "Unabomber". The Unabomber, who went after university scientists and airline employees, and others, had been disrupting authorities for over 18 years. The FBI said the suspect had killed three people and injured 23 others with packages bombs. The Unabomber believed that new and more advanced technology had dehumanized society. That is why he went after scientists to release his anger.

The Oklahoma City Bombing.

The bombing of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others. The trial of the suspects Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who are charged with murder and conspiracy began in the final months of 1996. The two were connected to the militia movement, which opposes the expanded powers of the federal government and believes that their right to bear arms were threatened. The Oklahoma City bombing occurred two years after federal troops stormed the Branch Dividian compound outside Waco, Texas. Federal prosecutors believe that the reason they did it is because of the governments murder of 78 Branch Davidian in Waco militia.

The Olympic Bombing.

During the Summer Olympic Games, in July 1996, less than two weeks after the TWA Flight 800 disaster, a pipe bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia, killing two people and injuring more than one hundred others. The FBI said it looked like it was homemade with nails and screws attached to it. They suspected it was domestic terrorists, and some members of local militia groups, and they were questioned without any results. The FBI named a suspect Richard Jewell, a security guard who found the bomb. His name was given to the press as the main suspect and appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. Recently a $500,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Anti-Terrorism Act

Congress passed, and Clinton signed into law, the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act, which grants the federal authorities __BODY__ billion combat terrorism. Airlines are a major concern to the government and a gold mine to terrorist attacks. On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 exploded in the air off the coast of Long Island, shortly after taking off from New York's Kennedy International Airport. The explosion killed all 229 passengers and crew. People began to wonder whether it was caused by a technical failure or a bomb. Airline security has received a great amount of money since the crash, even though no evidence was found that the explosion was a result of a bomb. Lawmakers have tried to respond to the fear that America is becoming more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The many attacks have resulted of great disappointment to the government. It has showed them where a giant flaw in the laws have occurred. I feel that we need to pass more laws and enforce laws that have already been made.

Highlights of 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act

  • Creates a federal death penalty for terrorist murders
  • Strengthens penalties for crimes committed against federal employees while performing their official duties
  • makes such crimes a federal offense
  • Authorizes a study on the potential for tagging explosive materials for detection and identification purposes
  • Requires plastic explosives to carry such detection agents Increases penalties for conspiracies involving explosives
  • Expands penalties for possession of nuclear materials
  • Criminalizes the use of chemical weapons within the United States, or against Americans outside the United States
  • Directs the Attorney General to issue a public report on whether literature or other material on making bombs or weapons of mass destruction is protected by the First Amendment
  • Authorizes the Secretary of State to designate groups as terrorist organizations and prohibit the from fundraising in the United States
  • also authorizes the Secretary of Treasury to freeze the assets of such organizations
  • in addition, forbids U.S. citizens, nationals, residents, etc. from having financial transactions with known terrorist states
  • Prohibits U.S. government financial assistance to nations sponsoring terrorism
  • Allows the Attorney General to deny asylum to suspected terrorists
  • Denies entry into the United States to any person who is a representative or member of a designated terrorist organization
  • Provides that INS border officers, rather than immigration judges, can decide the asylum claims of people who claim to be fleeing persecution and who arrive without travel documents
  • Expands deportation procedures for criminal aliens; in particular establishes special courts of review to handle deportation hearings against suspected alien terrorists
  • Allows state and local law enforcement officials to arrest and detain illegal aliens who have previously been deported for criminal behavior until they can be taken into federal custody by the INS
  • Limits appeals of state court death penalty sentences in the federal courts(Habeas Corpus) by setting a one-year limit on an application for habeas writ
  • Authorizes more than __BODY__ billion over five years for various federal, state, and local government programs to prevent, combat, or deal with terrorism in the United States and abroad; in particular, authorizes $468 million for the FBI counterterrorism and counterintelligence efforts, and authorizes $20 million for the INS to deport criminal aliens

Timeline of Domestic Terrorism

  • 1950 Assassination attempt on President Truman. Puerto Rican nationalist kill one District of Columbia policeman during an attempted assassination of President Harry S. Truman outside of Blair House in Washington, D.C.
  • 1954 Shooting in the U.S. House of Representatives. Five members of Congress are wounded by gunfire during an attack by Puerto Rican nationalist on the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • 1972 Fraunces Tavern Bombing. Four people die in this bombing at a historic tavern in downtown New York City. The Puerto Rican nationalist group FALN is blamed for the attack, one of the 49 bombings in New York attributed to them between 1974 and 1977
  • 1975 LaGuardia Airport Bombing. Eleven are killed, 75 are injured in this attack by Croatian nationalists at this New York City Airport.
  • 1976 Letelier Assassination. Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean ambassador to the United States, is killed by a car bomb in Washington, D.C. The bomb, planted by Chile's Pinochet government, also kills one of Letelier's associates while injuring another.
  • 1981 Kennedy Airport Bombing. One man is killed when a bomb planted by a group calling itself the Puerto Rican Armed Resistance goes off in a men's bathroom at New York City's international airport.
  • 1983 U.S. Senate Bombing. A bomb goes off in the cloak room next to U.S. Senate in the Capitol Building. Two left-wing radicals plead guilty to the attack.
  • 1993 World Trade Center Bombing
  • 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing
  • 1996 Olympic Bombing
  • 1997 Abortion Clinic Bombing


 

 



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