Since the occurrence of the September 9, 2001 terrorist’s attacks and the constant threats by international terrorists such as the al Qaeda, and given the upsurge in other domestic terrorist networks within the United States, several agencies have had to be high on the alert for possible attacks. Moreover, other industries have also experienced the adverse effect of this menace. The entertainment industry for instance, was at an all time low point after the terrorist attacks of September 9, 2001.
Woody Allen (2001) observed that “Everywhere you look in Hollywood since that tragic day; the entertainment landscape has been transformed, as if ripped asunder by a massive earthquake. People have come to work feeling like jittery sleepwalkers, especially after the studios received FBI warnings late last week that they could be possible targets for terrorism. Nearly every studio has been postponing films, giving them face lifts or tossing scripts out the window. “
Los Angeles Times 09/25/01 Despite efforts made by U. S. n liaison with other countries to root out this evil, terrorists’ organizations continue to arm themselves with various complex assortments of weapons, and training their disciples each dawn. The problem of terrorism has further been complicated by terrorist friendly countries that provide financial support, military equipment and other kinds of assistance that help perpetrate the crime. As Rondea (2008) posits ‘Right now, terrorist friendly countries allow or support schools, training facilities and institutions that indoctrinate children into terrorist cause at a very early age.
They are literally growing terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. Without ever having met an American, these children grow up into men and women who hate us and believe it is their duty to destroy our nation. These complex dynamic further complicates the problem, making efforts to stop terrorism futile. It is due to these eminent problems that this study has been undertaken in order to counter this problem and thus improve security in the United States. Greater focus has been put on the three most sensitive areas that have been frequently used in the past by terrorists to gain access to the United States.
These key areas are: the aviation transport department, the visa waiver program, and the information technology. Aviation Transport Department America’s system for protecting and controlling commercial aviation and guaranteeing its citizens’ safety continues to be a major are of concern, especially after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Transportation Security System (TSA) employs the use of covert testing to discover techniques that are likely to be used by terrorists (Friedlander et. al 1979).
This helps in identifying vulnerabilities and measuring the level of performance of airport systems. One of the methods used during these tests involve passing threat objects through passenger and luggage screening systems. This has been prompted by the realization that some terrorists smuggle dangerous chemicals onboard aircraft in order to construct explosives in flight (Clovis, 2008). Aviation security is made up of several layers. One layer involves the federal government’s ability to respond to threats, both actual and potential, while an aircraft is in flight.
The Aviation and Transportation security Act which was enacted in November 2001 formed TSA as the agency in charge of securing all forms of transportation. TSA has since then, cooperated with other stakeholders in developing a layered approach that would guarantee the security of commercial aviation. This approach involves diverse yet coordinated measures that include providing flight and cabin crews with essential security training, thorough and systematic screening of travelers’ and luggage (Dacey, 2003).
Response to an in-flight threat is, however, a duty well beyond the jurisdiction of the TSA. It involves four other departments namely: Justice, Defense, transportation, Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). These agencies may coordinate their activities using interagency communication tools in case of security threats arising during in-flight. This coordination efforts are however not only intricate and complex, but also involving.
The stages involved include: identifying and notifying concerned agencies of suspected threat; discussing pertinent information and working in collaboration to assess the degree of the threat; making a decision on the action to be undertaken to counter the threat, and taking the action; and where necessary, finalizing the law enforcement response upon landing of the flight (Claude, 2008). TSA working in coordination with DHS has made some progress to counter threats in the aviation industry. TSA has for instance, designed covert testing programs on a national and local level.
These programs are risk-based and are aimed at achieving its goals of identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in the aviation security system. Secondly, during the past seven years, several successful interagency operations have been undertaken by federal agencies, some of which have led to arrest and return of suspected terrorists to the United States to face trial. In addition, TSA’s Office of Inspection (OI) has utilized information on terrorist threats to improve its national covert tests and to select suitable airports for tests based on the likelihood of attack by terrorists.
Moreover, the federal agencies have carried out more than 200 tests involving federal agencies, state and local participants. However, some tests conducted by TSA have occasionally failed. It is suggested that some of these failures may have been a direct result of poor screening equipment that fails to detect threat objects or a failure on the part of Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) to follow the screening procedures properly. Given that OI does not systematically record reasons for test failures, such failures can potentially limit TSA’s ability to counter identified vulnerabilities.
Various suggestions are, therefore offered to help mitigate vulnerability that may arise as a result of such factors. First, documenting all specific causes for test failures related to Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) and those related to screening procedures, is critical to aviation security. This documentation should be done in the covert testing database in order to help TSA recognize areas that need improvement and undertake the necessary steps towards making these improvements.
It is also suggested that a systematic process of collecting, analyzing, passing of information on effective practices that are used by airports whose security levels are commendable, need to be put in place at other airports to help TSA managers improve the standards of operation in checkpoint screening operations. Moreover, the Office of Security Operations (OSO) needs to consider in time all recommendations that OI makes as a direct result of covert tests. It should then state its rationale for undertaking or not undertaking to address the recommendations made.
In addition, an evaluation need to be done to see whether the steps taken to implement OI’s recommendation actually countered the identified vulnerability or did not. These evaluation needs to be developed by OSO since they are better placed to make follow up and see the changes brought by implementations recommended (Dacey, 2003). Finally, it is also recommended that in order to mitigate vulnerabilities in the transportation security system, threat and risk assessment need to be done.
