The pre and post 9/11 Law Enforcement Response to Terrorism

Thepre and post 9/11 Law Enforcement Response to Terrorism

ThePre and Post 9/11 Law Enforcement Response to Terrorism

Terrorismis not a new thing in the society today. It has been in existencesince the historical times, but despite of this, it has beenrelatively difficult to completely define terrorism. Depending on thepoint of view of the person being addressed, terrorism can be definedas a justifiable reaction to oppression or an unjustifiableabomination (Young, 2006). It can be defined as the use of violentactions, intended to create terror in order to achieve political,ideological or religious ends (Hoffman, 2013). These actsdeliberately target the civilians so as to get the attention of thegovernment. The terrorists may be considered as freedom fighters fromthe people on their side while others consider them as criminals(Young, 2006). The word terrorism is usually so emotionally chargedthat it is difficult to have a precise definition. Terrorism actshave been used by ruling governments, religious groups,revolutionaries and nationalistic groups to exploit fear in order toachieve certain objectives (Young, 2006).

Differentscholars, law professionals and security experts have tried theirbest to define the different types of terrorism. The different typesof terrorism can be identified according to the agents used to attackthe people and the reasons for the attacks. The study of thedifferent forms of terrorism began in the United States of America inthe 1970s after an entire decade of terror attacks (Hoffman, 2013).At the time of these studies, different forms of terrorism hadalready flourished. Some of the most common methods of terrorism usedat this time included assassination, hijacking, kidnapping andbombing in order for their demands to be met. For this reason, thelaw enforcement thought it was necessary to define all the differentkinds of terrorism in order to understand the methods they can use todeter it. Some of the most common forms of terrorism that have beenable to be defined include state terrorism, bioterrorism, nuclearterrorism, Narcoterrorism, nuclear terrorism and cyber terrorismamong others (Lizardo &amp Bergesen, 2003).

TheEvolution of Terrorism

Althoughterrorism still remains the use of unlawful violence to bring fear,it is constantly changing (Combs, 2003). The changes in terrorism aredue to the changes in the socio-political environments. Most of thesechanges have been able to develop the terrorist activities in a waythat brings the relationship between terrorism and the world at largeto another level. In order to understand these changes, it isimportant to go through history to understand how terrorism hasevolved with time (Combs, 2003). The forms of governments and societywere very different in the past compared to what can be witnessedtoday. Until 1648, the modern day states were not in existence (Reid,1997). With the absence of a central authority it was very difficultto use terror as a method of influencing political decisions. Throughthe years, the terrorist activities have become bloodier, theterrorists have found new methods of financial support, hence they donot depend on sponsorships from other states and they have alsocreated new modes of communication that makes it harder for them tobe caught. In 1988, the Al Qaeda was formed. This is an Islamicjihadist movement that was formed by Osama bin Laden in order toreplace the western-dominated nations that belong to the Muslims withthe Islamic fundamental regimes. This is the terrorist organizationthat was responsible for the American terrorist on 9/11/2001, betterknown as the 9/11 attack. For all American citizens, the 9/11incident is one that they wish they could just forget. All the peoplewho were alive and old enough to understand could not comprehend howsomething like that could happen on the American soil. The followingis an assessment of the pre and post law enforcement responses toterrorism that will help to determine what is similar and what haschanged before and after the 9/11 attack.

LawEnforcement Response to Terrorism before the 9/11 Terrorist Attack

Thereare certain things about the law enforcement agencies that weredifferent before the 9/11 attack on America. The following are someof the roles that different agencies played before the attacks onAmerican soil. Before these attacks, the agency that was primarilyconcerned with the domestic counterterrorism was the FBI. They usedboth criminal investigations and intelligence in the fight againstterrorism before September 11thof 2001 (Marks &amp Sun, 2007). The most common method that the FBIdealt with the terrorist attacks is conducting after-the-factinvestigations and building cases. As most of the terrorist casestook place overseas, it was necessary to deploy a number of FBIagents in these countries to do the investigations after any attackhad taken place. These investigations needed a lot of resources to beconducted (Waxman, 2005). However, most of the FBI efforts weresuccessful and they managed to identify arrest and prosecute theperpetrators of the terrorism plots. Some examples of terror attacksthat happened before 2001 and the perpetrators were able to be foundinclude the bombing of two East African American Embassies in 1998and the attack on the world trade center in 1993 (Marks &amp Sun,2007).

