This is the one quite tiring thing about the modern media, the Left and those who can't be bothered to actually find the definition of a word: they think that the concept backing the word is ever fluent and attempt to put that into a state of flux by claiming that it has changed. And yet the United States has firm backing on what terrorism is, it comes to us from our understanding of what a Nation State is, what our responsibilities as citizens of Nations are, and from our own history with regards to the English Common Law. The attempt to do so and how woeful our entire education system is, across the board, becomes clearly visible when NBC reporter Brian Williams tries to ask Gov. Palin about what terrorism is on 23 OCT 2008 with both Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain:
Brian Williams: Back to the notion of terrorists and terrorism. This word has come up in relation to Mr. Ayers...ah... hanging out with terrorists...
Gov. Palin: Yes... yes...
BW: ...ah domestic terrorists...
BW: Are we changing... ah... its been said that it gives it a vaguely post-9/11 hint using that word that we don't normally associate with domestic crimes. Are we changing the definition? Are the people who set fire to American cities during the 60's terrorists? And under this definition is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist, under this definition? Governor?
That is transcribed, by me, in the video linked to this page at MSNBC.
First notice that terrorism is no longer an act, but a 'notion'. It is not something someone does, but an idea about something someone does. That is an attempt to remove it from being a positive identification of an activity in which the activity defines the word associated with it. If Brian Williams has a good and serviceable definition of 'terrorism' as an activity descriptor, it would be appropriate for him to put that out so that there is no question in the mind of the viewer of what is being asked. If he had done so, then he could have been corrected on what Gov. Palin or Sen. McCain consider the actual activity of terrorism to describe.
Apparently there is a 'notion' that terrorism might have a different meaning when applied to domestic forms and international forms. And if Brian Williams is implying that there is a shift or difference between them, he must positively identify what those are: he must actually put those down as definitions. As he does not, as he leaves it nebulous, as he cannot identify the activities that define the word 'terrorist' then he must admit to his utter and complete cluelessness and ask: 'What is your definition of terrorism as you understand it, Gov. Palin, as I do not have a grasp of the concept'.
Yes that is a pretty pointed hit to make on Brian Williams.
He deserves it.
Because no matter how and interviewee answers the question, they can be attacked for assuming a definition and never clearly stating it. The proper counter is to state what you see terrorism as being and why it is pertinent to the Nation and to the law. Otherwise the individual being interviewed will now be caught in 'gotchya journalism' where a journalist takes a partisan stance and yet never, once, articulates that they are taking such a stance. By not stating that he is confused about the definition of 'terrorism' and putting on airs that he DOES and that he KNOWS BETTER than his interviewee, Brian Williams is attempting to elevate himself above the individual being interviewed AND play 'gotchya journalism'.
I had always thought one of the prime Cardinal Rules of journalism was NEVER to ask something without giving a proper underpinning for the question. Especially if you don't know what those underpinnings actually ARE. Because doing otherwise is not journalism to elucidate the viewer but journalism to advocate an incoherent position, which is exactly what Brian Williams is doing.
I do have some criticism for Gov. Palin: if the person interviewing you is clueless, then take the 'schoolmarm' approach and walk them through it step by step to clear up the uncertainty, no matter how long that takes. Starting out with: 'Well, Brian, you apparently don't know what terrorism IS so I will help you with that with my understanding of it and we can have a discussion in which we can accurately describe it'. It is a killer response as the interviewer dare not give any excuse to NOT have a civil discussion to come to some form of common understanding that you can both work with for the period of the interview. Yes, call him on his lack of knowledge, unwillingness to state a definition and clearly demonstrate that you are willing to set a term for this discussion that you both can understand and then compare it to different activities to see how it FITS.
Unfortunately Gov. Palin does not do so and does not call Brian Williams on his lack of knowledge while imputing that he has all the answers and will play 'gotchya' no matter what you say.
Even worse is that Brian Williams does not have a clear understanding between normal, domestic violence and the acts of war relegated to the Nation to protect the State. We put down hard and fast demarcation of these two things as they are entirely different in aspect and form, even when both using similar forms of violence. Indeed, we have clearly defined that those pre-meditated acts to kill individuals because they simply disagree with you on civil topics as MURDER. Indeed we get entire categories of manslaughter, homicide, and 'crimes against humanity' to try and cover these. Those acts have different goals and aims even while using the same devices, so that a bombing of a private abortion clinic and that of say, oh, the Pentagon, fall into two different categories when taken as pre-meditated acts with different goals, but their results may be something other. Brian Williams obviously cannot define these differences, so I will give it a whirl as I've been looking at the basis of terrorism for quite awhile and it seems there is a good and potent description available.
