Intelligence, Terrorism and Homeland Security

This research paper seeks to conduct an in-depth analysis of the three issues which are terrorism, intelligence and homeland security and how they are related. It seeks to answer questions such as how the Intelligence Community (IC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) work together in combating the constant threat of terrorism. It involves getting a deeper understanding of both the IC and the DHS, their structure, and functions. There is also the question of terrorism. What is it? At what point does a crime become an act of terror? There is need to understand why this issue has become such a big menace all around the world. To understand this, one has to understand its origins, where it all started. The nagging question on everyone’s mind is what would motivate a person or rather a group of people for that matter, to kill and injure so many innocent civilians. For instance, what led the al-Qaeda group to crash four passenger planes on the United States (US) soil killing almost 3000 and injuring thousands more? This paper analyses how improved intelligence has led to a reduction in acts of terror. Also, with a rise in cases of domestic terrorism, what is the role of homeland security?
Intelligence in the US and around the world is not a new issue at all. Ever since civilizations came into place and wars started being fought, armies had to collect information that would enable them to strategize properly in what would now be referred as espionage. Over time, intelligence has evolved through the respective world wars until now where its relevance in the military and domestic security is very significant. Perhaps the greatest milestone in the US intelligence came about when President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) established the Intelligence Community in 1981 (Johnston, 2005). This community included various agencies that were charged with, among other objectives, collecting, analyzing and dissemination of information required by the president and the security organs. However, this community lacked in many aspects as it would later be discovered. In the wake of the September 11th terror attack, the US government under the then President George Bush’s administration realized that its intelligence was lacking in what was termed as the worst failure of intelligence. It was then that the realization was made on just how important intelligence is in enhancing security (Mitchell, 2002). This insight led to significant reforms in the intelligence community of the US and resulted in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). This Act made it clear how the IC was to coordinate with the DHS to beef up security in the country. Consequently, Bush also established the Office of Homeland Security that was given the responsibility of strategizing to ensure that the US was safe from terrorist attacks. This office would later be reorganized to form the Department of Homeland Security.
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Intelligence, Terrorism and Homeland Security.
The relationship between intelligence, homeland security, and terrorism is evident with terrorism having inspired the two. Perhaps the best way to start is by definition of these terms. Intelligence is information but not just of any kind but rather, one that is relevant to the security of a country or one that enables the government officials to perform their duties efficiently (Johnston, 2005). In more elaborate terms, intelligence includes the collection, analysis and the dissemination of such information. Homeland security involves protection of the country from terrorism, prevention and management of disasters, border security and immigration and customs issues (Bush, 2002). Terrorism has various definitions, but basically, it refers to use of violence against the civilians of a country with intentions of causing fear in pursuit of a political, religious or ideological agenda. Intelligence and homeland security, therefore, aimed at tackling terrorism nightmare.
In efforts to understand this relationship even better, understanding origins of terrorism is of great importance. The term is believed to have originated from the Napoleon war during the French revolution. It is however not until the bombings of Beirut barracks in 1983 that terrorism became an issue of interest, and the term was popularized by President Ronald Reagan. Its origins date back to the Roman rule where the Jews would rebel by killing collaborators. Its use has since grown through different political times until now where a modern era of terrorism has been ushered in. This era has been propelled by the advancement of weapons. Anarchism is the central ideology linked with this vice as such groups always rebel against the state. In the last sixteen years alone, over 30000 terror attacks have been executed around the world leaving nothing but trails of destruction and deaths behind. Some of the major terrorist groups include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda among many others. One of the best references to terrorism and its devastating effects is the September 11 attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center, New York in the United States.  Four passenger airplanes bound for the state of California got hijacked by the al-Qaeda group. Somehow, in what was termed as a significant security lapse at the airport, nineteen terrorists had managed to gain entry into the airplanes. What followed were two planes being crashed into the twin towers, another was crashed at the Pentagon and finally the other at another at a field in Pennsylvania. The motivation for this heinous act was the protest against American participation in the war against Muslims in several countries, which must be stated, was a noble cause (Mitchell, 2002).
