Domestic terrorism has existed and influenced the political and social structure of the United States, to varying degrees, since this country's inception. The United States Department of Justice defines domestic terrorism as: "The unlawful use of force or violence, committed by a group(s) of two or more individuals, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."1
Historically there have been limited cases or incidents of domestic terrorism in which active duty military personnel have been involved or implicated, most probably due to the rigid structure and character of the military environment. Although terrorism has plagued governments, and public and private institutions for centuries in one form or another, its application and the strategies associated with it have evolved as surely as the societies upon which it is imposed. Technological advances particularly in the transportation, communication and weapons field, have facilitated the abilities of modern-day domestic terrorist groups to get their message out and has improved their capacity to take violent action to achieve their goals. Recent incidents, particularly the Weaver family incident at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the incident at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, have brought into question the extent to which government interdiction of armed citizen groups is actually legitimate before it violates their Constitutional civil rights. Additionally, to what extent is the use of force against these groups acceptable In February of 1995, President Clinton introduced a counterterrorism bill into the Senate and House of Representatives. Among other extremely controversial proposals in the bill, the Department of Defense would be assigned an increased role in assisting in the investigation of domestic terrorism incidents in which chemical and biological agents were used (currently the military can be utilized in cases of terrorism in which nuclear weapons or devices are suspected or confirmed).2
Although the increased role for the military would be very limited, requiring further amendment to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, civil liberties experts warn that it would violate the tenants of "civil supremacy over the military" and would further kindle the animosities and anti-government sentiment of the citizen-militias and conspiracy theorists.3 Additionally, many Congressmen, law-enforcement officials and some military advisers agree that such uses of the military would be an extremely dangerous avenue of approach to combating domestic terrorism.
There are basically four categories into which groups that are regarded as domestic terrorists can be distinguished currently existing in the United States. These groups can be generically delineated as being either motivated by: (1) religious