To understand terrorism we must understand the power that We the People hand to the national government via our Compact known as the Constitution. As I have written a bit about this topic, I will just put down links to my past work in the area of defining terrorism going from oldest to latest: link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4, link 5, link 6, link 7, link 8, link 9, link 10, link 11, link 12, link 13, link 14, link 15, link 16, link 17, link 18, link 19, link 20, link 21, link22. What is even better is that I started out in the clueless category! Going through those puts one through the twists and turns of thinking, looking at all the 'notions' of terrorism and then realizing that a good, hard and fast definition did once exist and that our very own Founders knew about it and included it in the Constitution. Of course they didn't call it 'terrorism' back then, but they had a functional category in which terrorism falls, and to get to that you end up concentrating on my articles linked 18-21. I have revisited the question of terrorism since then, but the overarching category and differences between civil crime and the category terrorism falls into are extreme and telling.
As everyone loves the Constitution and as it serves as the repository for the power given to the National government by the people, I wrote a nice article on those things that are actually in the Constitution but not written down. So as to not bore the reader I will encapsulate just a bit: the US Constitution has one explicit mention of a source available to be used in making law and two implicit ones via the nature of our breaking with Britain. One is, actually, stated in the US Constitution and was much talked about during the process of ratification as many wanted to ensure that we had a regularized Nation that fit the proper bill for allocation of powers and ensuring that too much was not given to the National government. That work was most certainly known by Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Hamilton, Monroe, Jay and most of the Founders as they bothered to mention it and the body of understanding that backed it in that era. It is explicitly stated in Article I, Section 8:
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
Note the joining ",and" which makes these two separate areas that are combined under one conceptual framework? Not only are Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas given to Congress for US vessels, but other Offenses against the Law of Nations is included in that. While both of these fall under the common area under examination, the former gets its hard and fast roots via the first international understanding of law: Black Book of the Admiralty. That was first compiled around 1450 and served as the international basis for understanding Sovereignty over maritime trade, and defines what laws are in place where and why. Those laws are themselves drawn from the remains of the old Roman Laws of trade and become the basis for all following international understanding of what you can and cannot do with maritime vessels. The US Congress has expanded that understanding to include all air space above and subsurface structures below those areas and that goes all the way to the core of the planet and covers all possible modes of transport up to the very edge of the atmosphere. Without the Black Book, you don't get modern ideas of terrorism although the area of definition that includes terrorism would still develop.
Now to get to the Law of Nations, one must go through On the Laws of War and Peace by Hugo Grotius in 1625. For a guy who's name gets dropped so often, I do wonder why no one reads him... be that as it may, right in Book I, Chapter 3 he gets to the heart of things:
I. THE first and most necessary divisions of war are into one kind called private, another public, and another mixed. Now public war is carried on by the person holding the sovereign power. Private war is that which is carried on by private persons without authority from the state. A mixed war is that which is carried on, on one side by public authority, and on the other by private persons. But private war, from its greater antiquity, is the first subject for inquiry.
The proofs that have been already produced, to shew that to repel violence is not repugnant to natural law, afford a satisfactory reason to justify private war, as far as the law of nature is concerned. But perhaps it may be thought that since public tribunals have been erected, private redress of wrongs is not allowable. An objection which is very just. Yet although public trials and courts of Justice are not institutions of nature, but erected by the invention of men, yet as it is much more conducive to the peace of society for a matter in dispute to be decided by a disinterested person, than by the partiality and prejudice of the party aggrieved, natural justice and reason will dictate the necessity and advantage of every one's submitting to the equitable decisions of public judges. Paulus, the Lawyer, observes that "what can be done by a magistrate with the authority of the state should never be intrusted to individuals; as private redress would give rise to greater disturbance. And "the reason, says King Theodoric, why laws were invented, was to prevent any one from using personal violence, for wherein would peace differ from all the confusion of war, if private disputes were terminated by force?" And the law calls it force for any man to seize what he thinks his due, without seeking a legal remedy.
