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Computer terrorism: What are the risks?

Chapter 1: Terrorism


The term " terrorism " appears for the first time in 1798 when the philosopher Emmanuel Kant uses it, strangely, to describe a pessimistic view of the destiny of humanity. The same year, one finds the term in a supplement to the large Dictionary of the French Academy; it evokes excesses of revolutionary Terror then and thus does not have the meaning that we accord to it today. We refer, generally, to the action of clandestine movements which target the government of a country with an aim of radically reversing its political and social command: it is not only the State which is aimed, but the entire social system [BONA94]

Let us look at some other definitions:

"Terrorism: The systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion" (WWWebster Dictionary)

" Terrorism: Set of acts of violence made by an organization to create a climate of insecurity or to reverse the established government. " [LAROUS83]

(...) The terrorism be thus primarily a strategy intended to unbalance a country or a regime, use the subversion and the violence on a medium or a institution in crisis to contribute with disorder, the day before of a revolution or a war of conquest carried out by a foreign power(...) " [ENCYCL89]

It is advisable to add to these definitions, the use of terrorism as a means of pressure. In the case of international terrorism, the attacks are generally used to create pressure on a government by means of public opinion, in order to obtain something precise such as the release of a prisoner or stopping the export of weapons to a certain country.

Forms of terrorism

Terrorism can take various forms. Luigi Bonanate [BONA94] proposes following classification:

First of all, it is necessary to distinguish internal terrorism and international terrorism. Internal terrorism includes at the same time the terrorism of State (terror) and revolutionary terrorism, according to whether it is a question of reinforcing or of destroying the State. The State can apply the reign of terror or use the terrorism of State, as when one shows it to support destabilizing terrorist actions with an aim of reinforcing the central authority. The State can be finally at the origin of aggressive forms of terrorism, when, for example, during the war, it ordered massive bombardments to frighten the enemy (bombardment of Dresden, February 7-15, 1945) or to definitively discourage it (atomic bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August 6, and 9 1945).

There are also various types of international terrorism. Initially, comes independence or separatist terrorism, which are movements that wish to overcome a colonial domination or to constitute an independent State or even sometimes to link itself to another State than that to which they belong. By nature, independence terrorism is always international, because it carries its strikes beyond the borders of the concerned territory. this is the case of Palestinian terrorism. On the other hand, one can find a colonialist terrorism that aims to preserve the sovereignty of a State on a colony.

To supplement this picture, it is advisable to evoke an ultimate form of recourse to terror on a planetary scale, even if it comes out of the specific problems of terrorism: it is about " the balance of terror ". This formula summarizes the policy led by the United States and the Soviet Union (until the dissolution of the latter), in order to freeze the international order resulting from the Second World war, via the threat of a total nuclear destruction.

In 1937, after the attack against the king of Yugoslavia and the French minister Louis Barthou in October 1934 in the city of Marseilles (France), the LON (League Of Nations) drew up a International Convention which was signed in Geneva on November 16 1937 by twenty-five countries (except Italy and the United States). This convention defined overall the terrorist acts as " criminal facts directed against a State and of which the goal or nature is to cause terror towards determined personalities, groups of people or the population " (article 2). The signatories of the text thus drew up the detailed list of the various forms of terrorism:

  1. Facts intentionally directed against the life, the physical integrity, health or freedom of:
    1. heads of States, people who exert the prerogatives of head of State, their hereditary or designated successors;
    2. husband or wife of the above peoples;
    3. invested people of functions or public offices when the above-mentioned fact was made because of the functions or the responsibilities which these people exert.
  2. The fact of destroying or of intentionally damaging public goods or goods intended for a public use, which belong to another State signatory or which belong to the State.
  3. The fact of intentionally endangering human lives in order to create a common danger.
  4. The attempt to commit offences envisaged by the preceding provisions of this article.
  5. The fact of manufacturing, of getting, of holding or of providing weapons, ammunition, explosive products or harmful substances for the execution, in any country, of an infringement envisaged by this article [BONA94]

Evolution of international terrorism

The tenth annual International Conference on Criminal Justice Issue 1, joined together, among other things, at the end of July 1995, current and old members of the FBI, the American State and the Defense Departments, Argentinean and Israeli anti-terrorists experts.

It was learnt from this conference, that in the future, the use of weapons causing much more civilian victims is very probable. According to Peter Probst (DoD), the ethnic or religious terrorist groups will not be reticent to cause a great number of victims, whereas the old political terrorist groups hesitated to do it, fearing to lose the possibility of population support. Moreover, the attack with toxic gas, in Japan, broke the taboo of using chemical weapons [FANNING95]

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