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13 Ohio N.U. L. Rev. 97 (1986)
Is Terrorism Worth Defining

handle is hein.journals/onulr13 and id is 107 raw text is: Is Terrorism Worth Defining?
The search for a legal definition of terrorism in some ways resem-
bles the quest for the Holy Grail: periodically, eager souls set out, full
of purpose, energy and self-confidence, to succeed where so many
others before have tried and failed. Some, daunted by the difficulties
and dangers along the way, give up, often declaring the quest mean-
ingless. Others return claiming victory, proudly bearing an object they
insist is the real thing but which to everyone else looks more like the
same old used cup, perhaps re-decorated in a slightly original way.
Still others, soberly assessing the risks, costs and benefits attendant
upon the attempt, never set out at all, preferring to devote their
energies to humbler but possibly more practical tasks. But the long
record of frustrations and failures often seems to spur further efforts;
the 99th Congress, for example, saw a dozen bills containing various
attempts at legislative definitions of terrorism.'
All those who have sought to define terrorism legally, in both
the international and U.S. settings, have taken one of two paths. One
path leads toward the elaboration of an analytical, generic definition,
complete within itself, into which all terrorist acts would then fit-
a top-down or deductive approach. The other path carves out a
series of narrow, self-contained, sharply defined categories of acts that
together compose an open-ended framework for defining (often impli-
citly) and suppressing terrorism - a ground-up or inductive
approach. In order to assess the relative efficacy of these two methods
in providing a definitional foundation for the construction of legal
mechanisms to suppress terrorism, this discussion will survey and
analyze selected international and U.S. efforts to define terrorism in
a legally operative context.
The first organized international legal attempt to grapple with
the problem of defining terrorism came in the series of conferences
collectively known as the International Conferences for the Unifica-
tion of Penal Law, which were held in various European capitals
during the 1920s and 1930s. Most notably, the Sixth (Copenhagen)
Conference in 1935 adopted a model penal provision on terrorism,
the key articles of which covered a series of acts including wilful
acts directed against the life, physical integrity, health or freedom of
* International Affairs Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Office of the Legal
Adviser, U.S. Department of State. The opinions expressed herein are those of the
author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council on Foreign Relations or
the U.S. Department of State.
1. See infra Part II.

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