IV. Public war, according to the law of nations, is either SOLEMN, that is FORMAL, or LESS SOLEMN, that is INFORMAL. The name of lawful war is commonly given to what is here called formal, in the same sense in which a regular will is opposed to a codicil, or a lawful marriage to the cohabitation of slaves. This opposition by no means implies that it is not allowed to any man, if he pleases, to make a codicil, or to slaves to cohabit in matrimony, but only, that, by the civil law, FORMAL WILLS and SOLEMN MARRIAGES, were attended with peculiar privileges and effects. These observations were the more necessary ; because many, from a misconception of the word just or lawful, think that all wars, to which those epithets do not apply, are condemned as unjust and unlawful. Now to give a war the formality required by the law of nations, two things are necessary. In the first place it must be made on both sides, by the sovereign power of the state, and in the next place it must be accompanied with certain formalities. Both of which are so essential that one is insufficient without the other.
Now a public war, LESS SOLEMN, may be made without those formalities, even against private persons, and by any magistrate whatever. And indeed, considering the thing without respect to the civil law, every magistrate, in case of resistance, seems to have a right to take up arms, to maintain his authority in the execution of his offices; as well as to defend the people committed to his protection. But as a whole state is by war involved in danger, it is an established law in almost all nations that no war can be made but by the authority of the sovereign in each state. There is such a law as this in the last book of Plato ON LAWS. And by the Roman law, to make war, or levy troops without a commission from the Prince was high treason. According to the Cornelian law also, enacted by Lucius Cornelius Sylla, to do so without authority from the people amounted to the same crime. In the code of Justinian there is a constitution, made by Valentinian and Valens, that no one should bear arms without their knowledge and authority. Conformably to this rule, St. Augustin says, that as peace is most agreeable to the natural state of man, it is proper that Princes should have the sole authority to devise and execute the operations of war. Yet this general rule, like all others, in its application must always be limited by equity and discretion.
Here we go! The three types of war: Public, Private and Mixed. Public war is according to the law of nations (not yet at that time a standardized work but a body of knowledge), Private war is that taken up by individuals, and Mixed war is taken up by the State and individuals against each other although the State must take active martial measures for it to be considered 'Mixed War' although the case can be made that the target type of Private War inflicted on a State is alone enough to give it that title. It is an understanding that we have, to this day, about the necessity of laws, civil resolution of disputes and entrusting the negative liberty of warfare to the Nation State. The very basics are set up: if you seek redress for grievances via legal means, then you are upholding the law and civil society; if you use means of war to bring disputes to an end or enforce our beliefs, then you are utilizing Private war to gain your ends.
In Book II, Chapter 22 he goes into negative liberty:
XI. But neither the independence of individuals, nor that of states, is a motive that can at all times justify recourse to arms, as if all persons INDISCRIMINATELY had a natural right to do so. For where liberty is said to be a natural right belonging to all men and states, by that expression is understood a right of nature, antecedent to every human obligation or contract. But in that case, liberty is spoken of in a negative sense, and not by way of contrast to independence, the meaning of which is, that no one is by the law of nature doomed to servitude, though he is not forbidden by that law to enter into such a condition. For in this sense no one can be called free, if nature leaves him not the privilege of chusing his own condition: as Albutius pertinently remarks, "the terms, freedom and servitude are not founded in the principles of nature, but are names subsequently applied to men according to the dispositions of fortune." And Aristotle defines the relations of master and servant to be the result of political and not of natural appointment. Whenever therefore the condition of servitude, either personal or political, subsists, from lawful causes, men should be contented with that state, according to the injunction of the Apostle, "Art thou called, being a servant, let not that be an anxious concern?"
XII. And there is equal injustice in the desire of reducing, by force of arms, any people to a state of servitude, under the pretext of its being the condition for which they are best qualified by nature. It does not follow that, because any one is fitted for a particular condition, another has a right to impose it upon him. For every reasonable creature ought to be left free in the choice of what may be deemed useful or prejudicial to him, provided another has no just right to a controul over him.
The case of children has no connection with the question, as they are necessarily under the discipline of others.