Billions of dollars are spent by the United States annually in countering terrorism yet it is doubtful that these funds are channeled in the right amounts or even in the right programs. An assessment would be beneficial in helping target these funds, consider priority activities and avoid duplicating effort (Dacey, 2003). Cybersecurity Federal agencies are confronted with constant cybersecurity threats brought about by the increase in sophisticated attack methods or the transformation of typical attacks into complex forms that render efforts to counter them almost impossible.
Some notable examples include unsolicited commercial e-mail (spam), messages aimed at fraudulently obtaining personal or sensitive data (phishing) and software that monitors the activities of the user without the user being aware or consenting to such intrusion (spyware) (Hare, 2008). Even though initiatives have been undertaken by several entities operating within the federal government, the risk posed by the blending of these threats cannot easily be mitigated with the available equipment at the moment.
Some of the initiatives already undertaken include: enlightening consumers about these threats, and targeting computer crime (Perrow, 2007). The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended that in order to ensure cybersecurity, a number of measures would need to be undertaken. Firstly, DHS’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) would have to conduct frequent cyber analysis and warnings in order to make timely detection of attacks and threats.
Secondly, frequent cyber attack exercises should be conducted and lessons learned be fully implemented. According to GAO’s recommendation, this can be accomplished by completing all corrective activities that the department identifies. Lastly, a strategy should be established to coordinate efforts aimed at securing or improving control system cyber security (U. S. G. P. O. 2004). The coordination efforts should include sharing of vulnerability information with other federal agencies as well as the private sector (Friedlander et. al 1979).
In addition, other recommendations made to GAO to mitigate these threats include performing risk assessment periodically, implementing policies and procedures that are risk based to counter identified risks, educating and providing the staffs with security- awareness training and establishing procedures which will help in detecting, reporting and responding to issues regarding cybersecurity threats (Rondeau, 2008). Visa Waiver Program (VWP) The Visa Waiver Program provides way through which citizens of 27 countries can gain access to the United States for a period of 90 days without obtaining a visa (Moss & Michael, 2006).
The terroristic attacks of 9-11, however, brought major concerns of the risk of foreigners with malicious intentions gaining entry into the United States. Consequently, tougher measures have had to be imposed to mitigate this potential threat. At the moment, foreigners from VWP countries are required to provide bibliographical information to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) department before leaving for the United States (Saunter & Carafano, 2005).
This is in accordance with the Recommendations made in the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Public Law 110-53, and Aug. , 2007, which also stipulates the guidelines to be adhered to by aliens from VWP countries wishing to travel to the United States either by air or sea. The amendments done to DHS regulations by the interim final rule allows for consideration of countries whose visa refusal rates laid between 3 and 10 percent in the previous fiscal year. Moreover, the regulation provides for the automation of the 1-94W process electronically in addition to enabling the provision of VWP traveler data in advance prior to travel by the individual.
This is beneficial as it allows for a thorough scrutiny of the traveler’s documents well in advance before such individual enters the United States (Stiefel, 2008). The VWP however, still has some inherent risks that need to be tackled. Even though DHS has been successful in intercepting many counterfeit documents, an undetermined number of inadmissible foreigners have gained entry into the United States using a lost or stolen passport from a visa waiver country.
Secondly, although the program eases consular workload, border inspectors face numerous challenges when screening VWP travelers. Notable among these challenges is the issue of language barrier and that of limited duration for conducting in-depth interviews (Wright & Wiesenger 2008). Moreover, due to insufficient funds, DHS’s monitoring unit cannot attain its main objective of monitoring and providing report on the ongoing security concerns in VWP member countries.
Consequently, GAO recommended that in order to mitigate these risks, a number of actions will have to be implemented. First, DHS must incorporate biometric indicators into the air exit system in order to keep its power of admitting other countries into the program. Secondly, it needs to certify that the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) used for screening visa waiver foreigners before they travel to the U. S. is fully in operation by early January, 2009 (Moss & Michael, 2006).
The certification will grant DHS power to expand the VWP to countries with visa refusal rates of between 3 and 10 percent. Thirdly, it is also proposed that a clear process be established in coordination with the Department of state and Justice to assist in determining criteria to be employed in considering countries to be included in the program, timelines for their nomination and negotiation of bilateral agreements meant to implement the legislative requirements of the program.
Lastly, it was suggested that an office be designated whose purpose would be to develop overstay rate information to monitor whether VWP countries comply with the statutory requirements of the VWP (U. S. G. P. O. 2004). Conclusion New methods for improving homeland security in the United States were the main focus for this study. Particular emphasis was however, laid on the Aviation transport sector, the implementation of the visa waiver program, in accordance with the standards recommended by GAO and on effective methods of countering the risks brought on information technology equipment through computer crime.
It can be seen from the study that the effective function of the key security areas discussed lies in the implementation of the weaknesses identified by the researcher and those recommended by GAO following a prior assessment of the operations of these key areas. After these recommendations are implemented, it is believed that homeland security will have been greatly improved. In conclusion, therefore, future research on the improvement of homeland security should address both merits and the drawbacks experienced upon implementation of the proposed changes.
Courtney from Study Moose
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