What Investigators Need to Know about Terrorists
In the United States it is not illegal to be a terrorist per se. It does not violate the law to
belong to a terrorist organization, including those listed by the U.S. State Department.
Further, it is not against the law to criticize or otherwise speak against the government.
In some countries, any and all of these “crimes” can result in a person being jailed. How-
ever, it must be understood that in America a person claiming to be a terrorist or saying
that he is a member of a militant group such as al Qaeda is not likely to be given a free
pass by the law enforcement community. Such utterances would, at the very least,
give investigators the right to give a cursory look into the background and activities of
the person. Claiming membership in a clandestine extremist group that has perpetrated
terrorist attacks in the United States or against American citizens or American-owned
property abroad could logically cause detectives to consider that person to be a suspect
in such illegal actions. Indeed, such a person could possibly find himself in court
explaining why he should not be held culpable for the violent actions perpetrated
by “his” group. Of course, a person claiming membership in a specific terrorist organi-
zation could also find himself being sued by victims of that group’s attacks.