XVI. As the imperfect obligations of charity, and other virtues of the same kind are not cognizable in a court of justice, so neither can the performance of them be compelled by force of arms. For it is not the moral nature of a duty that can enforce its fulfillment, but there must be some legal right in one of the parties to exact the obligation. For the moral obligation receives an additional weight from such a right. This obligation therefore must be united to the former to give a war the character of a just war. Thus a person who has conferred a favour, has not, strictly speaking, a RIGHT to demand a return, for that would be converting an act of kindness into a contract.
XVII. It is necessary to observe that a war may be just in its origin, and yet the intentions of its authors may become unjust in the course of its prosecution. For some other motive, not unlawful IN ITSELF, may actuate them more powerfully than the original right, for the attainment of which the war was begun. It is laudable, for instance, to maintain national honour; it is laudable to pursue a public or a private interest, and yet those objects may not form the justifiable grounds of the war in question.A war may gradually change its nature and its object from the prosecution of a right to the desire of seconding or supporting the aggrandizement of some other power. But such motives, though blamable, when even connected with a just war, do not render the war ITSELF unjust, nor invalidate its conquests.
Negative liberty is given by the Law of Nature, not the laws of man, thus every man is born with them. That does not mean that everyone need practice them, as Independence gives one the ability to use reason on the exercise of their liberties, positive and negative. We give our negative liberty of war to the Nation State to practice so that we may have regular and lawful conduct amongst ourselves and seek resolution within that common framework.
Private war, then, is that exercise of the negative liberty of warfare for oneself and one's own goals outside of the Nation State.
Now this is different from Privateering which is a Nation State sanctioned enterprise as given in Book III, Chapter 2:
IV. Another method of obtaining redress for any violation of persons, or property is by having recourse to what, in modern language, are called REPRISALS, which the Saxons and Angles denominated WITHERNAM, and to which the French gave the name of LETTERS OF MARQUE, and those were usually obtained from the crown.
V. It is generally understood that recourse may be had to this method of redress not only against a foreign aggressor, but also against a debtor, if justice cannot be obtained in due time: but in NOTORIOUS cases, which admit of no doubt, this right may be enforced even beyond the strict letter of the law. For even in DOUBTFUL matters, the presumption will always be in favour of judges appointed by public authority. For it is unlikely that they should GREATLY, or WANTONLY exceed their power; especially when, if so inclined, they have not the same means of enforcing their decrees against foreigners, as against their fellow subjects. Indeed even in disputes between subjects of the same country, they cannot annul a just debt. Paulus, the Lawyer, says that a REAL DEBTOR, though discharged, owing to some informality or inability of the law to enforce payment, still remains a debtor according to the law of nature.
And when, in consequence of a judicial sentence, a creditor, under pretext of seizing his own property, had taken from a debtor something which did not belong to him though it was in his possession: upon the discharge of the debt, a doubt arising whether the thing should be restored to the debtor, Scaevola maintained that it certainly ought to be restored.
There is a difference between the two cases. For subjects, AS SUCH, cannot make any violent resistance to the execution of a sentence, which they may not deem satisfactory, nor can they prosecute any right in opposition to the law. FOREIGNERS may use violent means to enforce a right: tho' they are not justified in using such means, while there is any possibility of obtaining redress in a legal, and peaceable manner.
It is on such grounds that reprisals are made upon the persons and property of the subjects, belonging to a power, who refuses to grant redress and reparation for injuries and aggressions. It is a practice not literally enacted by the law of nature, but generally received through custom. It is a practice too of the greatest antiquity: for in the eleventh book of the Iliad, we find Nestor giving an account of the reprisals, which he had made upon the Epeian nation, from whom he took a great number of cattle, as a satisfaction for a prize which his father Nelcus had won at the Elian games; and for debts due to many private subjects of the Pylian kingdom. Out of this booty the king having selected his own due, equitably divided the rest among the other creditors.