This particular attack led to a big awakening in the US intelligence culminating in the signing of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. This Act was meant to improve collection of intelligence and harmonize the work of homeland security with that of intelligence agencies. It is important to note that the body charged with intelligence in the US is the United States Intelligence Community, a federation of sixteen agencies (Pedahzur, 2006). The functions of these agencies are both overlapped and separate, but all share the common goal of conducting intelligence activities to enhance the US national security. Some of these agencies include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that collects intelligence from all around the world for the President and the Cabinet. It is an independent agency since it does not follow under any Federal department. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), under the department of justice, constitutes the intelligence branch (IB) that performs analysis of intelligence for law enforcement, homeland security, and national security. The United States Air Force under the department of defense that constitutes the Twenty-Fifth Air Force (25 AF) which is the military intelligence organization. The Coast Guard Intelligence which falls under the United States Coast Guard in the DHS is the coast guard’s military intelligence branch. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under the Department of Justice has a division named as The Office of National security Intelligence (ONSI) which is also a member of IC. The other members of IC include the National Reconnaissance Office, the Office of Naval Intelligence, The National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Office of Intelligence and analysis, the Defensive Intelligence agency and the Intelligence and Security Command. Studies have however shown that private contractors are also involved in the intelligence community (Rosenbach, 2008). The IC was charged with several primary objectives such as collecting information as required by the president and security bodies, gathering information concerning intelligence activities against the US, dissemination of Intelligence among others. As stated earlier, the IRTPA signed into law in 2004 and among many other objectives, it was meant to harmonize both the IC and the Department of Homeland Security (White, 2016). To ensure that such a terror act as the September 11th attacks never occur again, the DHS was charged with Flight security which included matching passenger information against that of the IC watch list.
Homeland security in the US is a mandate undertaken by the Department of Homeland security. The DHS is a department of the US federal government. It was formed in2002, following the 2001 terrorist attack on the US. Homeland Security constitutes public security of the nation (United States. President (2001-2009: Bush), & Bush, 2002). To undertake this role it has a number of agencies such as the United States Citizenship and immigration services charged with customer services in immigration. Another one is the federal Emergency management agency that responds to disasters declared by a given state. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is mandated with public transportation. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the role of dealing with regulations related to international trade, immigration, and customs. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is yet another agency mandated with law enforcement in the waters. The rest include the United States secret service, the national protection and Programs Directorate, Science & Technology Directorate, Privacy Office, Office of Policy, Office of Inspector general, Office of Partnership & Engagement, Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Operations Coordination, Office of Intelligence analysis, Office of Health Affairs, Office of General Counsel, Office of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Management Directorate, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. The DHS unlike the Department of defense deals with civilians in its duty to keep the country safe. In so doing, domestic terrorism is prevented on top of being prepared for.
Having gotten a thorough understanding of the Homeland security, Intelligence and terrorism, the question remains on what have been the successes or failures for that matter in the fight against terrorism. With new terrorist groups coming up every year, it is clear that the struggle against terrorism is far from over. However, this does not mean that all hope is lost. The progress made by the US in collaboration with other countries such as the United Kingdom must be recognized. Perhaps one of the greatest achievements by the US government in the fight against terror was the killing of al-Qaeda founder and leader, Osama bin Laden in 2011 by the US forces. This victory was as a result of the Intelligence Community working together and set the standards on just how much such cooperation can achieve. Many terror attacks have been foiled ever since the IRTPA due to coordinated work between Homeland security and Intelligence. There is the wise saying that prevention is better than cure. A good question for people to ask themselves is why did President Obama choose the diplomacy path with actions such as recalling troops from foreign lands instead of always waging war? Many criticized Obama’s approach, but perhaps it was a wise and tactical one. The path of his predecessor, President George Bush involved a lot of war against countries deemed a threat such as the Iraq War, also known as the second gulf war. A war that left so many dead and more injured. It is perhaps this action that directly or indirectly led to the September 11th terrorist attack. Still, no such act of terror can be justified, but it is important to understand that every action is a consequence of another to completely win the war against terrorism.
Terrorism remains a threat to world peace. The US continues to be vigilant in its fight against terror to protect its citizens. It is clear that Intelligence, homeland security, and terrorism are inseparable issues. For the effective struggle against terrorism, the Intelligence Community and the Department of Homeland security must continue working in coordination to provide intelligence to the President and the security councils for the effective and efficient fight against terrorism. They should also work to eliminate terrorism and promote world peace entirely. The perpetrators need to learn that no goal has ever been achieved through terrorism and instead use a better approach to achieve their agenda. After all, despite the terror attack on the US, the country only became stronger and united while the terrorists kept losing.
Johnston, R. (2005). Analytic culture in the US intelligence community: An ethnographic study. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY WASHINGTON DC CENTER FOR STUDY OF INTELLIGENCE.
Rosenbach, E. (2008). The incisive fight: Recommendations for improving counterterrorism intelligence. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 618(1), 133-147.
Bush, G. W. (2002). The national security strategy of the United States of America. Executive Office Of The President Washington DC.
White, J. R. (2016). Terrorism and homeland security. Cengage Learning.
United States. President (2001-2009: Bush), & Bush, G. W. (2002). The department of homeland security. White House.
Pedahzur, A. (2006). Intelligence and Terrorism.
Mitchell, W. J. T. (2002). 911: criticism and crisis. Critical Inquiry, 28(2), 567-572.
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