Terrorist Tactics over 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s-Present

Terrorist Tactics over 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s-Present

Author: Josh Valdez

           Terrorist tactics change over time with the advancement of technology as well as government policy. Many of these changes in tactics happening within the group is strategically based as terrorists have formed new modus operandi as well has advanced recruitment techniques as we have seen the internet develop more. In the 1970s, terrorism was dramatically different then what we find today. Terrorism was very much active before the 1970s with the presence of car bombs and non-airline hijackings. But the 1970s, was perceived by many to be the peak of terrorism. According to Brian Jenkins, a writer for The Hill, stated that “Terrorists perfected their tactical repertoire in the 1970s. They employed six basic tactics, some of which had been practiced for centuries: assassination, bombing, kidnapping, airline hijacking, barricaded hostage situations and armed assaults.” He continued to inform that terrorism has declined since the 1970s within the United States. (Jenkins, 2015)

            With the emergence of the 1980s, many of the tactics remained very similar with the exception of a defined politically based attacks world-wide. In the 1980s, we see more U.S. military personal be targeted by assassins, bombings, as well as kidnappings. Members of Takfir Wal-Hajira assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. In June of 1985, the Trans-World Airlines fight was hijacked were passengers were held for 17 days, resulting in the murder of a U.S. Navy sailor on-board. But it wasn’t until the awaking of Pan Am flight 103 in December of 1988 when the world started to notice the war of terror that had been going on for decades and that will continue to go on. (Mondout, 2016)

            I would argue that the terrorists in the 1990s were more economically based than terrorists we have seen in the past. In the 1990s terrorists were able to successfully hostage and kidnapping ransoms took place. We see the emergence of secondary attacks on responding and medical personal to a first attack, crippling medical and law enforcement personnel. Chemical weapons began to be a concern for federal agencies at this point, but it wasn’t until the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 where we began monitoring bomb making materials. Oklahoma City bombing was aimed toward federal agencies, specifically ATF. Police officers were trained to profile and assess all potential threats with both national and international threats.

            The public outlook on terrorist dramatically changed on September 11, 2001 with the attack on the World Trade Center. An Islamic terrorist group had reverted to airplane hijacking of two airliners and crashed them into the buildings. That same day, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon as well as a failed attempt on the White House with Flight 93. Since this moment on, all American people felt the impact of terrorism present within our boarders. The War on Terror was officially proclaimed and the United States has been very active in fighting against organized terrorism groups. Since the War on Terror, a new tactic of terrorism started to emerge. Suicide bombings began not only targeting military but also civilian personnel.  A return tactic of ambushes began to flare up again. The nation was concentrated on the war over seas. In April 2007, the Virginia Tech shooter who many argue was considered a mass murder and others argue it being a form of terrorism.

            Today, we consider to see similar tactics used with the Boston Marathon bombing as well as the Pulse Nightclub Shooting. The United States is more aware now about the reality of terrorism in the world. Cyber terrorism has continually been a threat as the United States government and citizens relies heavy on technology to store confidential information. Online banking has never been more prevalent than it is today. We have seen successful modus operandi when analyzing tactics used to attack American citizens on American soil. It is the reality that Terrorists have slipped right underneath or nose and have successfully inflected fear. We can also see Terrorists shift from hostage taken and ransom negotiations as an ineffective way to create terror and fear. They have realized that many countries don’t negotiate with terrorists, they have realized that if they take hostages it is more expense and inconvenient to keep them alive through the negotiation process. If they kill hostages it will create the same level of fear.



Jenkins, Brian Michael. 2015. “The 1970s and the Birth of Contemporary Terrorism”. The Hill. Retrieved December 14, 2016. (http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/homeland-security/249688-the-1970s-and-the-birth-of-contemporary-terrorism)

Mondout, Patrick. 2016. “Terrorism in the 1980s.” Awesome 80s.com Retrieved December 14, 2016. (http://www.awesome80s.com/Awesome80s/News/Special-Reports/Terrorism/)

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published