Before 9/11, the United States had not really focused on terrorism. Sure, there had been incidences, such as the Oklahoma City bombing and the World Trade Center bombing, but nothing captured the attention of the American people the way that the 9/11 attacks did. It brought, to the forefront, just how vulnerable the United States actually was to outside forces. It also allowed us to see where some of our weaknesses were in our defenses and made clear some of the actions the country could take to mitigate such threats. It was in response to these threats and the need for ways to prevent future terrorist attacks which the Government Accounting Office (GAO) laid out strategies to combat terrorism, ways to protect our critical infrastructure, as well as assessing threats from weapons of mass destruction, coordinating research and development to better combat terrorism, revising the Five Year Interagency Counterterrorism And Technology Crime Plan to be more up to date, and designing a single focal point to oversee coordination of the various federal programs.
Strategies to combat terrorism and cyber attacks
By working with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), leaders believe this partnership will have a great impact on securing long-term stability in the United States and is a critical step in the process of sharing best practices for strengthening domestic counterterrorism infrastructures and addressing the issue of recruitment to terrorism (U.S. Department of State, 2015)..
Within the past few years, there has begun a new, more serious threat - technology. With the arrival of the computer and other electronic devices capable of communication with basically no boundaries, the threat of cyber-terrorism has become almost insurmountable. Organizations are using the latest technologies and protocols in order to protect against cyber-attacks, however, even these measures are incapable of stopping all attacks. Hackers are finding new ways, inventing new viruses, and exploiting new weaknesses within the systems in order to wreak havoc on organizations, private citizens, and other delicate infrastructure systems (Beggs, Christopher & Butler, Matthew, 2004).
On February 25, 2015, the President of the United States, Barak Obama, directed the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to establish the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC). The role of this new organization was to find a link between malicious foreign cyber threats to the nation and cyber-attacks which affected the U.S. national interests. It is also tasked with providing U.S. policymakers with an "all-source analysis of threats (Office of the Press Secretary, 2015).” The CTIIC also joined with The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), the National Cyber Investigative Join Task Force (NCIJTF) and U.S. Cyber Command as part of the U.S. Government's goal of protecting citizens, companies and the nation from cyber-attacks which threaten our infrastructure and our way of life (Office of the Press Secretary, 2015).
Ways to better protect our nation's critical infrastructure
The ability to link our nation's critical infrastructure to the information superhighway brings with it many benefits, such as the ability to light our houses, fuel our vehicles, communicate with each other as well as easily access our bank accounts from anywhere in the world and learn anything imaginable. However, with this new found freedom also comes numerous threats, ranging from common criminals seeking to acquire money to terrorist organizations, such as ISIS or Al Qaeda, who would be seeking to ferret out our weaknesses (Daniel, 2013).
In response to these threats, the President issued an Executive Order - Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, on February 12, 2013. This Executive Order directs "the various federal departments and agencies to use their existing authorities to provide better cybersecurity for the nation (Daniel, 2013)." Ultimately, this order would necessitate better collaboration between government agencies as a whole and the private sector.
A single focal point to oversee coordination of federal programs
With so many various agencies and departments in the Department of Homeland Security, the need for a way to bring everything together in a more cohesive fashion had become a priority, with each agency having its own agenda and different ways of achieving similar goals. However, there was no central agency, committee or department set aside for such a purpose. Another factor in determining the need for a central focal point, is funding. Having different agencies, all focusing on the same agenda and each applying for financial backing is a redundancy. It is by creating a single entity to oversee a single mission that this waste of finances can be mitigated (Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of Representatives, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, Subcommittee on Economic Development, 2001).
Assessing the Threat Values of WMDs
In response to the growing threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction or WMDs, the Federal Bureau of Investigation established the "Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate", or WMDD. The purpose of this directorate was to "build a cohesive and coordinated approach to incidents involving nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical weapons—with an overriding focus on prevention (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.)". Homeland Security Presidential Directive 4 (HSPD-4) seeks to enlist friends and allies of the United States, as well as other players in the international community, in a joint effort to prevent enemy states and terrorists from acquiring missiles and other weapons of mass destruction (President Bush, 2002).
While the United States counterterrorism efforts have been developed and many governmental agencies have been created with the intent of preventing, deterring and/or mitigating terroristic attracts, some have criticized the redundancies among the various programs saying they do not have a clear strategy for bringing these together in a cohesive and effective manner (Ackerman, Gary & Pate, James, 2001).
The ability to understand the threat that WMD terrorism has on the United States today remains poor and this suggests that there is a need for further study and assessment of emerging threats (Ackerman, Gary & Pate, James, 2001).
