[Gadi Adelman is] "Leading in the movement in the study of counter-terrorism", Dr. Walid Phares, Advisor to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the US House of Representatives

Psychopath Or Terrorist?

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Psychopath Or Terrorist?

Although still far too early to do more than speculate, it is looking less and less likely that James Holmes had any political agenda when he murdered 12 people at the Century 16 theaters in Aurora, CO. However pundits and laypeople are still calling it “Terrorism”, while Nidal Hasan is classified as ‘workplace violence’.

Let me make this abundantly clear from the outset; my heart, thoughts and prayers go out to each and every individual, family member or friend that is in anyway affected by the shooting and murders that occurred at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. I know from personal experience, for those touched by this, that even time will never heal these wounds.

Over two years ago in February 2010 I wrote an article “Not Every Violent Act Amounts To Terrorism”, this stemmed from the Joseph Stack plane crash where he had committed an act of suicide by flying his private plane into a building that housed IRS offices in Austin, Texas.

At that time I explained the importance of using the correct terminology in order to combat issues of National Security,

In order to defeat something we must be able to agree on its definition, especially when it involves our national security. Bandying about terms in an already flawed system does no one any good.

I explained in my article that when it comes to the Definition of terrorism there isn’t just one. There are thousands.

This subject is, without a doubt, the most argued about subject with terrorist experts and novices alike. The amount of books and papers on the definition of terrorism alone is extraordinary. While studying terrorism over the years, I have seen and heard more definitions and the arguments for those definitions than there are terrorist groups themselves. No two groups, organization or country can seem to agree on a definition and this is one of the reasons that terrorism will continue to exist on a worldwide scale. Without an agreed upon definition to explain terrorism, let alone understand it, how can anyone begin to defeat it? This is simple logic: before you can combat anything, let alone live with or defeat it, you must first understand it.

I explained in my article that anytime I speak or lecture on terrorism, I always devote a great deal of time on its definition.  The United Nations does not even have a definition on terrorism because they could never come to an agreement on one. The various Departments of our own Government cannot agree on a single definition of terrorism.

All government agencies are required to follow the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA); however, even in following the IRTPA, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), The National Security Agency (N.S.A), The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and The State Department all have different definitions of terrorism. An Internet search on the “definition of terrorism” will give you over 26.7 million results.

I expressed my biggest pet peeve in the counterterror or antiterrorism argument,

How can we, as a country, work together against something when our own government cannot even agree on a single definition?

I am sure that many of you reading this right now, especially anyone who is anyway connected to the Aurora massacre are saying “what difference does it make, a dozen people were murdered and dozens more injured, they were terrorized and it therefore is terrorism”. But when it comes down to the legal system, the court system, charges, trials and convictions, it does matter.

During a press conference, Aurora police Chief Dan Oates explained how James Holmes's “booby-trapped” his apartment. He stated,

“Make no mistake, this apartment was designed ... to kill whoever entered it. And who was most likely to enter that location after he planned and executed his horrific crime? It was going to be a police officer…”

Immediately following that statement virtually every newscaster and pundit I heard stated that “since he [James Holmes] was specifically targeting law enforcement, he had a political agenda and therefore should be charged with terrorism”.

Using that analogy every individual that ever assaulted a law enforcement official should be charged with terrorism as well.

After 9/11 and having studied terror for more than 26 years at the time, I felt that a more complete and accepted definition of ‘terrorism’ was needed. Up to that time, the most concise definition that I found was in the book Political Terrorism by Schmidt and Youngman. They isolated the following recurring elements based on other definitions:

Violence, force (appeared in 83.5 percent of the definitions);

political (65 percent);

fear, emphasis on terror (51 percent);

threats (47 percent);

psychological effects and anticipated reactions (41.5 percent);

discrepancy between the targets and the victims (37.5 percent);

intentional, planned, systematic, organized action (32 percent);

methods of combat, strategy, tactics (30.5 percent).

Working from their definition I wrote my own that still stands today to cover each and every aspect of true ‘terrorism’. Most that I have read excludes combat troops from their definition – as if just because one is a member of the armed services, he cannot be a victim of terrorism. Others that I have read did not include religion, and so on.

As I have explained before,

My definition will not be accepted by terrorist organizations or those states that sponsor it, but I am not trying to be politically correct – nor am I attempting to unite the world on one definition.

