Archive for January, 2011

Terrorist or Lunatic With a Gun

On January 8th, 2011, at approximately ten o’clock in the morning, alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner approached United States Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) during a public political event held at a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona. At that time, Loughner shot Congresswoman Giffords in the head. Then Loughner turned his weapon on several citizens standing in a line to meet Giffords and indiscriminately shot them. According to the Washington Post, Loughner allegedly discharged approximately 31 rounds in 15 seconds, killing six and wounding 13 people before witnesses tackled him to the ground.

The alleged actions of Jared Lee Loughner created a political windstorm in regards to gun laws, mental health care and political rhetoric accountability and responsibility. Yet, nagging questions still linger; why did Loughner do it? Is he a terrorist or just a lunatic with a gun? With all of this in mind, it begs the question; was the Tucson shooting an act of domestic terrorism or the acts of an emotionally disturbed person?

In order to assume the appropriate socially required label for this event, several key components must be examined. First, Loughner’s mental culpability (mens rea) has to be considered. Mental culpability refers to the mindset of the individual perpetrating the act –whether he or she knowingly, intentionally, negligently or recklessly commits a crime.

According to the timeline released by authorities, the night before and the morning of the shooting, Loughner was busy. He dropped off film at a Walgreens and checked himself into a Motel 6. He posted a statement on Myspace telling his friends not to hate him and eventually made his way to a Wal-Mart, at which time he purchased ammunition and a black bag (Nakamura, Horwitz, Hedgpeth, 2011).

Shortly thereafter, Jared Loughner summoned a taxicab that picked him up at a Circle K and drove him to the Safeway. Upon arrival, the taxi driver and Loughner enter the Safeway together, at approximately 09:54 am, in order for Loughner to break a $20.00 bill to cover his taxi fare (Nakamura, et al., 2011).

The Washington Post reported that Loughner was seen in security videos exiting the store and intentionally circling back around towards Congresswoman Giffords’ public event. The security video showed how Loughner quickly approached Giffords with the firearm in his hand next to his leg. Loughner knowingly raised the firearm and shot Giffords in the face, just above the left eye, from less than 3 feet away. After which, Loughner turned his firearm on the attendees and intentionally shot them until he was subdued, by witnesses, while attempting to re-load his firearm (Nakamura, Horwitz, Markon, 2011)

The image conjured up by the published timeline is that of a calculated and premeditated act of violence, not the crazed psychotic lone gunman on the brink of a mental collapse first reported. It is, of course, important to consider Loughner’s “bizarre” behavior months, if not years, before this event. However, Loughner’s behavior, actions and decisions the night before and the morning of the shooting indicate that his mental culpability was knowingly and intentionally to commit this crime.

It should be noted: on 01/19/2011, ABC News created a virtual re-enactment video depicting Loughner’s deliberate actions during his shooting rampage. The video was constructed from the images captured by several security cameras in the immediate area: Jared Lee Loughner Surveillance Re-Enactment in Virtual Reality 1/19/2011 .

Secondly, in order to label an act an act of “domestic terrorism”, it is imperative to know the legal definition of “domestic terrorism.” According to the United States Criminal Code: Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 113B, Section 2331 defines the term “domestic terrorism” to mean activities that:

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended
(1) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(2) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(3) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States (Cornell Law School, n.d.).

The first element required is an act dangerous to human life in violation of federal or state law. Jared Loughner allegedly shot 19 people, in which 6 were killed, thus fulfilling the first required element.

Next, the act appears to be intended to influence government policy by intimidation. The act of an attempted assassination of a US Congresswoman is, in itself an intimidating act. Furthermore, Loughner’s self published rhetoric regarding how US currency is not legitimate, he will be the treasurer of a new currency, how words have no meaning, rants about the US government’s involvement in the September 11th terrorist attacks, as well as how the US government was trying to trick him (New York Times, 2011) reflects discontent with the current government policy and wanting change.

Additionally, on Loughner’s personal youtube channel he declares “I define [a] terrorist”. He writes: “…a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.” This “self-determined” declaration increases the probability that the shooting rampage was a premeditated act.

The third element, to affect the conduct of a government by assassination is not a required element, but simply an additional category for an act to fall within. In this incident, Loughner’s attempted assassination of Giffords is self-explanatory and all “normal” political conduct came to an abrupt halt directly after the incident. Lastly, the act took place on US soil.