Five Year Interagency Counterterrorism and Technology Crime Plan
While the Attorney General's Five Year Interagency Counterterrorism and Technology Crime Plan may have been introduced in September of 1999, it can still be very useful today. Each of the 6 points, or goals, laid out within this document can be just as poignant today as they were back then.
"GOALS OF STRATEGIC PLAN
· Goal 1: Prevent and deter terrorism within the U.S. and against U.S. interests abroad
· Goal 2: Maximize international cooperation to combat terrorism
· Goal 3: Improve domestic crisis and consequence planning and management
· Goal 4: Safeguard public safety by improving state and local capabilities
· Goal 5: Safeguard our national information infrastructure
· Goal 6: Spearhead research and development to enhance counter-terrorism capabilities (Attorney General, 1999) "
As it stands, the plan can be used almost as is, it just needs some modern modifications to bring it up to date.
Coordination of Research and Development to Combat Terrorism
The Office of Terrorism Analysis (OTA) branch of the CIA Counterterrorism Center works to support other governmental anti-terrorism agencies by finding terrorists and terrorist group, tracking the group's activities, analyzing their threat and informing proper authorities of said threat, identifying where the financial backing of these groups is coming from and disrupting them and finally, monitoring terrorist activities and trends around the world and their relationship to other terrorist groups around the world (CIA, 2015).
The measures that are currently in place to combat terrorism do seem to be working, to some extent. With the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing, the arrest of six men from Minnesota who were attempting to fly to Syria to join ISIS (Levs, Josh & Vercammen, Paul, 2015), and the arrest of two women in New York who reportedly planned to build a bomb for use in attacks in the United States, it seems the war on terrorism is in full force across the country (Prokupecz, Shimon & Sanchez, Ray, 2015). However, there is still much more work to be done to put a halt to terrorism. There needs to be better interagency communication as well as better collaboration between terrorism researchers and policy makers to ensure that all interventions have successful, evidence-based, and therefore indictable outcomes (Kennedy, Lum & Sherley, 2006).
At this time, neither the Intelligence Community nor the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is properly organized to deter terrorism. Instead, they are designed to detect and eliminate terrorist machinations before they can be implemented. Since most terrorist plots are implemented by fanatics, and fanatics cannot be reasoned with, deterring them is not a realistic option. The fanatical nature of a terrorist precludes the importance of self, therefore any attempt to deter them cannot work as deterrents are based upon self-preservation of the individual. Suicide bombers are an exemplary example of a fanatic’s lack of self-importance.
By responding to threats, the GAO created the new strategies, using the Five Year Interagency Counterterrorism and Technology Crime Plan, to create the system that we use today. The main stimulus for doing this was our defense weaknesses and vulnerability highlighted by such events as the WTC bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing, and finally driven home by the events of 9/11.
Ackerman, Gary & Pate, James. (2001). Assessing the Threat of WMD Terrorism. CNS Reports. Retrieved from http://cns.miis.edu/reports/wmdt.htm
Beggs,Christopher & Butler, Matthew. (2004). Developing New Strategies to Combat Cyber-Terrorism. Retrieved from http://www.irma-international.org/viewtitle/32381/
CIA. (2013). the Office of Terrorism Analysis. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/offices-of-cia/intelligence-analysis/organization-1/ota.html
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of Representatives, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, Subcommittee on Economic Development. (2001). H.R. 525, THE PREPAREDNESS AGAINST DOMESTIC TERRORISM ACT. Retrieved from http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/Trans/hpw107-18.000/hpw107-18_0f.htm
Daniel, Michael. (2013). The White House Blog. Improving the Security of the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/02/13/improving-security-nation-s-critical-infrastructure
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.) Weapons of Mass Destruction. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/terrorism/wmd
Kennedy LW, Lum C, Sherley, AJ. (2006). The effectiveness of counter-terrorism strategies. Campbell Systematic Reviews. Retrieved from http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/lib/download/53/
Levs, Josh & Vercammen, Paul. (2015). Arrests of ISIS supporters in Minnesota shed light on recruiting, U.S. says. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/20/us/fbi-terrorism-probe/index.html
Office of the Press Secretary (2015). Statements & releases. FACT SHEET: Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/25/fact-sheet-cyber-threat-intelligence-integration-center
President Bush. (2002). National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction. Retrieved from http://fas.org/irp/offdocs/nspd/nspd-17.html
Prokupecz, Shimon & Sanchez, Ray. (2015). 2 New York women accused of ISIS-inspired bomb plot. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/02/us/new-york-terror-arrests/index.html
U.S. Department of State. (2015). Preventing Terrorism: Strategies and Policies To Prevent and Combat Transnational Threats. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/rm/2010/150068.htm