Privateering is the Public sanction by legal means to redress grievances against unaccountable individuals who wage Private war upon the Nation State. These go by the Letters of Marque and reprisal also handed to Congress in Article I, Section 8:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
The US Congress gets the ENTIRE suite of war declaration powers, and making rules to cover them. It goes far beyond Public war and formally declared war, but into the Nation State exercising its Public powers to authorize individuals to wage war and extract a 1:1 reprisal against those waging Private war upon the Nation State. Thus it can be used aggressively, in acts to seek reprisals by individuals against a Nation and to go after those waging Private war. If another Nation has caused harm less than that which would warrant full warfare but which is still a grievous harm to which that Nation causing same refuses to be held accountable for taking, then private individuals can be given warrant and legal authority to execute damage and captures upon such Nations. Do note that this is not individuals going 'freebooter' but individuals seeking legal sanction from their Nation to wage less than full public war upon another Nation or those waging Private war. In the United States those individuals and their companies can be directly ORDERED by the President to go after those things that Congress sanctions and against those Nations or Individuals in their singularity or groups that have harmed the Nation.
Pirates have no sanction and thus fall into Private war. Their goals are usually profit or to seize goods, but they also seek to exercise non-National power over those they can cause to fear them.
Private war, then, is not only done by individuals but has no Nation State sanctions or accountability attached to them by those waging it.
Now, with that in mind we can head to the Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel which was one of the first attempts to give a coherent overview to just what Nation States are and how they operate. In much the way that the Laws of Nature are descriptive and the Laws of the High Seas and War and Peace are descriptive, they are descriptive of a common set of actions attributable to individuals and Nations. No matter where you go in history, if you see the rise of a State, you see the same parts that show up in it appear over and over again, even when disconnected by geography so that one cannot communicate to the other. Moving from the individual in their natural state to a Nation in its derived State gets the same described powers and abilities that accrue due to necessity of the being, not due to having written it down. Thus categories of power in a Nation State are descriptive, but their logic that underpins them is proscriptive: to get the State you get the necessities that go with it and see the derived function which can be described.
So, when War comes up in Book III, this is how it is seen:
§ 4. It belongs only to the sovereign power.(137)
As nature has given men no right to employ force, unless when it becomes necessary for self defence and the preservation of their rights (Book II. § 49, &c.), the inference is manifest, that, since the establishment of political societies, a right, so dangerous in its exercise, no longer remains with private persons except in those encounters where society cannot protect or defend them. In the bosom of society, the public authority decides all the disputes of the citizens, represses violence, and checks every attempt to do ourselves justice with our own hands. If a private person intends to prosecute his right against the subject of a foreign power, he may apply to the sovereign of his adversary, or to the magistrates invested with the public authority: and if he is denied justice by them, he must have recourse to his own sovereign, who is obliged to protect him. It would be too dangerous to allow every citizen the liberty of doing himself justice against foreigners; as, in that case, there would not be a single member of the state who might not involve it in war. And how could peace be preserved between nations, if it were in the power of every private individual to disturb it? A right of so momentous a nature, — the right of judging whether the nation has real grounds of complaint, whether she is authorized to employ force, and justifiable in taking up arms, whether prudence will admit of such a step, and whether the welfare of the state requires it, — that right, I say, can belong only to the body of the nation, or to the sovereign, her representative. It is doubtless one of those rights, without which there can be no salutary government, and which are therefore called rights of majesty (Book I. § 45).
Thus the sovereign power alone is possessed of authority to make war. But, as the different rights which constitute this power, originally resident in the body of the nation, may be separated or limited according to the will of the nation (Book I. § 31 and 45), it is from the particular constitution of each state, that we are to learn where the power resides, that is authorized to make war in the name of the society at large. The kings of England, whose power is in other respects so limited, have the right of making war and peace.1 Those of Sweden have lost it. The brilliant but ruinous exploits of Charles XII. sufficiently warranted the states of that kingdom to reserve to themselves a right of such importance to their safety.
Here Sovereignty is held by the Nation but executed by those invested with Sovereign power. Republics tend to divide up those powers in many different ways, but the powers themselves are still accrued to the State and then given to the Nation which protects it. Remember, this was not only known about before the Revolution, but was a working body of knowledge actively talked about all the way up to the 19th century. Later in Book III a higher level of definition is given between Public and Private war:
§ 67. It is to be distinguished from informal and unlawful war.
Legitimate and formal warfare must be carefully distinguished from those illegitimate and informal wars, or rather predatory expeditions, undertaken either without lawful authority or without apparent cause, as likewise without the usual formalities, and solely with a view to plunder. Grotius relates several instances of the latter.5 Such were the enterprises of the grandes compagnies which had assembled in France during the wars with the English, — armies of banditti, who ranged about Europe, purely for spoil and plunder: such were the cruises of the buccaneers, without commission, and in time of peace; and such in general are the depredations of pirates. To the same class belong almost all the expeditions of the Barbary corsairs: though authorized by a sovereign, they are undertaken without any apparent cause, and from no other motive than the lust of plunder. These two species of war, I say, — the lawful and the illegitimate, — are to be carefully distinguished, as the effects and the rights arising from each are very different.
