Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol by President Donald Trump’s most fervent loyalists has led to arrests and calls for justice. But labeling the incident “domestic terrorism” is hard because there is no consensus on what the term means, and there are many definitions, says a Northeastern professor who specializes in counterterrorism.

People who attack non-military targets like a government building for a political goal could be categorized as domestic terrorists, says Max Abrahms, an associate political science professor who teaches about national security, international relations, and counterterrorism. He explains that those who stormed the Capitol waving “Trump 2020” flags “defended their behavior in political terms in order to ‘prevent the steal.’”

“We’re talking about an individual like a lone wolf, a small group, or a large organization that uses violence against a civilian target for some sort of presumed political goal,” he explains of the phrase ‘domestic terrorist.’ “It really depends on the different weights people attach to the definition and how they interpret what happened at the Capitol.”


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