What’s in a name?

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Would someone explain the difference between Militants and Terrorist Organizations?

Do definitions matter?

The PCI DSS 1.2 standard confusingly labels anti-virus “threat management” and security folks often confuse a vulnerability (a state of weakness of an asset) with a threat (something or someone that exploits the vulnerability to cause damage to the asset). I guess it’s ok – after all, information security is not life and death like the war against Palestinian terror.

The US State Department appears to be confused – are we fighting “militants” or “terrorists”?

Here’s what I mean.

The American Embassy in Tel Aviv came out with a travel warning for US Citizens in Israel December 30, 2008:

U.S. Government Employee Travel Restrictions Due to IDF’s Gaza Operation and Longer Range-Rocket Attacks against Israel by Militants and Terrorist Organizations in Gaza

A common definition of terrorists are people who attack civilians.   It seems that makes all of the Palestinian organizations terrorists ne’st-ce pas? Here’s the full announcement:

Subject: WARDEN MESSAGE FROM US EMBASSY TEL AVIV, Additional travel restrictions, longer-range rocket attacks, message dated 30 Dec 2008

Warden Message

U.S. Government Employee Travel Restrictions Due to IDF’s Gaza Operation and Longer Range-Rocket Attacks against Israel by Militants and Terrorist Organizations in Gaza

Date of Warden Message: December 30, 2008

Today’s Warden Message alerts U.S. citizens to current IDF operations in the Gaza Strip and ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza by militants and terrorist organizations into Israel.  U.S. Government employees, for the time being, have been restricted from travelling within a 30 KM radius of the Gaza Strip, inside of which the vast majority of rockets and mortars have fallen.  To travel inside the 30 KM radius, the Embassy’s Regional Security Officer’s approval is required.  Further, no U.S. government official travel is permitted inside the Gaza Strip.

Militants and terrorist organizations in Gaza continue to launch numerous rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.  On December 28 and 29, several longer-range missiles landed in Ashdod, located about 35 KM from Gaza.  On December 29, a longer range missile also landed in Yavne, which is just north of Ashdod.  Though USG employees’ travel is restricted to 30 KMs, American citizens should be aware that militants and terrorist groups could launch additional longer-range missiles that may land well beyond the 30 KM radius and to take appropriate security measures.

More about the definition of terrorism in the key criteria of terrorism in the Wikipedia:

Deliberate targeting of non-combatants – It is commonly held that the distinctive nature of terrorism lies in its intentional and specific selection of civilians as direct targets. Specifically, the criminal intent is shown when babies, children, mothers and the elderly are murdered, or injured and put in harm’s way. Much of the time, the victims of terrorism are targeted not because they are threats, but because they are specific “symbols, tools, animals or corrupt beings” that tie into a specific view of the world that the terrorists possess. Their suffering accomplishes the terrorists’ goals of instilling fear, getting their message out to an audience or otherwise satisfying the demands of their often radical religious and political agendas.[13]

Disguise – Terrorists almost invariably pretend to be non-combatants, hide among such non-combatants, fight from vantage points in the midst of non-combatants, and (when they can), strive to mislead and provoke the government soldiers into attacking other people, so that the government will be blamed. When an enemy is identifiable as a combatant, the word “terrorism” is rarely used.

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