Challenges for US Counter-terrorism Efforts
As a direct consequence of September 11, a number of substantial challenges lie ahead in the area of counter-terrorism.. The most prominent of these is the changing nature of the terrorism phenomenon. In past years, when terrorism was largely the product of direct state sponsorship, policymakers were able to diminish prospects for the United States becoming a target using a combination of diplomatic and military instruments to deter potential state sponsors. Today, however, many terrorist organizations and individuals act independently from former and present state sponsors, shifting to other sources of support, including the development of transnational networks.
Many terrorism experts have suggested a shift in the type of violence terrorists are willing to inflict. Terrorism statistics indicate an overall reduction in the number of terrorism incidents per year, but an increase in the number of victims per incidents. While the number of historical cases of terrorists using CBRN weaponry is low, this trend toward increasing violence and less state control may drive certain terrorist groups toward unconventional weapons. On the other hand, the reduction in direct state support may decrease the terrorist's ability to acquire or independently develop CBRN weapons. These shifts have produced a number of policy and program initiatives designed to better deter and prevent future acts of terrorism while also building a national capacity to effectively respond to terrorism incidents involving the full range of weapon types.
A key challenge is working both at home and abroad to identify, track, and defeat terrorist groups before they undertake acts of violence against American citizens. Preventing terrorism requires the use a wide array of tools for the purpose of disrupting their activities by removing the secrecy they operate require, eliminating sources of support, and prosecuting potential terrorists. Vital to this are on-going threat assessments. Effective threat assessment is the need for abundant, timely and useable intelligence, about potential terrorist sponsors, perpetrators, activities and targets, as well as intelligence to guide our prevention and preparation activities and programs. Despite the transnational nature of many terrorist groups, challenges to integrating foreign intelligence with domestic law enforcement information remains.
Central to threat assessment is intelligence to help develop our own targets to deter or punish state sponsors. In this regard, the development of long-term human source intelligence [HUMINT] is often cited as a vital component in building our ability to preempt attacks. Critical to threat assessment is the need to get smarter, not just in protecting against the threat from outsiders, but smarter about the threat posed by people with legitimate access. This includes acts of carelessness by insiders. A chain...