Redefining Terrorism

Scenario Two: Redefining Terrorism

You are a legislative director for Senator Ortolan Finisterre (D-VT). Finisterre serves on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (the PATRIOT Act) required a periodic reauthorization of its provisions. Senator Finisterre has always believed that domestic terrorism was poorly defined under the PATRIOT Act, its successor, the USA FREEDOM Act and in the US Code. The senator has asked you to review the literature and provide tworecommendations to amend the act

The current definition under the former USA PATRIOT Act states that domestic terrorism:

“(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended— (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

Prepare a one-page memo for the Senator, providing two recommendations to amend the definition of domestic terrorism under the PATRIOT Act, based on your review of literature presented in class, assigned readings or external sources.

Your recommendations may also include deleting portions of the definition, so long as you provide rationale. Make sure to provide rationale and data for your recommendations.

Scenario Three: The Terrorist Next Door

This case study is based on a series of real events. Zach Chesser is a white, middle-class American who was raised in the northern Virginia suburbs outside of Washington, DC. Over the course of 2 years, from the time he graduated high school until his eventual arrest and conviction, Chesser moved through a radicalization and mobilization process.

ACTION: Your audience is your professor. Evaluate the timeline provided below against your readings, and the lecture on radicalization.

This one-page assignment has three parts:

  • Identify Chesser’s radicalization, using the assigned readings (e.g. Moghaddam, NCTC, Alomari), lecture notes and the timeline.
  • Explain in the memo at what point a crime may have been committed, in your opinion. Use evidence/data from the readings.
  • Explain what obligations law enforcement had to protect his first amendment activities as well as what obligations law enforcement had a duty to act, or at least, monitor his behavior.

Zachary Adam Chesser: A Timeline

  • December 22, 1989: Zachary Adam Chesser is born in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Spring 2008: Chesser graduates from Oakton High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, where he participated in high school sports, joined a break-dancing team, and spent 4 years studying Japanese.
  • Summer 2008: Chesser converts to Islam while playing on a soccer team organized by a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist political organization that has radical, but not officially “terrorist” positions. Three months after converting to Islam, Chesser obtained a copy of several lectures by Al Qaeda operative, the American born Anwar al-Aulaqi. Chesser soon became a devoted adherent to the radical cleric, frequently visiting al-Aulaqi‟s web site for guidance. Al-Aulaqi was a U.S. citizen and U.S. Government designated terrorist who inspired dozens of homegrown terrorists to commit violent acts.
  • Fall 2008: Chesser begins his undergraduate studies at George Mason University in Virginia, where he studied for one semester before dropping out.
  • November 2008: Chesser‟s anti-American writings appear for the first time on Anwar al-Aulaqi‟s blog.
  • January 2009: Chesser corresponds with Proscovia Nzabanita, the daughter of a Muslim Ugandan diplomat, through al-Aulaqi‟s blog.
  • March 2009: Chesser marries Proscovia Nzabanita.
  • November 2009: Nzabanita gives birth to Chesser‟s son. Chesser unsuccessfully attempts to travel to Somalia with Nzabanita.
  • December 2009: Chesser creates his own radical web site, themujahidblog.com, which is intended to be “a web site dedicated to those who give their lives for this religion.” Chesser was a member of, and prolific contributor to, at least six terrorist online forums; the creator of three YouTube terrorist propaganda channels; the holder of at least two Twitter accounts; the manager of an active Facebook profile; and the creator and author of two stand-alone online blogs advocating violent Islamist extremism
  • April 2010: Chesser issues a violent threat through a video on YouTube to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of the television show “South Park,” following the release of a South Park episode in which the Muslim Prophet Muhammad is shown dressed in a bear costume.
  • July 10, 2010: Chesser is questioned at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City by airport officials after being denied boarding on a flight to Uganda with his infant son.
  • July 14, 2010: Chesser is interviewed by the FBI after trying to travel to Somalia, and informs an agent that he had decided against joining al-Shabaab after the group took responsibility for bombings in Kampala, Uganda that killed 76 people on July 11, 2010.
  • July 21, 2010: Chesser is arrested by the FBI on charges of providing material support to al-Shabaab.
  • October 20, 2010: Chesser pleads guilty to three Federal felony charges: (1) communicating threats to Parker and Stone; (2) soliciting violent Islamist extremists to desensitize law enforcement by placing suspicious-looking but innocent packages in public places; and (3) attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
  • February 24, 2011: Chesser is sentenced to serve 25 years in Federal prison. His current date of release is in 2032.
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