States can be involved in terrorism in various ways: from various levels of general support for terrorist organizations, through operational assistance, initiating or directing attacks, and up to the perpetration of terrorist attacks by official state agencies. All forms of state involvement in terrorism are usually placed under the general category of "terrorist states," or "state sponsored terrorism." Such a designation has taken on the character of a political weapon; rival states ascribe it to one another, and terrorist organizations use it against states acting against them.
Various countries have engaged in attacks against leading activists of terrorist organizations – planners and initiators of attacks, commanders of operational units, saboteurs and even the organizations' leaders. On such grounds, these countries have often been accused of engaging in terrorism themselves.