Perhaps if the United States and or the United Nations adopted one definition, they would immediately know and understand that as soon as any country or organization dismissed the definition that they are probably terrorists or supporters of terrorism themselves.

The main difference is that I do not make distinctions between domestic or foreign terror, nor do I place terrorism into different categories. It does not matter if you die in the United States or in a foreign country just as it does not matter what type of terrorist kills you. Dead is dead, just as terrorism is terrorism.

My definition is as follows;

A terrorist incident is a premeditated violent act or an act dangerous to human life, which is politically or religiously motivated and perpetrated against noncombatant and combatant targets alike by sub national groups or clandestine agents without regard to race, religion, national origin, gender or age. These acts are intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; influence social objectives; the policy of a government; or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction.

As I stated in the beginning, it is far too early to speculate on motives that James Holmes did or did not have, but as more information trickles out about this man it is seems obvious that he is nothing more than a psychopath with a high IQ.

Looking at history I recall another individual that fell into that same category that murdered more people than James Holmes yet was classified as a ‘mass murderer’, not a terrorist.

Charles Joseph Whitman was a student at the University of Texas at Austin who shot and killed 14 people and wounded 31 others from the observation deck of the University's Main Building of The University of Texas at Austin on August 1, 1966.

Although some reports state that Whitman’s autopsy revealed that he had a brain tumor which may have led to his rampage, he still had no political agenda or anything else that fit the ‘terrorist’ definition.

So, once again you may ask what difference does any of this make. Let us look at Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter. As I explained in my article “Beyond Stupid: Fort Hood Killings are “Workplace Violence”,

Yes, while Major Nidal Hasan screamed “Allah Akbar” as he shot and killed 14 people in cold blood (14 actually died since 21 year old victim Francheska Velez was 3 months pregnant, making two lives in my book) and wounded 29 others, this act was nothing more than “Workplace Violence”.

Nidal Hasan screamed “Allah Akbar” as did the terrorists crashing the planes on 9/11. Evidently people seem to think that “Allah Akbar” translates from Arabic to “Nothing to see here, move along”, rather than “God is great”.

Nidal Hasan has not been charged with so much as even one count of terrorism despite the fact that Hasan exchanged as many as 20 emails with Anwar Awlaki, had ‘SOA’, (Soldier Of Allah) on his business cards and Awlaki declared Hasan a hero, it was still not classified as ‘terrorism’.

The 86 page report by the Pentagon never mentions his motives even though he screamed “Allah Akbar” as he shot his fellow soldiers in cold blood. What’s more is that the words “Islam” or “Muslim” is never mentioned in any of the 86 pages.  Not even once.

What about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas day bomber who successfully set himself on fire while trying to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009?  Three days later, while on vacation in Hawaii, Obama called him an “isolated extremist”. This was after it was already a known fact that he had admitted to being trained and sent by al-Qaeda. Let’s not forget that after a whopping 50 minutes this “isolated extremist” was also read his Miranda Rights and given an attorney.

While ABC News chief investigate correspondent Brian Ross was covering the Colorado theater shooting early Friday morning he did a live report trying to show a possible connection between shooting suspect James Holmes and the Tea Party despite having absolutely no evidence other than the two men shared the same name and location. As it turns out, Ross was wrong. What a shocker. ABC released an apology for the report,

An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect, but that report was incorrect. ABC News and Brian Ross apologize for the mistake, and for disseminating that information before it was properly vetted.

Yes, the main stream media will continue to politicize every tragedy when it gets the chance, I guess they’ll just continue to take former White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel’s advice that “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”.

It doesn’t matter, terrorist or psychopath; after all, it’s only our National Security that’s at stake. Makes one wonder who the ‘Joker’ really is here.

Comments (2)
  • Reese

    Great article, and great breakdown in the difference between a murdering rampage and terrorism.

  • Shoshana  - Murder is murder, no matter the modifiers.

    Homicide: The death of a human being by another. I am glad to see that you did not include this element in your definition of terrorism, as terrorism can take many forms; however murder/homicide never changes, although the states have modified it somewhat. Just as there is no real need to categorize a homicide as a hate crime, terrorism may or may not involve a homicide. Psychopath? Undoubtedly. Tragic? Absolutely. Terrorist? Probably not. Too many young men in their late teens and early 20s develop severe mental disorders. The question in this case and others like it (Tucson, for example) needs to center around and re-examine mental illness in this country and how we, as a society, ignore it. Kudos, Gadi, on a great article!

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