On September 11, 2001, a well planned and a devastating attack was directed to the United States of America. An Islamic extremist group called al Qaeda was responsible for these attacks. After this incident, the need for the establishment of a stronger network of homeland security was ignited. The events of 9/11 brought fear and panic all over the U.S. and made it come to grips with the realities of this modern world. This reality fuelled the need for the enacted of major policy changes.
These changes were then focused on increasing the organization and cooperative information flow between the departments of the government. Although this effort is still progressing since September 11, the new system has improved the home security of the U.S. The attacks on 9/11 have brought major effects to counter-terrorism efforts. Current threats to the U.S. environment
The Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological” (cited in United States Marine Corps, 2007). Terrorism is exhibited in many forms.
These include conflicts with neighboring nations, bombings of cities, kidnappings and hostage-takings, armed attacks and assassinations, arsons and firebombing, hijacking and skyjackings, bioterrorism, and cyber terrorism. Despite the intensive global efforts after September 11, which have disrupted several terrorist plots and restrained the ability of the terrorist’s organization of attacking the U.S., the country is still at risk of future attacks coming mostly from emerging and evolving terror groups.
Currently, the most prevalent of these threats come from al Qaeda (Bullock et al., 2006). The group is fuelled by a continuous strategic motive of harming the citizens of the country. Although previous attempts significantly reduced al Qaeda’s global influence, several of its top leaders are still hiding, who are capable of planning another attack. The dreaded terror group can increase its ability of future attacks by cooperating with other terror groups, for example, al Qaeda in Iraq.
Also, other groups and individuals are also capable of using terror to wreak havoc in the country (David, 2007). Among these is the Lebanese Hezbollah, which has constantly been terrifying the lives of American citizens both locally and overseas.
The U.S. is also not immune to the emergence of home-based Islamic extremist organizations who think that the use of violence within the borders of America is legitimate. The country is also constantly threatened by local terrorist organizations based and functional within the country. These include the white supremacist organizations and animal rights extremists.
Major counter-terrorism initiatives after 9/11
Counter-terrorism refers to the military or political practices, strategies, procedures, and means adopted in response to the escalating terrorist acts. Several counter-terrorism initiatives were adopted after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. soil. To begin with, on November 25, 2002, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established (The Department of Homeland Security, 2006).
Homeland security is officially defined as the “concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur” (Bush, 2007, p.11). The Department was mandated to prepare, prevent, and manage any further terrorist attacks on the country by developing appropriate precautionary measures.
This change in the structure of the U.S. government represented the most significant government reorganization in over half a century. As a counter-terrorism strategy, it became necessary to reinforce intelligence collection to stop the actions of those who are intending to create havoc (Miskel, 2006).
This governmental reorganization enabled careful analysis and sharing of sensitive information collected across all the levels of the government. Adequate investments were made to increase the capability of sharing and evaluating a large amount of gathered information.
Bioterrorism is one of the most feared forms of terrorism as it is capable of killing several individuals in a short time (Gaines, 1987). Bioterrorism is carried out by releasing a small portion of anthrax or any poisonous chemical in a crowded place. Individuals around the place would then inhale the poisonous substance as it travels in the form of fine dust. The outcome is disastrous since a large number of people can lose their lives.
As a counter-terrorism strategy, the U.S. government established the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile that ensures quick response in case of bioterrorism future attacks by stocking pharmaceutical and vaccine stockpiles. This program has strategically placed “Push Packs” comprising of about six hundred tons of medical supplies. These can be transferred to the scene of an incident in about twelve hours.
Another strategy that is practiced to combat bioterrorism involves vaccinating every person against diseases that spread easily such as anthrax and Ebola. Enough doses of the vaccines are currently being supplied to the relevant health authorities to affect this. More people are also being trained to ensure that the U.S. has an adequate number of personnel skilled on biological warfare and countermeasures of fighting incidents of bioterrorism.
Another major counter-terrorism effort after 9/11 involves preventing the emergence of violent Islamic radicalization in the country. This is because most terrorists often arise from such groups. Engaging key communities as partners in the fight against terrorism, identifying and countering the possible sources of Islamic radicalization, improving the ability of the governmental agencies to address radicalization issues, and enhancing the citizens understanding of radicalization, is applied to achieve this initiative.
The world is increasingly becoming digitalized. Nowadays, the strength of the world’s economy has been founded on the effective use of digital information. However, the worldwide digital infrastructure, composed mainly of the internet, is not free from fraudulent deals. Terrorists are increasingly using the cyberspace to bring their motives on the scoreboard. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a significant number of security experts are worried about the safety of information assets in the U.S. (Rice, 2009, para.1).