TheFBI used a traditional approach in dealing with terrorism. Theiragents were thoroughly trained to build cases and they were rewardedaccording to the statistics on the indictments, prosecution andarrests they have made. The agents used to develop information fortheir own individual cases and not for a broader purpose (Marks &ampSun, 2007). The FBI information system at this time was so poor thateven other agents in the office were not able to know what anindividual agent is working on. It was also impossible for theanalysts to get their hands on relevant information that can helpstudy terrorism. Due to the problems in the information system, itwas almost impossible to understand the different terrorist groupsand the extent to which they are threats to the Americans (Marks &ampSun, 2007). The FBI field office used to run the investigations thatdeal with counterterrorism. Once they build a case, they had fullcontrol over it and they did not get much of direction from the headoffice.

Inthe 1990s, the FBI discovered that it was not enough to just solvethe terrorist cases without applying any preventive measures tocounterterrorism. For this reason, there are some amendments thatwere made to the FBI department in the 1990s. There were someorganizational changes that were made such as the creation of acounterterrorism center where officials from the CIA and FBI werejoined to strengthen the fight terrorism. A special unit was formedto particularly to deal with the Al Qaeda and their leader Osama binLaden (Marks &amp Sun, 2007). In the late 1990s, they discoveredthat there were certain things that were undermining the preventivemeasures against terrorism. Some of these things include the factthat the FBI had made national and economic security and neglectedterrorism to some extent. Although the counterterrorism budgetdoubled in the mid-1990s, the spending on terrorism at this timeremained constant. There were twice as many agents that werededicated to the matters of national and economic security, such asdrugs than those that were dedicated to terrorism response. Accordingto an external report, only about six percent of the total number ofFBI agents concentrated on terrorism. Prior to the 9/11 attacks,there was a lack of political will and adequate resources to dealwith the problem of terrorism. In addition to the counterterrorismagents being limited, they were also not fully utilized to deal withterror attacks. The main problem in law enforcement before 9/11however, was the barrier to communication. A certain interview with aformer FBI agent verified that the agency used to remove some of theagents from the terrorism cases to hide some major information (Marks&amp Sun, 2007)..

Afterall the problems that have been mentioned above were detected, thisagency made some attempts to reform. In 1998, the FBI issued fiveyear strategic plan that prioritized terrorism for the first time inthe history of the FBI. This plan recognized that the FBI needed tomake some changes to their intelligence in order to enhance nationalsecurity. As a result of this plan, a new investigative servicedivision was formed in 1998. This division was formed to deal withthe analysis function in the fight against terrorism and otherthreats to national security. This division was also meant to improvethe professional personnel of the FBI since a previous investigationhad shown that at least 66% of all the FBI agents were not qualified.However, this new division did not succeed because of the lack ofsufficient resources and the opposition from the senior managers whofeared losing their power and resources to their respectivedepartments.

Anew counterintelligence and counterterrorism division was also formedin 1999. A strategy called the MAXCAP 05 was formed to help thebureau reach its maximum feasible capacity in stopping terrorism by2005. Despite the formation of these strategies, there were stillsome discrepancies that made this division ineffective. Before the9/11 attack, the FBI intelligence did not have an effective strategyin place that could be used to collect intelligence and identifyintelligence gaps (Marks &amp Sun, 2007). The gap betweenintelligence and criminal investigations made the FBI agents to beless active that they would have been in pursuing FISA (ForeignIntelligence Surveillance Act). Not enough resources were dedicatedto the surveillance translation needs in the fight against terrorism.Before the 9/11 attack, the FBI did not fully understand orappreciate the importance of strategic analysis in the allocation ofresources and driving investigations. They failed to value the rolesof the strategic analysts as most of them thought their jobs were tooacademic and hence irrelevant. Moreover, the poor state of the FBIinformation system made it difficult for the analysts to access theinformation they needed for their jobs. Their access to informationdepended on the personal relationships they had with the insider FBIagents (Marks &amp Sun, 2007).

Beforethe 9/11 attacks, the law enforcement agencies also have a problemwith the management of information. They lacked an effective methodin which they can share and use information that is important to thecounterterrorism efforts. The primary information sharing technologywas that of the 1980s technology and this made it difficult for themto share information both inside and outside the agency. They usedthe Joint Terrorism Task Forces as their primary method ofinformation sharing. However, the JTTF had limitations such asinadequate staffing.

LawEnforcement Response to Terrorism after the 9/11 Attack

Afterthe 9/11 attack, information came to light that there had actuallybeen breakdowns within the information sharing facilities of the lawenforcement agencies (Waxman, 2005). Without this breakdown, maybethey could have prevented this incident from happening. After theattack, there was a heated plea by the American citizens for the lawenforcement agencies to fix any discrepancies in their system so asto prevent such incidents from ever happening again in the future.Are there new things that have been done to improve the lawenforcement agencies’ efforts to stop terrorism? Actually, thereare certain things that were changed or added so that the fightagainst terrorist attacks can be more effective. Since the 9/11attacks, there have been a number of foiled terrorist attempts onAmerica and this is good evidence that the new approaches tocounterterrorism are actually effective (Waxman, 2005).