In the final analysis, Loughner’s actions indicate that he knowingly and intentionally shot US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the additional 18 victims. This act exudes a warped perversion of political ideology and motivation.

Also, according to the United States Criminal Code’s definition of “domestic terrorism”, this act fulfilled the required elements to be labeled “domestic terrorism.” Therefore, based on the totality of the circumstances and the known facts surrounding this case at the time of writing, Jared Lee Loughner is a terrorist and is responsible for committing an act of “domestic terrorism” in Tucson, Arizona.


ABC News. (2011, January 19) Jared lee loughner surveillance re-enactment in virtual reality. ABC News. Retrieved from

Cornell University Law School. (n.d.) Title 18: Legal information institute. Retrieved from—-000-.html

Nakamura, D., Horwitz, S., Hedgpeth, D. (2011, January 19) In videos, details of shooting emerge. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Nakamura, D., Horwitz, S., Markon, J. (2011, January 15) Police depict a busy, focused loughner on morning of shooting. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

New York Times. (2011, January 19) Jared Lee Loughner. New York Times. Retrieved from

PenPal cooperation: A View From Europe On Tucson Shooting

Stevo Pendarovski – photo by BalkanInsight
Stevo Pendarovski – Assistant Professor of International Security, Foreign Policy and Globalization at University American College Skopje
The view is actually coming from the Balkans, due to my belief that the peninsula is more than the geographic part of the continent. Why is necessary to define the spot before entering the debate about the shooting in Tucson?
Because there are certain similarities: it is peculiar, but true, that in the entire Balkan region terrorists have always had different ethnic backgrounds from the people who have defined their acts. Political propaganda has routinely reinvigorated stereotypes that members of our nation are “not capable” of executing acts of terrorism.
The most visible local examples: post 9/11 period was especially charged with accusations in the Serbian media promoting terrorists among ethnic Albanians on a daily basis, while the latter mechanically blamed the entire Serbian nation for the persistent state-sponsored “politics of terror”.
Or example No.2: Macedonians have blamed Albanians for terrorist rebellion in their country in the same time when Albanians blamed Macedonians for the “state terror” which allegedly provoked their armed resistance etc. Some pseudo experts had even publicly sworn that terrorism icon Bin Laden, have been quite frequent visitor to the region.
Pending globally acceptable definition on terrorism, it is safe to say that Tucson shooting was an act of terror, almost by default: first, a political target, second, an indiscriminate killing of civilians.
While waiting for the whole picture to emerge from the ongoing investigation, some clues about the political motives of the detained person did exist. Within this context I saw almost no values in the comments about the confused mind or lack of sound political concept on the part of the assumed killer.
I doubt that Timothy McVeigh in 1995 and later has neatly ordered political thoughts or was capable arguing about the weak spots of post-modern American society.Additionally, neither have we needed structured political organization behind the perpetrator.
There is an interesting recent example from Netherlands: Mohammed Bouyeri who had murdered Dutch director Theo van Gogh in 2004 has alleged terrorist ties with the so-called Hofstad Network, but, had not received an order by this organization to kill.
The qualification for his act as terrorism persisted even when three years ago a Dutch court was unable to confirm that such an organizations did exist at all.
In Europe extremism and violence had never been a crime by itself, but, had denoted either a style in politics or a core feature of specific crimes. I would argue that terrorism is constituted of violence and is extreme by its nature, but is not synonymous with these two terms.

Terrorism: by nature or by press?

The word “terrorism” conjures up sentiment beyond its dictionary definition. In his article “The New McCarthyism: Repeating History in the War on Terrorism,” David Cole argues that the war on terror allows the government “simultaneously to repeat history and to insist that it is not repeating history,” bringing about panic akin to that of the Red Scare (Cole 1). However, government does not hold this power exclusively. Without even uttering the term, news media can produce terrorist scares. When treated inappropriately by leaders of the public sphere, any event evokes sentiments of panic and fear— from act of terror to isolated tragedy. Before news coverage and government response, the Tucson shootings may have just been the latter. But news and government transformed tragedy into terror.