§ 68. Grounds of this distinction.
In order fully to conceive the grounds of this distinction, it is necessary to recollect the nature and object of lawful war. It is only as the last remedy against obstinate injustice that the law of nature allows of war. Hence arise the rights which it gives, as we shall explain in the sequel: hence, likewise, the rules to be observed in it. Since it is equally possible that either of the parties may have right on his side, — and since, in consequence of the independence of nations, that point is not to be decided by others (§ 40), — the condition of the two enemies is the same, while the war lasts. Thus, when a nation, or a sovereign, has declared war against another sovereign on account of a difference arisen between them, their war is what among nations is called a lawful and formal war; and its effects are, by the voluntary law of nations, the same on both sides, independently of the justice of the cause, as we shall more fully show in the sequel.6 Nothing of this kind is the case in an informal and illegitimate war, which is more properly called depredation. Undertaken without any right, without even an apparent cause, it can be productive of no lawful effect, nor give any right to the author of it. A nation attacked by such sort of enemies is not under any obligation to observe towards them the rules prescribed in formal warfare. She may treat them as robbers,(146a) The inhabitants of Geneva, after defeating the famous attempt to take their city by escalade,7 caused all the prisoners whom they took from the Savoyards on that occasion to be hanged up as robbers, who had come to attack them without cause and without a declaration of war. Nor were the Genevese censured for this proceeding, which would have been detested in a formal war.
The rationale for the distinction is clear and decisive: individuals who would be allowed to make wanton warfare would decay the State to one of anarchy and the rule of the Law of Nature. When individuals, on land or sea, take to making war without sanction, they practice Private war no matter what their stated goals are: they are acting on their own and taking up the negative liberty of war which civilized peoples have handed to the Nation State ALONE to use.
Finally there is the English Common Law which has basis for this understanding. English legal scholar William Blackstone worked with Emmerich de Vattel on the Law of Nations and Blackstone would then return to England and give the most salient overview of how that worked in England via Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765-1769 (a free text from scanned source at the Avalon Project; better edited text at The Laws of Nature And Nature's God). We can read the following from Public Wrongs in Book 4, and Chapter 5 Of the Law of Nations:
THE principal offense against the law of nations, animadverted on as such by the municipal laws of England, are of three kinds; 1. Violation of safe-conducts; 2. Infringement of the rights of ambassadors; and, 3. Piracy.
LASTLY, the crime of piracy, or robbery and depredation upon the high seas, is an offense against the universal law of society; a pirate being, according to Sir Edward Coke,10 hostis humani generis [enemy to mankind]. As therefore he has renounced all the benefits of society and government, and has reduced himself afresh to the savage state of nature, by declaring war against all mankind, all mankind must declare war against him: so that every community has a right, by the rule of self-defense, to inflict that punishment upon him, which every individual would in a state of nature have been otherwise entitled to do, any invasion of his person or personal property.
BY the ancient common law, piracy, if committed by a subject, was held to be a species of treason, being contrary to his natural allegiance; and by an alien to be felony only: but now, since the statute of treasons, 25 Edw. III. c. 2. it is held to be only felony in a subject.11 Formerly it was only cognizable by the admiralty courts, which proceed by the rule of the civil law.12 But, it being inconsistent with the liberties of the nation, that any man's life should be taken away, unless by the judgment of his peers, or the common law of the land, the statute 28 Hen. VIII. c. 15. established a new jurisdiction for this purpose; which proceeds according to the course of the common law, and of which we shall say more hereafter.
Note that Piracy is a great worry to the island Nation of England as it is the greatest source of revenue it has via trade. The more general view that is taken up is one that we understand, even though the SCOTUS rules that we cannot use the rulings of Coke and, indeed, must go back to King William for the actual powers of the Nation State over the high and near Seas. That is the Black Book of the Admiralty which was compiled some time thereafter, but remains the cornerstone of understanding of what authority Nations have on the high Seas. British Admiralty courts can be cited, but only to demonstrate how a Nation with a similar understanding of its Admiralty powers rules according to its derived laws.
