Criminal Behavior As Terrorist Actions


In this discussion, you will explore motivations behinds a person’s decision to utilize terror as a weapon. You will discuss the criminal nature of mass violence incidents that have occurred within the United States and the related terror these incidents created and how our criminal and civil legal systems process these type of cases. Many of these motivations or intents can be categorized into four sub-types—left-wing, right-wing, single issue, and international. The intent of these behaviors is when the psychologist focuses on the why factors to increase our understanding of what type of variables may contribute or increase probability of these crimes.

Some examples of self-initiated extremist offenders who have committed these acts resulting in terror are Ted Kaczynski, Christopher Dormer, Timothy McVeigh, Erik Harris, Seung-Hui Cho, Charles Whitman, and the Tsarnaev brothers, among many others.

When responding to these types of incidents the criminal justice system is more focused initially on the threat assessment aspect of the crime having been committed and less interest in what lead up to the crime. However, once the injured have been attended to and the scene rendered safe, the law enforcement function of evidence collection, locating witnesses, and following up on leads that lead back to the causation of the crime are fulfilled.

Here, we reflect on both a comprehensive picture of the offender and the role they viewed their victims as playing in their act and how the victims view themselves as targets of such acts. The National Institute of Justice has conducted studies to determine patterns for each group and characteristics that overlap between the categories. One of the resources for this discussion is an article that sums up the studies—”A Look at Terrorist Behavior: How They Prepare, Where They Strike” from National Institute of Justice. Just keep in mind the differences between established terror organizations and their use of terror and individuals who create an environment of terror as a direct result of incidences of mass violence that they create.

Other resources for this discussion are the Bureau of Counterterrorism and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). This type of research will often answer your socioeconomic questions relative to an individual’s participation or motivation to participate in these extremist organizations. The left navigation bar on Bureau of Counterterrorism Web site leads to many interesting items that you may want to use for this discussion.

Choose a terrorist organization as the basis for your discussion. You may choose any terrorist organization but be assured that you will find plenty of information by searching the U.S. Department of State Web site for any of these:

  • Al-Qaeda.
  • Boko Haram.
  • ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
  • ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham).
  • The Haqqani Network.


In your main post:

  • Identify your chosen organization.
  • Provide a description of who you think a typical member terrorist may be with regard to gender, race, age, and socioeconomic status. Check out the profiles you will see on the NCTC site for specific details on known terrorists.
  • Describe the use of forensic assessment information, penalties, burden of proof, and key players when a terrorist is recognized as a criminal in our legal system. For insight on this issue, you might want to search this question, “What happens to terrorists in our legal system?”
  • Explain your ideas on the causes of this criminal behavior using the unit readings. Justify your answers by integrating at least two different psychological theories into your explanation.

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