Domestic terrorism or homegrown terrorism is a form of terrorism in which victims “within a country are targeted by a perpetrator with the same citizenship” as the victims.[1] There are many definitions of terrorism, and none of them are universally accepted. The United States Department of State defined terrorism in 2003 as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.”[1] However, the U.S. government cannot charge someone with domestic terrorism because no such criminal law exists.[2]

While there are many potential definitions of domestic terrorism, it is largely defined as terrorism in which the perpetrator targets his/her own country. Enders defines domestic terrorism as “homegrown in which the venue, target, and perpetrators are all from the same country.”[3] The term “homegrown terrorism” stems from jihadi terrorism against Westerners. Wilner and Dobouloz described homegrown terrorism as “autonomously organized radicalized Westerners with little direct assistance from transnational networks, usually organized within the home or host country, and targets fellow nationals.”[4] The Congressional Research Service report, American Jihadist Terrorism: Combatting a Complex Threat, describes homegrown terrorism as a “terrorist activity or plots perpetuated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, permanent legal residents, or visitors radicalized largely within the United States.”[5]

Under the 2001 USA Patriot Act, domestic terrorism is defined as “activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the U.S. 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 U.S.” This definition is made for the purposes of authorizing law enforcement investigations. While international terrorism (“acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries”) is a defined crime in federal law

,[6] no federal criminal offense exists which is referred to as “domestic terrorism”. Acts of domestic terrorism are federally charged under specific laws, such as killing federal agents or “attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce”.

[7] Some state and local governments in the United States do have domestic crimes called “terrorism”,[8] including the District of Columbia.[9]