Even with that, Blackstone is giving a wider view of piracy as he defines it as an action taken by the enemy of mankind. That such an enemy reverts to the law of nature against society and government, and has reduced himself into savagery by declaring war against all mankind. Also note the law of nature provides the right of self-defense as part of the negative liberty of war, a right that cannot be abolished just as the negative liberty of war cannot be abolished, as it includes any invasion of a person or his property without legal sanction.
Even better is that the US Army has had a good and functional description of 'terrorism' in the past for when it was on active duty. Here is the relevant passage:
Men, or squads of men, who commit hostilities, whether by fighting, or inroads for destruction or plunder, or by raids of any kind, without commission, without being part and portion of the organized hostile army, and without sharing continuously in the war, but who do so with intermitting returns to their homes and avocations, or with the occasional assumption of the semblance of peaceful pursuits, divesting themselves of the character or appearance of soldiers - such men, or squads of men, are not public enemies, and, therefore, if captured, are not entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war, but shall be treated summarily as highway robbers or pirates.
That comes from this document:
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES IN THE FIELD
Prepared by Francis Lieber, promulgated as General Orders No. 100 by President Lincoln, 24 April 1863.
These activities are still war, lest we forget that and can be sanctioned by On the Laws of War and Peace as described by Hugo Grotius and has been seen in the Law of Nations and in the English Common Law.
On top of that there is this bit from the US Code in 18 USC 1651:
Sec. 1651. Piracy under law of nations
Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.
As we have seen piracy is a bit more than bottles of rum, parrots, and malnutrition with poor hygiene. The Law of Nations goes a bit further than 18 USC 1651, but that is only the first of the Piracy statutes and the Law of Nations makes it quite clear that the high Seas are only a part of this, though the relevant part for the US Admiralty power. Actually for the very few laws that are very well defined and delineated in that section of 18 USC, it makes for a lot easier reading of the double handful of sentences than the 900 paragraph 'terrorism' laws do. Apparently Congress once knew how to write brief and easy to understand laws.
We now have the ability to describe terrorism by the actions taken as those of Private war.
First - It is utilization of war by personal means. That can be in groups of individuals as seen with Pirates, bandit armies, and roving bands of thieves which was a problem for the USSR in 1929.
Second - It is unsanctioned by any Nation State.
That is IT.
Intent plays no part in this determination.
That by legal history the US was founded on, the understanding of the founders, and the written powers put into the Constitution plus the legal tradition of the written rulings retained to guide future rulings is the understanding of the United States on what 'terrorism' is as I understand it.
Did Bill Ayers practice Private war? Yes. His organization declared war on the United States while having no standing to do so. They reverted to a state of primitive savagery to become enemies of society and the Nation.
Did Eric Rudolph practice Private war? Yes. He utilized bombings to compel activities of society and the Nation to end with no legal standing to do so. He reverted to savagery to enforce his will on society using warlike means without sanction.
Did those who 'burned cities' during the 60's practice Private war? Did they utilize the means of war without sanction? Setting fires can be this thing known as 'arson' and done without using weapons of war. That is a civil crime that does not take place in the realm of warfare. If they utilized the ways and means of warfare along with their criminal actions to stop others from putting out such fires, then they did, indeed, practice private and unsanctioned war to their own ends.
That is how you let the action determine how it is tagged.
It is quite simple to note that there is NO DIFFERENCE between DOMESTIC and FOREIGN activities in the realm of Private war. That is intentional by those who described the Law of Nations as it exists everywhere there are Nations and is an over-riding concern to all Nations that attempts to destroy Nations by ANYONE must be stopped. That is how the Tamil Tigers who have had so few activities against the US that you can pretty easily count them, get on the Foreign Terrorist Organization listing at the State Dept. They are practicing Private war, even if none of the bureaucrats can actually DEFINE IT.
That is too much for the MSM, elite political class and all of the Left to figure out... and most of the Right come to think of it. But then actually calling savage and uncivilized behavior for what it is isn't nice, now, is it?
No one ever said civilization was 'nice', just necessary to civil discourse and common laws.
Perhaps Brian Williams can stop playing 'gotchya journalism' and see if he can find a clue someplace.