Terrorism is the use of force or violence against persons or property
in violation of the criminal laws of the United States for purposes
of intimidation, coercion or ransom. Terrorists often use threats
to create fear among the public, to try to convince citizens that
their government is powerless to prevent terrorism, and to get immediate
publicity for their causes.
The Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) categorizes terrorism in the United States
as one of two types--domestic terrorism or international terrorism.
Domestic terrorism involves groups or individuals whose terrorist
activities are directed at elements of our government or population
without foreign direction. International terrorism involves groups
or individuals whose terrorist activities are foreign-based and/or
directed by countries or groups outside the United States or whose
activities transcend national boundaries.
BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS
Biological agents are infectious microbes or toxins used to produce
illness or death in people, animals or plants. Biological agents
can be dispersed as aerosols or airborne particles. Terrorists may
use biological agents to contaminate food or water because they
are extremely difficult to detect. Chemical agents kill or incapacitate
people, destroy livestock or ravage crops. Some chemical agents
are odorless and tasteless and are difficult to detect. They can
have an immediate effect (a few seconds to a few minutes) or a delayed
effect (several hours to several days).
Biological and chemical weapons have been used primarily to terrorize
an unprotected civilian population and not as a weapon of war. This
is because of fear of retaliation and the likelihood that the agent
would contaminate the battlefield for a long period of time. The
Persian Gulf War in 1991 and other confrontations in the Middle
East were causes for concern in the United States regarding the
possibility of chemical or biological warfare. While no incidents
occurred, there remains a concern that such weapons could be involved
in an accident or be used by terrorists.