Following the attacks, many hacking groups have been established. Many of them usually take part in pro-U.S. and anti-U.S. cyber activities. These are mostly fought through web defacements. This is the reason why the U.S. government has intensified efforts of protecting the cyberspace from terrorist attacks. A strong vision and leadership in transforming police, technology, and education have been developed to achieve this goal.
The threats posed by weapons of mass destruction were further driven to reality after the 9/11 attacks. This raised the concern that international terrorist organizations with radical ideologies might be interested in using these destructive weapons to carry out mass casualty attacks on the U.S. Some terrorist groups, for example, al Qaeda has categorically stated that using weapons of mass destruction is a religious duty.
Therefore, they have tried to acquire them on several occasions. The stakes involved in possible weapons of mass destruction propagation and use has made the U.S. use force to prevent their illicit use (Busch and Joyner, 2009; Ariel, 1993). For example, the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 was meant to weaken the possibility of their acquisition of these weapons.
More emphasis has been put on monitoring the movement of terrorists around the world. The U.S., in collaboration with other countries, is engaged in efforts to detect, interrupt, and interdict the uncontrollable movements of dangerous weapons around the world (Purpura, 2007; Marc, 2004). The countries participating in the Global War on Terror have enhanced their border security to detect terrorists from exploiting legitimate entry points and get access to the countries.
All immigrants currently entering the U.S. are thoroughly screened to determine their eligibility of getting into the country. Since the United States is made up of a large expanse of land, some terrorists might try to enter the country through illicit pathways; therefore, the U.S. government is engaged in efforts of disrupting this move by adopting an integrated system of individuals, technology, and tactical infrastructure through the Secure Border Initiative.
Research is currently being done to come up with next-generation technologies that will ensure easier identification and detection of the movement of terrorists into the country.
The tragic events of September 11 sparked the need for enacting gun control measures. This initiative is aimed at reducing the number of dangerous weapons within the reach of terrorist groups and ultimately lowering the number of terrorist incidents. Since it is likely that a group of individuals are able to go into a gun show separately, and buy dangerous weapons, having a considerable waiting period at gun shows is able to lower the occurrence of terrorist acts.
Efforts are being made to identify potential terrorists before they are able to strike (Townshend, 2002). This is done by a monitoring system that keeps track of individuals with suspected histories of terrorism, or probably relationships with terrorist organizations. The agencies of the government such as the FBI have been mandated to keep a watchful eye of the movement of such persons. This strategy limits the communication between the suspects with they superiors; hence, reduces the chances of them facilitating an attack.
In some cultures of the world, there is a great connection between religious beliefs and politics. Therefore, an individual often thinks that it is a great honor bestowed on him or her to sacrifice his or her life on a suicide mission. The practice of suicide bombings is widespread in the Middle East and other volatile regions in the world.
The U.S. has taken drastic measures to guard its citizens, who are overseas, against these threats. In the key buildings owned by the U.S. in volatile areas, two-foot concrete has been erected to avoid drive up bombings. The government has also been engaged in a campaign to educate its citizens on ways of avoiding such attacks.
These include undertaking one’s activities in secure places, maintaining vigilance against all people, and avoiding suspicious-looking individuals. Another emphasis has been on rejecting any requests to assist a stranger to carry his or her belongings, familiarizing oneself with emergency first aid equipment as this can control damage in case of an attack, and notifying the authorities promptly on the reception of a suspicious letter or parcel.
Currently, terrorism is exhibited in many forms, for example, bombing and thievery; however, the most prevalent of these is hostage taking. Therefore, a major counter-terrorism strategy has been dedicated to developing teams that are specially designed to rescue the hostages captured by terrorists. These teams are highly trained and best equipped on the ability to go into buildings, planes, or anywhere the hostages might be to undertake a rescue mission.
This strategy is beneficial in combating terrorism and saving the lives of innocent hostages. The necessity of creating these teams was ignited by the occurrence of several tragic incidents that could have been prevented if adequately trained teams were present.
The tragic events that took place within the borders of the U.S. on September 11 brought major effects to counter-terrorism efforts in the country. Amidst these difficult circumstances, the nation responded with unbelievable courage. Currently, the U.S. is safer, stronger, and even more ready to confront the terrorist threats that jeopardize its very existence.
That is why concerted national efforts are being made on training personnel skilled in biological warfare, preventing the emergence of violent Islamic radicalization in the country, safeguarding the country’s digital information, monitoring the movement of terrorists, enacting gun control measures, building of specialized teams, and educating the Americans on ways of staying safe.
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