International terrorism or terrorism sans borders, has been in existence since recorded history. Terrorism cannot be defined easily, and while some perceive it as crime and abomination, few others would see it as a holy duty or patriotism. Terrorism is generally used as a tactic by the weaker side of the conflict. As terrorist organizations or outfits are small in size and very secretive in their working, the government or enforcement agencies cannot attack or defend straight away.
In their pursuit to maintain a conflict, terrorists carry on their terrorist activities, which sometimes be mistaken for a criminal activity. Terrorism is being increasingly sought by rebel and fanatic groups to achieve their goals. The general methodology adopted by terrorists is to attack targets, which are representative of what they oppose. They plan their acts of violence to draw the attention of the people, the government and probably the world, to their viewpoint (ITSR, 2009). As emphasized, someone described as a terrorist, maybe called a freedom fighter, by some others.
Terrorists see themselves as legitimate fighters with a moral or sacred duty, and do not perceive themselves as evil. It is in this scenario that the Department of Homeland Security in the US and other countries function today. However the security scenario world over transformed immensely post September 11, 2001. Subsequent to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the face of law enforcement transformed drastically. Every aspect of tackling terrorism radically changed not only for the US but also for the rest of the world.
The world had awoken to the threat of new terrorism, terrorism of a larger scale and scope. Terrorists are always on the lookout for innovative ways of attacks requiring the security enforcement personnel not only to be abreast of their capabilities, but also be able to outdo them. While they have no laws or concerns to address, the enforcement people need to confront them only in accordance with the several relevant laws and regulations. For instance a suicide terrorist has nothing to worry about.
Another new trend in terrorism is the use of new technologies and the ability of the terrorists to deploy them. Having access to sophisticated communication and explosives making abilities, these terrorists have a large playing ground. If the enforcement personnel are to successfully meet the threat of this new breed of terrorists, they need to adopt radical changes in their approach. No longer are the old methods of formal, approved actions capable of standing up to the challenge. Radical policy changes are urgently required.
The security scenario post 9/11 had huge implications not only for the personnel of the homeland security department, but also for the common man. Every aspect of public life particularly travels was to be redefined. People were asked to report for security checks at airports several hours earlier. There were restrictions on their baggage and hand luggage. Flights and trains were rescheduled or cancelled even at the slightest hint of terror association. There have been many cases where people joking about hijacking or barging into the cockpit, leading to a serious turn of events.
Crowded public places and public events were no longer the same with massive security drills and the innumerable dos and don’ts. People working in high-rise towers were particularly apprehensive; adding to which was the new list of terror based emergency precautions. Today’s police and enforcement agencies in democratic societies have little freedom in their execution of their work. Too many formalities and involvement of a large number of people in the decision and operations process hinder counter terrorist operations.
For instance payments to informers need to be signed and approved by several relevant authorities. Communication between terrorist suspects cannot be intercepted without relevant approvals through due processes. The effectiveness of counter terrorism activities in democratic societies may be attributed mainly to advanced computer technology and cooperation of the public in providing crucial leads. Extradition of terrorists is another major problem associated with international terrorism (Whittaker, 2003). Governments are scared of retaliation and therefore hesitate to extradite terrorists.
Some even release them after a token stay in prison. In few cases, terrorists who lack influential protectors or who are considered useless by their outfits are extradited. To a large extent the counter terrorist efforts by democratic societies may be described as being only partially effective. Most of our defense related strategies and national homeland security plans have both short term and long-term aspects. While the short-term strategies are directed at addressing the immediate problems, the long-term strategies are aimed at addressing the causes of these problems.
While fundamentalist groups are increasingly becoming a domestic threat, left and right wing terrorists are also very active on the domestic level. The social view is that the current operational methodology of the homeland security is too short and too narrow. Radical reconstructionists suggest that the Department of Homeland Security and its affiliates at the local and state level should coordinate with the other agencies to defeat the social conditions contributing to social unrest, which include terrorism.
Radical reconstructionists are disappointed at the number of years, which would have to pass before politicians can end forty billion dollar budgets for security. This is more relevant because it only takes a few underemployed or uneducated people to create a security problem. As terrorist activities cannot be dictated by policies or diplomacy, terrorist acts will continue with increasing vengeance. The governments and all defense mechanisms are obviously on their toes to thwart off any unexpected threats.
Elected officials need to do some brainstorming to find solutions to the already known vulnerabilities. Elementary schools, chemical plants, medical care systems and viral attacks – are among the innumerable vulnerabilities, the country is exposed to. These are only some of the many unprotected targets in our country. The virus causing the foot and mouth disease can be easily brought into the country to affect a large scale of livestock population, which can significantly affect food related businesses, employment and economy.
While important landmarks or infrastructure are mostly the targets, anything and everything are potential targets. The nature of the target attacked is greatly associated with the consequences and devastation intended. In many cases, it can trigger sequential damages. For instance an attack on a building would have a bearing on that building only, while an attack on a nuclear plant would have greater consequences, beyond the limits of the plant. The Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism has identified nine areas, which can be used as potential targets.
