Following the events of September 11, 2001, the United States embarked on an unprecedented effort as the Global War on Terror (GWOT), with a special emphasis on preventing such attacks on American soil. This paper will analyze these efforts and identify the ongoing challenges.
Defining of Counter Terrorism Success
We have to define what we mean by “success” or “failure” of the United State’s post-9/11 counter terrorism efforts:
- If by “success” we mean no more 9/11-magnitude terror acts on American soil -- then the reforms have definitely been a complete success.
- If by “success” we mean stopping every terror attack, even by lone individuals – then the reforms have ...view middle of the document...
But the CIA was precluded from domestic investigation. Even when the CIA had actionable intelligence on possible terrorists, its surveillance ceased when said individuals reached American soil and the jurisdiction of the FBI. The CIA sometimes didn’t even alert the FBI that a likely terrorist arrived in the United States (CNN, 2000).
Even if aware of a potential terrorist threat, the FBI wasn’t in the business of predicting international terror. The FBI was more focused on forensic investigation of criminal activity for presentation in a court of law (9/11 Commission, 2004). Without court-approved search warrants based upon probable cause, the FBI’s surveillance was limited to activities in plain view.
The Patriot Act loosened many of the restraints on the CIA and FBI. The CIA was allowed to monitor American residents’ offshore communication with known terror groups. The FBI and other law enforcement were allowed to obtain secret warrants that monitored all communication paths from an individual, rather than just specific telephone accounts (DoJ, 2001). These measures resulted, rightly so, in a vigorous public debate regarding civil rights and privacy concerns.
Avoiding Muslim Prejudice
Since 9/11, American authorities have been very sensitive (some say too much) to appearing anti-Muslim. For instance, much was known about the Fort Hood shooter, which should have (and did) raise red flags. Against his military oath, Major Hassan publicly pledged allegiance to Islam over the United States Constitution, and embraced jihad and suicide bombings. His work performance plummeted. The FBI detected email communication between Hassan and Anwar al-Awlaki, a known jihad-promoting imam in Yemen. But he was a Muslim, and the FBI and DoD were reluctant to appear intolerant (Biden, 2011).
After visiting radical areas of Russia, Russian intelligence alerted the United States regarding Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber (Goldman, 2013). The FBI investigated and found he had tried to change his name to one of a terrorist friend who had been killed (Viser, 2014).
That the CT community knew so much about these attacks suggest that the interception of information was adequate; more needs to be done in the analysis and dissemination of the resultant data. Still, policies to further improve the interception of terrorist communication would be:
- Continue to use the largely intact Patriot Act to allow legal domestic surveillance
- The FBI should continue to liaison with local LEO by adding additional Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF)
- The FBI should continue to increase their international presence by opening more legal attaché offices in foreign countries.
- The FBI should continue to work with the CIA via the Director of National Intelligence (discussed later in this paper).
Before their attacks, the Fort Hood shooter and the Boston Bombers committed no crime, and so nothing else could be done....