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A death threat is a threat, often made anonymously, by one person or a group of people to kill another person or groups of people. These threats are usually designed to intimidate victims in order to manipulate their behavior, in which case a death threat is a form of coercion. For example, a death threat could be used to dissuade a public figure from pursuing a criminal investigation or an advocacy campaign.
A death threat can be communicated via a wide range of mediums, among these letters, newspaper publications, telephone calls, internet blogs, and e-mail. If the threat is made against a political figure, it can also be considered treason. If a threat is against a non-living location that frequently contains living individuals (e.g. a building) it could be a terrorist threat. Sometimes death threats are part of a wider campaign of abuse targeting a person or a group of people (see terrorism, mass murder).
Here is an example of an actual death threat, from the book Wordcrime by John Olsson. This is a genuine example from a criminal case, provided by the Forensic Linguistics Institute, which analyzes all kinds of text, including death threats, ransom demands, hate mail, cellphone texts, etc., for authorship: Template:Bquote
Death threats against a head of state
In the United States and other countries, including democracies, monarchies, and authoritarian governments, threatening to kill a head of state (such as a king, president or prime minister) is considered a crime, for which punishments vary. U.S. law provides for up to 5 years in prison for threatening the President of the United States.
Osman warning, letter or notice
These are warnings of death threat or high risk of murder that are issued by British police or legal authorities to the expected victim. They are used when there is intelligence of the threat but there is not enough evidence to justify the police arresting the expected murderer.
The warnings are named after a victim of Paul Paget-Lewis, who, after murdering a pupil's father and two others in 1988, said "Why didn't you stop me before I did it, I gave you all the warning signs?" The police had known Paget-Lewis had posed a threat to several people, including Ahmet Osman's father, and had carried out criminal acts against some of them but the police had not informed those at risk of the seriousness of the threat.
- Bomb threat
- Witness intimidation
- United States Federal Witness Protection Program
- United States Marshals Service
- Secret Service
- Bullet proof vest
- Contract killing
- Blog death threats spark debate BBC News retrieved September 30, 2007