Intelligence and the Terrorist Threat

As defined inTitle 18, Section 2332b of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, the federal crime of terrorism is an offense that “is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct” (FBI, 2015, p. 1).

In general, terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

The terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, opened Americas eyes to a new kind of threat to the nations security. Radical extremist terrorists introduced themselves to the American people by means that had not been seen on American soil since December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii. As in the 2001 attack and other attacks that continue to today, many questions linger—not only about the attack itself, but also about the background of the attackers and the countries that would support such a murderous attack.The intelligence community, in particular, found itself to be at a major crossroads.

The aftermath of the 9/11 attacks exposed a glaring deficiency as to the level of interagency intelligence sharing and cooperation, particularly in the areas relating to radical terrorist groups (U.S. Department of Justice, 2003). Inadequate, or nonexistent, relationships enabled members of radical organizations to basically hide in plain sight.

The radicalized enemy here in America seeks to accomplish the same objectives as their international brothers, by instilling fear through violence. They live among us unassumingly. We may have encountered them unknowingly during our daily routines, such as riding the bus while they are sitting beside us, or dining together in the same public restaurant. They are trained to blend into U.S. society and do so with ease. They are polite, engaging, and even courteous as they covertly watch and learn all they can about our vulnerabilities and weaknesses.They patiently wait until the time is right to engage in criminal activity in order to exploit the openness of our free society. It is only through the intelligence process, and intelligence-led policing, that law enforcement can create credible intelligence intended to identify these individuals, groups, and their potential soft-target locations.

On February 9,2011, Janet Napolitano, then U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security in reference to understanding the homeland threat landscape. During her testimony, Secretary Napolitano stated:

Since 9/11 the terrorist threat facing our country has evolved significantly in the last ten years, and continues to evolve, so that, in some ways, the threat facing us is at itsmost heightened state since those attacks.This fact requires us to continually adapt our counterterrorism techniques to effectively detect, deter, and prevent terrorist acts.

(U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2011, p. 1)

In 2010, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) held its annual conference in Orlando, Florida. The main speaker was Robert Mueller, then director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. During his speech, Director Mueller spoke specifically of the continued growth of radical terrorism in America. According to Director Mueller, “Threats from homegrown terrorists are of great concern. These individuals are harder to detect, easily able to connect with other extremists on the Internet, and, in some instances, highly capable operationally” (Mueller, 2010, p. 1).

Chalk and Rosenau (2004), in a report for the RAND Corporation, advocate for strong analytical assessments, as they can prove to be an invaluable tool for making recommendations pertaining to law enforcement strategies. Chalk and Rosenau state, “The analysis is intended to help inform debate on the advisability of creating [a] dedicated information collection and surveillance body” (p. iii).

The intelligence process described in this chapter, whether worked by federal, state, or local law enforcement, is the most accurate methodology and process that can effectively address the identification of the terrorist threat.

Intelligence: Post-9/11

The need to share intelligence resources and to turn untrusting relationships among certain law enforcement agencies into trusting ones took a decidedly sharp turn immediately after the terrorist attacks that occurred on September

11, 2001. Prior to 9/11, intelligence and information sharing among law enforcement agencies atthe federal and state levels was virtually nonexistent. This glaring deficiency in intelligence sharing among those sworn to protect was one of the main reasons the intelligence community decided to focus their attention on positive efforts to improve their intelligence sharing with each other.

From these efforts, certain acts and plans were created to assist with interagency cooperation and intelligence sharing among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.Those acts and plans included the following:

  • • USA Patriot Act (2001): Provides appropriate tools required to intercept and obstruct terrorism. One key component, in terms of intelligence gathering, was the provision requiring information sharing while targeting terrorist organizations.
  • • Homeland Security Act (2002): Designed to consolidate several federal agencies under one governing body.These were primarily intelligence-led agencies, and they were also required to share information at multiple levels.
  • • National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan (U.S. Department of Justice, 2003): Created by the GIWG to provide an intelligence sharing plan model.
  • The 9/11 Commission Report (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, 2004): Also known as the report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, this is a government study on the details of what led to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It gives several recommendations relating to the continued need for information and intelligence sharing among law enforcement at every level of government.

The common denominator that can be found within this select group of examples is intelligence, and the need for information and intelligence to be shared among those organizations that utilize intelligence to investigate crime.

 
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