What is Terrorism?

As a nation, America has been dealing with terrorism and terrorists since 1784, under President Thomas Jefferson's administration.  Every decade since then has come with new terrorist groups, and new types of terrorism.  Many times America and Americans have been the targets of such groups and their acts, both abroad and at home.

The Federal Bureau of Investiga­tion (FBI) defines both international and domestic terrorism as:  "the unlawful use of force against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in the further­ance of political or social objectives."  

Terrorists may not be part of an organized, centralized group any longer.  They can be self-radicalized, lone-wolves that have been inspired to act.  Either way, their goals remain the same. 

Terrorist acts are intended to cause mass casualties and panic; produce a loss of critical resources; and disrupt vital services and the economy.  They may take the form of bombings, armed assault, cyber attacks, biological and/or chemical attacks, or radioactive material attacks. 

Move, or leave, if you feel uncomfortable, or if something does not seem right.  Notify the authorities of your concern - See Something...Say Something.

See Something...Say Something!

It's a fact that certain kinds of activities can indicate terrorist plans that are in the works, especially when they occur at or near high profile sites or places where large numbers of people gather—like government buildings, military facilities, utilities, bus or train stations, and major public events.  

Visiting these places is part of our way of life. You should not avoid them, but be alert to your surroundings, and those around you, when you visit them. 

If you see or know about suspicious activities, like the ones listed below, please report them immediately to the proper authorities.

  • Surveillance: Are you aware of anyone video recording or monitoring activities, taking notes, using cameras, maps, binoculars, etc., near key facilities/events?

  • Suspicious Questioning: Are you aware of anyone attempting to gain information in person, by phone, mail, email, etc., regarding a key facility or people who work there?

  • Tests of Security: Are you aware of any attempts to penetrate or test physical security or procedures at a key facility/event?

  • Acquiring Supplies: Are you aware of anyone attempting to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, uniforms, badges, flight manuals, access cards or identification for a key facility/event or to legally obtain items under suspicious circumstances that could be used in a terrorist attack?

  • Suspicious Persons: Are you aware of anyone who does not appear to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment, or near a key facility/event?

  • "Dry Runs": Have you observed any behavior that appears to be preparation for a terrorist act, such as mapping out routes, playing out scenarios with other people, monitoring key facilities/events, timing traffic lights or traffic flow, or other suspicious activities?

  • Deploying Assets: Have you observed abandoned vehicles, stockpiling of suspicious materials, or persons being deployed near a key facility/event?

How can I help?

Report anything that appears suspicious, or out of the ordinary, by calling 9-1-1 or your local FBI office.  You can also report suspected terrorism or criminal activity to the FBI on-line at:  https://tips.fbi.gov. Describe specifically what you observed, including:

  • Who or what you saw
  • When you saw it
  • Where it occurred
  • Why it is suspicious

How can I prepare?

Preparing for acts of terrorism depends largely on the type of act being committed.  You may need to evacuate an area, stay where you are, or shelter-in-place.  Always know where emergency exits are located in buildings you frequent.   

  • For suspicious packages/vehicles:
  • Recognize that there is a hazard
  • Avoid any contact with the suspicious item
  • Isolate the suspicious item, create a perimeter, and prevent anyone from approaching it
  • Notify authorities – 9-1-1
  • Get as far away as possible, as fast as possible, and find something to hide behind

For armed assaults:

  • The FBI (www.fbi.gov) provides a quick reference guide titled:  Active Shooter Event Quick Reference Guide.

For chemical, radioactive, and/or biological threats:

  • You may need to shelter-in-place; directions are found on page 6 of this All Hazards Guide on how to do this.

When you travel:

  • Keep your identification papers in a secure place at all times.
  • Cooperate with security officials.