In many of these cases, terrorists can use the targets itself as vehicles of attack (NRC, 2002). The nine areas identified are nuclear and radiological installations, human and agricultural health systems, toxic chemicals and explosive materials, information technology, energy systems, transportation systems, cities and structural infrastructure, the response of people to terrorism, and the complex and independent systems. To counter terrorism, a great deal of insight, assessment, and ability to think beyond the traditional boundaries of science and engineering is required.
The new levels of terrorism cannot be confronted by contemporary procedures. Relying only on public inputs and information technology is not sufficient to protect people and property from such vengeance. Such type of terrorism can only be thwarted by a new approach involving a radical change in policies. These include unregulated covert operations, the use of torture, profiling in anti-terrorism efforts, and public education. Although these might already be in use at a lesser level, or informally; the need of the hour is to implement them at the fullest scale and as perfectly legal.
However certain sections including the minorities would call it a discrimination against them. Human rights organizations too would term it a breach of human rights while there would be others who would see this as an infringement of their privacy. The policy makers need to realize that such policies, however difficult or embarrassing for the people, are absolutely necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. They should then embark on public education, educating the public as to why it is necessary.
This is very crucial for implementing the policies, as there has been immense opposition to all such policies. However the importance of such policies is reflected from the fact that almost all governments world over indulge in them discreetly, for their security needs. Thus public education should also be part of the new strategy. Once there is public support, these policy approaches can be incorporated successfully as the will of the people. Covert operations for instance can be described as the heart of anti terrorism efforts.
Access to information, which helps in analyzing the plans, ambitions and vulnerabilities of terrorists, is extremely difficult. But only such information can prevent horrible terrorists acts. Such information is gathered by several officers and agents working underground. Today intelligence agencies like CIA recruit informants who have access to terrorist plans. These agencies have their exclusive process to assess the reliability and importance of potential informants. However government rules and procedures put hurdles in recruiting of crucial informers.
The rules prevent officers from recruiting ex-terrorists and individuals with tarnished credentials. Legislations need to be introduced to give more power to these officers in their efforts to gather intelligence, like the methods of gathering to be used and people sought to be recruited. The government therefore needs to formulate policies that help the intelligence officers without imposing hurdles. There should be no bar on who could be recruited as an informant and how he should be used, as long as that individual’s input can be vital to home security.
Apprehended terrorists are valuable sources information. However almost all of these apprehended terrorists don’t talk under ordinary questioning, but succumb under torture. Torture of terrorists may also be described as a vital anti terrorist feature, which keeps them away. Imagine a world without torture, everyone would be ensured a free run. There is no psychological fear. Mass murderers become emboldened to kill or attempt to kill thousands of innocent people, without any fear. It would probably be impossible to sustain life on earth on the basis of such absurd reciprocity.
Torture must be integrated within our legal framework, and to do this we only have to acknowledge its usefulness and recognize it. Torture at times can be the only way out, as it has been proved, when everything failed it was torture that delivered. A pro-torture utilitarian argument published in the Australian academic circles by Mirko Bagaric and Julie Clarke is that, to serve the cause of the larger good, torture is required. Their stand is that by torturing of suspects, if many innocent people can be saved, then why not allow it.
Another area that requires considerable policy change in anti-terrorism efforts is profiling. Profiling plays a crucial role in tracking perpetrators and should therefore be facilitated. Members of communities and ethnical backgrounds that have a history for terrorist activity or support need to be profiled. Such profiling contributes immensely to anti-terrorism. Another important type of profiling which is an important future law enforcement tool is the DNA profiling, which should be incorporated into counter terrorism activities as early as possible.
Since terrorists keep changing their identity, it might not be possible to scan every suspect for advanced feature or facial recognition procedures. However DNA profiling can be of help. Although right now it may not very clear how it could be collected or used, it can be very effective in combating terrorism. Just like the fingerprints are taken these days from convicted criminals, DNA samples could be taken from them and a database could be maintained. The advantage with DNA samples is that it proves without a doubt, the involvement of the individual, as DNA samples are almost never identical.
Further keeping up with this policy, identification through DNA samples can be established even at birth (UNT, 2009). Public education is perhaps the most important and difficult task that policy makers have in hand to ensure that terrorists are kept at bay. This is because the public has both a direct and indirect role in confronting terrorism. They need to be alert to suspicious people and circumstances on the ground apart from playing a crucial role in influencing policing making. Therefore they need to understand the need and implications of their decisions.
When they realize that compromise of privacy, torture and profiling can only contribute to a safe climate for the rest of the people, they would surely support it. The policy makers need to educate the public that unless these are fully implemented, there is always considerable risk of terrorist attacks. Schools and communities too require being educated on security aspects related to terrorism. No policy can achieve its intended goals without the approval and participation of the public.
Courtney from Study Moose
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