Was the Christmas bombing in Nashville an act of domestic terrorism? In answering this question it’s important to consider the facts known at this time versus the legal definition of Domestic Terrorism in the Federal Code.
The facts, as they are known today, are the following:
A subject, believed to be a 63-year-old caucasian male named Anthony Quinn Warner, parked an RV on a downtown street in Nashville at 1:22 a.m. on Christmas morning. At approximately 5:30 a.m. several local residents called 911 reporting that shots had been fired in the area. Some witnesses reported that there were three separate barrages of shots being fired spaced apart by a few minutes. It is speculated that the gunshots were an attempt by the bomber to draw police to the area. When police did later arrive, they discovered the parked RV. It was playing a recorded countdown message saying that the vehicle had a bomb that would explode in 15 minutes. As the timer ran out the recorded message changed, “If you can hear this message, evacuate now,” as the time approached 6:30 a.m.
Then the bomb exploded damaging the surrounding buildings and what may have been the intended target, a large multi-story AT&T building that housed a data center. This data center is not a government facility but a communications hub providing voice, data, and video communications services to some 80 million customers worldwide. These customers include private consumers, businesses, and government entities.
The damage to the building caused phone and internet service interruptions for users around the country with a concentration in the Nashville area and Middle Tennessee. It also affected customers from Kentucky to Alabama.
The FBI was able to identify Warner as the likely suspect from the VIN number and possible plate number of the vehicle. Having recovered DNA from human remains at the scene, they next searched Warner’s nearby home where DNA samples were collected. The DNA samples confirmed that Warner was probably killed at the explosion (perhaps with some dogs he also owned).
Following the incident, social media erupted in calls for Warner to be labeled a terrorist or domestic terrorist. But under the law, it’s not as simple as just calling someone a name, even if they are dead and have set off a bomb. So what will it take? Below is the relevant text of the Federal Code, 18 U.S. Code § 2331 which defines the circumstances under an act can be called domestic terrorism:
“[The] term ‘domestic terrorism’ means activities that
A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States;”
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