In order to decide whether Jared Loughner’s actions alone qualify as an act of terrorism, one must first define the term. According to Title 18 of the US Code on the Cornell University Law School website, “the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States 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 United States

This definition makes Jared Loughner a terrorist. Shooting and killing a judge endangers life, breaks criminal laws, and affects government. But any shooting could satisfy those criteria because most violence “intimidate[s]… a civilian population.” Perhaps the US Code’s definition is too vague.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation calls terrorism “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (Federal Bureau of Investigation) European states say that terrorism is a “specific offence… that may seriously damage a country… and is committed for the purpose of intimidating the population, forcing a third party to act or destabilizing or destroying the fundamental structures of a country…” (Terrorism handout) Loughner might be a terrorist under this definition, but to know, we would have to be him. While court cases can reach a formal ruling about whether or not an act falls under this definition, one’s true motives remain forever unsubstantiated. A definition contingent upon a person’s purpose for acting fails to define much. Of course, killing thousands and publicly announcing the intent to destabilize isn’t too vague—one can make some safe assumptions. But these definitions do little to address smaller crimes.

Definitions agreed upon by states function only for large acts of terror because large acts of terror are what the states writing these definitions have in mind. The definitions’ lack of clarity implicitly reveals that before even defining terrorism on paper, states have begun to define it internally— as something enormous. While terrorism intimidates the population, the idea of terrorism intimidates the officials who define it. This menacing conception doesn’t originate solely with government officials. It rises also from the media, feeding and feeding upon itself, fulfilling its definition every time the news implicitly defines it.

Ominous intro music, a somber or outraged tone of voice, and bold text accompany news reports about terrorism. Phrases like “war on terror” and “radical Islamic extremism” alert the audience that terror is a very real threat. Visual and verbal tactics combined attempt to scare viewers . As much as the day’s events compose the front page of the paper, the front page of the paper composes the day’s events—at least in the audience’s mind. A crime as minor as domestic assault might garner a few shaking heads, or it might intimidate an entire neighborhood and thus become terrorism under US code, depending upon how the neighbors hear about it.

Was the shooting in Tucson an act of terrorism? It was when Jan Brewer wanted America to see her as Arizona’s bold yet tactful leader, even in the face of the “tragedy and terror” (Full text…). It was when reporters, eager to get the story first, mistakenly pronounced Gabrielle Giffords dead It was when news zoomed slowly in on Loughner’s YouTube page , captivating viewers, but unsettling them as well. For the most part, the media did not include the term “terrorism” in reports of the incident, perhaps because it occurred in isolation. Yet, if Loughner had a support network or better logistics, his sentiment would still present a threat. Would the media then refer to him as a terrorist? Does capability qualify actions as terrorism? If so, government and media assist Loughner in becoming a terrorist because without their response and reporting, his actions would only have unnerved those in the Safeway parking lot. Terror depends on those who tell of it. Politicians, entertainers, and reporters all play a critical role in knowledge production for the general public. Thus, in the absence of a universal definition, terrorism is whichever crime those in the public eye use to grab attention.

Works Cited

Cole, D. 2003. The New McCarthyism: Repeating History in the War on Terrorism. Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 74. 19 January 2011.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2005. Terrorism: 2002-2005. Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice. 26 January 2011.

2011. Full text of Gov. Jan Brewer’s State of the State address. AZ Capitol 20 January 2011.

2010. United States Code. Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School. Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113B, § 2331. 19 January 2011.

Was The Shooting In Tucson An Act Of Terrorism?

