Who is really a terrorist … and who isn’t?
Ahmad Rahami, the man accused of planting bombs in Seaside Park and Chelsea section of New York, and leaving a backpack of explosives near an NJ Transit station in Elizabeth, has made no secret of his hatred of America.
But what about other individuals who launch attacks in malls or plant explosive devices in populated areas. Are all of them "terrorists" as well?
“Anyone who puts a bomb in any place that could harm individuals, that’s an act of terrorism,” Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said Monday.
But according to Randy Sutton, a law enforcement terror expert and a national spokesman for Blue Lives Matter, it's not that simple.
“Terrorism is the commission of an act or a threat to commit an act of violence for political purposes, in order to achieve a political end. That’s what separates any old violent act. It’s the motivation behind it,” he said.
So what about someone mentally disturbed who sees something on TV or online and decides to “join the cause” by building a bomb and setting it off in a shopping center— should that person be considered a terrorist?
“If they are doing it in order to achieve a political end, the answer to that is yes,” said Sutton.
He stressed the fact that someone may or may not be crazy doesn’t play into how we define an act of terror.
“Who doesn’t have a screw loose if he’s willing to strap on a suicide vest and blow themselves up? Everybody that does that has a mental problem as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “What normal sane individual wants to plant a device that is going to maim and kill other people? That isn’t normal behavior.”
In other words: “Whether someone has emotional or mental issues really is not part of the process in determining if someone is committing a terrorist act. If the ideology is what inspired the violence and they have committed that act in the name to further that goal, then yeah that’s a terrorist incident."
He stressed there can be a terrifying act that is not terrorism.
“It comes down to what they hope to gain, what is the motivation,” he said.
Sutton pointed out initially when the bombings in New York and New Jersey took place several days ago, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was hesitant to label it as an act of terrorism because it’s wasn’t clear yet what the motivation was.
He added organizations like ISIS “take advantage of people with mental issues, they actively try to get people who are unbalanced to take up their cause because they make the perfect terrorist, they absorb an ideology and then they commit a violent act in the name of that ideology.”
The bottom line, said Sutton, is “we look at this through an experienced eye at this point, we have seen so many attacks motivated by the same type of ideology it’s understandable why people go to a label of terrorism.”