TAMPA, April 16, 2013 – Conservative critics immediately criticized President Obama’s initial statement about the Boston Marathon bombing because he did not classify the crime an act of terrorism.
“We still don’t know who did this or why, and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But, make no mistake; we will get to the bottom of this,” said the president.
This libertarian doesn’t get to say this very often about any president, but Obama was right. The bombing was a heinous crime, but there is no way to know if this was an act of terrorism until it is determined who perpetrated it and, more importantly, why. That’s because a mass murder is not necessarily an act of terrorism, unless it is carried out for a political purpose. According to Title 22, Chapter 38 of the United States Code,
“…the term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;”
Definitions vary internationally, but virtually all definitions distinguish terrorism from other crimes against life and property by its political motivation. When perpetrated by foreign agents, acts of terrorism are viewed as quasi-acts of war, carried out by enemies of the state who may not represent a foreign government but nevertheless believe themselves to be at war with the target country. Examples would include the perpetrators of both World Trade Center attacks.