Aleksandra Dukovska
Jared Lee Loughner with his enigmatic and somewhat of Mona Lisa smile hide the key answer to the motives he had to committed the crime and used the gun in Tucson to shoot at Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
Did he shoot at the idea for “Congress on your corner”? Did he wanted to send a message to the government?
Did he deliberately shoot at the member of Congress Gabrielle Giffords, killed and wounded other officials and civilians? Did “not-guilty” plea is another sign of alleged health problem issues he has or of the more serous motives he had behind when he decided to pull the gun?
Could Jared Lee Loughner be perceived as “homegrown terrorist”?
The USA President Barak Obama toned down the discussion of the possible motives of Jared Lee Loughner and FBI didn’t charged him with terrorism. Despite the general public opinion that he is inane, I would like to consider the possibility he committed the crime to shoot and wound the American values in the society.
It was political commentator Keith Olbermann who first named Jared Lee Loughner as “alleged terrorist” in the special commentary he gave in his “Countdown” TV show on MSNBC in the aftermath of Tucson shootings on January 8.
‘Even if the alleged terrorist Jared Lee Loughner was merely shooting into a political crowd, even if he somehow was unaware who was in the crowd, we have nevertheless for years been building up to a moment like this’, said Olbermann in MSNBC “Countdown” TV Show, and asked for a change in the country political rhetoric to ‘prevent acts of domestic terrorism.’
Olbermann’s background is politically biased and his opinion to fingered the culprit towards the intolerant right-wing politicians was the strongest language used by the media after the rampage in Tucson. While it was easy for Olbermann to named Loughner as “alleged terrorist” and blamed the politics for shooting in Tucson, inside the political spectrum the answer of the question was the shooting in Tucson an act of terrorism is not easy to find.
Two days after the shooting happened Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referred the violence in Tucson as extremism. She urged for a better cooperation against violence and pointed out that America is facing extremists on the ground. Following the news, ABC’s House correspondent Jake Tapper wrote that the label ‘extremist’ in that context suggested a political motivation.”
If we compare two words “extremist” and “terrorist” we will find that the common ground for both of them is political motivation. Although State Secretary Clinton spoke and used the term “extremism, President Barak Obama toned down with his speech at University of Arizona memorial event ‘Together we thrive: Tucson and America’ for the victims of Tucson shooting.
“President Obama and officials in the law enforcement community have been more circumspect in their public remarks, suggesting it is to early to ascribe motive, wrote Tapper.  However, Daniel L. Byman a professor in the Security Studies Program of Georgetown University noted in Washington Post commentary that, “Some government officials, however, at least raise the issue of shooting” as a terrorist act.
The voice of State Secretary Hillary Clinton was not the only one in the political spectrum. In her State of the State speech delivered on January 10, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer stated “tragedy and terror sometimes come from the shadows-and steel joy and take away our peace.”
Later, the calming tone prevailed in the following statements of Governor Brewer for Tucson rampage. Representative Jesse L.Jackson Jr. in his column concluded “from the shooting of Lincoln to the events in Tucson, there is a thread that liberals and conservatives have ignored.” He advocates that each event carried out by “antigovernment activists should be considered as terror.”
Despite the voices of officials that appealed on labeling and naming of the Tucson shooting as political motivated act, the public debate moved in the direction how to have better mental health and towards pro or anti gun rhetoric.
Joshua Sanders, who writes on blog on faith in the American society, opened the question about religion and terrorism. ‘I’ve been more interested in the lack of discussion of Loughner’s actions as evidence of domestic terrorism,’ wrote
Sanders in her blog named “Domestic terrorism and religion” from January 19.
In her writing, Sanders is skeptical and concludes that if Jared Lee Loughner were Muslim, the first phrase to ‘bubble up to the surface would have been domestic terrorism, defined by the U.S. Patriotic act.
However, the federal grand jury in Tucson didn’t mentioned domestic terrorism and charged Loughner with the ‘attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the attempted murders of her aides Ron Barber and Pam Simon.
Is this a good decision? Why in the public and among the political spectrum prevailed the moderate language, rather than charging Loughner for ‘domestic terrorism’? What we can conclude if we use the terms “extremism” and “terror” to describe the “lonely wolf” attack in Tucson?
Security expert Daniel Byman gave the answer in his column in the Washington Post after the shooting in Tucson. He advise that the overuse of the ‘terrorism’ label is even more dangerous because while foreign terrorists unite Americans in defiance, political violence at home can divide us.
Byman wrote on pro and anti gun voices who want to spin up Loughner alleged deeds and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has accused her political opponents of manufacturing a ‘blood libel.’
He concludes that in a such climate, saying that Loughner is a terrorist implies the pro-gun side is no-simply wrong, but moreover it is ‘a threat to the security of the United States’.
“Americans are mystified and mourning after the shooting in Tucson. There is no good way to explain why Loughner allegedly did what he did. However, there is the way to categorize it: Tragedy in Tucson-not terror, wrote Byman in Washington Post column “Was is it tragedy in Tucson? Or Terror?
If we consult the FBI memo in search to define “homegrown terrorism” and apply to Loughner case we will see that one dot is missing. According the FBI memo domestic terrorism is unlawful use of violence committed by a group of two or more individuals, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
Under the USA Patriot Act, domestic terrorism are acts that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, appear to intimidate a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government, to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnaping and geographically are located in the USA.
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Terrorism and the Press

This blog is an integral part of a special section of Honors 394 Spring 2010, Arizona State University. Rather than a routine history course this dynamic, interactive seminar explores the interplay between terrorism and television, and other media sources on-line and in print. 26 students and their global pen pals comprise the bloggers. We welcome all to share their opinions, pertinent observations, insights, comments, feedback. Please post in a responsible manner.