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Bill de Blasio (left) and Andrew Cuomo (CNN framegrabs)
Bill de Blasio (left) and Andrew Cuomo (CNN framegrabs)

Was the NYC explosion terrorism? New York's two top officials disagree


Law enforcement officials still have not determined who was behind the explosion that injured 29 people in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood on Saturday night -- and as of Sunday afternoon, two of the state's top officials were offering  different interpretations of the incident.

In separate press conferences on Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to label the attack as terrorism, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it "obviously terrorism."

It was a criminal act. It was a bombing. That's what we know.
NYC mayor Bill de Blasio

De Blasio's stance

De Blasio stressed the need not to jump to conclusions in his update on the explosion.

"We have a lot more work to do to say what motivation was behind this,' he said.

He reiterated that the explosion was believed to be "intentional," but that nothing else had been determined. 

Was the NYC explosion terrorism? New York's two top officials disagree

Here's de Blasio urging caution and not jumping to conclusions. 

NYPD commissioner Jim O'Neill, whose first full day on the job was Saturday, echoed de Blasio's stances, saying that further investigation was needed. 

A bomb exploding in New York City is obviously terrorism, but it's not linked to international terrorism.
N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo's take

Cuomo said in a press conference on Sunday that the explosion, while not linked to international terrorism, was still terrorism. 

In response, he deployed 1,000 National Guard troops and New York State Police to the city.

Was the NYC explosion terrorism? New York's two top officials disagree

Here's Cuomo explaining the connection to terrorism in his own words.

Christie on separate bombing: "clearly" terrorism

And New Jersey governor Chris Christie called <b>an explosion earlier Saturday</b> before the start of a charity 5K race "clearly an act of terrorism." 

De Blasio said there was not a clear connection between the New York and New Jersey incidents. 

Evidence from the New York City explosion is being processed at a FBI lab in Quantico.

Why the hesitation?

William Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York division, urged that was "vitally important" not to reveal any information that could help the subjects of the investigation. 

In the meantime, NYPD police chief Carlos Gomez said New Yorkers could expect more bag checks and canine investigations in subway stops. 23rd and 27th streets, the site of the explosion and an unexploded second device, remained closed. 

Was the NYC explosion terrorism? New York's two top officials disagree

Both Cuomo and de Blasio said the police presence in the city would increase dramatically. The city was already due for a heightened police presence with the United Nations General Assembly week set to start Monday. 

The difference between the two leaders' stances was not lost on Twitter.

So what is terrorism, anyway?

There are a lot of conflicting definitions, which may explain why Cuomo labeled the attack as terrorism and de Blasio did not. 

The FBI defines terrorism
as activities that "involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law" and "appear to be intended to (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."

No all-embracing definition will ever be found, for the simple reason that there is not one terrorism, but there have been many terrorisms...
Political scholar Walter Laquer

But the Department of Homeland Security's definition focuses on "mass destruction," and the Defense Department's definition includes religious motivations, <b>according to Politifact</b>.

So it's not clear if the New York incident qualifies as terrorism by the FBI's standard.

But some see refusal to label an act as "terrorist" as bowing to political correctness.

Others saw the whole debate as pointless.

O'Neill promised clarity would come if officers nailed down a motive.

Does the attack in NYC count as terrorism?

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