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For an example of the difficulty in finding a clear legal definition of “terrorism,” McGeorge School of Law Professor Michael Malloy looked no further than the arrest of Courtney Love. Police picked up the grunge queen at London’s Heathrow Airport last month; she was accused of disruptive behavior aboard an airliner. Malloy mentioned Love during his keynote lunch address on the second day of a two-day symposium recently held at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Calif. Called “Bordering on Terror,” the conference brought panelists from all over the world to discuss terrorism and its effects on law, business and homeland security. It would be silly for anyone to suggest that Love should be charged with terrorism for her antics aboard the flight, Malloy said — she apparently didn’t want to sit down and buckle up when ordered to by flight attendants. Yet Malloy pointed out that a strict interpretation of one definition of terrorist activity contained in the USA Patriot Act, among other places, would allow her to be charged. In fact, the act actually contains a couple of different definitions of “terrorism” — and that, Malloy said, combined with less-than-clear definitions in other domestic and international codes, is going to cause problems for those prosecuting and defending alleged terrorism cases. Malloy said it’s up to law professors and other academics to contribute their thoughts because they’re the ones who will lead students “in forays to understand competing definitions” of terrorism. To ignore the debate would be “dangerous,” he added. Near the end, Malloy brought up a more sober example, that of a dissident in China who was recently found guilty of espionage and “terrorism” for political activities.

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