Someof the measures that have made this possible are the amendment of thePATRIOT act and the amendment of the Foreign IntelligenceSurveillance Act (FISA). Other counterterrorism measures that thegovernment added include the pursuit of the Afghanistan war anddetaining of all terror suspects in their military base in GuantanamoBay. The government also issued new torture techniques to be usedagainst the terror suspects. Many researchers believe that this hasalso been an effective method of reducing the cases of terrorismsince the 9/11 attacks (Waxman, 2005).

TheFISA and PATRIOT amendments have enabled better counterterrorismbecause they have allowed better inter-agency communication,monitoring of financial transactions and electronic communicationsbetween the terrorists, authorization of roving wiretaps and delayingof notification searches (Waxman, 2005). The law enforcement agencieshave been able to make good use of each of the above techniques toprevent various terrorist attacks and identify terroristconspirators. Capturing of terrorism suspects has also helped in thefight against terror since the military interrogators have been ableto get helpful information from the captured suspects that helped toprevent forthcoming attacks. For instance, Iyman Faris and JosePadilla were detained at the military base in Guantanamo Bay andthrough the use of the new torture techniques such as waterboardingand sleep deprivation, they were able to give useful information thatled to a number of arrests. They were also identified as conspiratorsin the 2002 terrorist attempt (Waxman, 2005).

In2008, the FBI launched the National Data Exchange, which is anational system which allows the law enforcement agencies to shareconfidential information that is supposed to help counterterrorism.This has helped to catch more criminals and prevent various attacksfrom happening. They also launched the initiative for suspiciousactivity reporting by the civilians (NSI). This initiative was mainlyset to enable the citizens to report anything they think issuspicious to the relevant authorities so that they can act before itis too late. In 2004, there was the launch of the data fusion centerswhere all information from a number of sources are assembled andvetted so as to identify if there are any suspicious trends that drawthe attention to terrorism. Bringing all the data in one place putschanges it into software that makes it easier for the intelligence toanalyze all the information. If all these things had been implementedbefore the 9/11 maybe it would have been stopped. However, there aresome areas that still require some improvement if there is any hopeof completely stopping terrorism (Waxman, 2005).

Compareand Contrast the pre and post 9/11 Law Enforcement Strategies

Themost common similarity between the law enforcement strategies thatwere used before and after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 is thefact that the agencies realized the importance of preventivemeasures. However, a lot of changes have been put into effect afterthe attack. The most common changes are on the information systems.It is now easier to share information between the law enforcementagencies and this makes it easier for them to have access toknowledge that is useful to their efforts towards counterterrorism.The easier access to knowledge has also made it easier for theanalysts to get relevant information that will enable them to studyterrorism and assess the different terrorism groups so as to helpstop this criminal activity. This has also been made possible becauseof the advancement in technology since the 1990s.

Anotherthing that has greatly improved the fight against terrorism is thespreading of the duties against terrorism to other law enforcementagencies other than the FBI as it was in the time before the post9/11 amendments were made. The training of law enforcement agents hasalso been improved significantly since the attack. Theimplementations of the PATRIOT act FISA amendments have also played asignificant role in improving the fight against terrorism in theUnited States of America.

Whatneeds to be done?

Afterthe 9/11 terrorist attack, most of the United States intelligence andlaw enforcement agencies have been focused on the fight againstterrorism. With the new responsibilities shared by these agencies,they seem to have neglected the crime and drug trafficking amongother threats that need attention just as much as terrorism. Inaddition to this, there are still some policing agencies that stillcollect information, but they fail to carry out the requiredanalysis. They fail to make use of the available technology to makesure that security is at its maximum (Hoffman, 2013).

Althoughthere have been new technologies that have managed to properly handlethe intelligence activities since the 9/11 attack, there are certainemerging challenges that are still emerging. ‘Hacktivism’ andcybercrime have continued to increase the frequency of theiroccurrence and the consequences that they have on the Americannational security. The government’s ability to identify maliciouscodes and different other hacking tools. This is one of the majorchallenges that still face the United States of America. In order tostrengthen the counterterrorism the government should strengthen itsstrategies against cyber terrorism too and set up legal implicationsthat will be able to help internet security and freedom. Anotherthing that needs to be changed is the manner in which the law dealswith the terrorism suspects. The current method that takes thesuspects through court cases leaves so many issues unresolved. Thisis because of the issues of burden of proof. It is not easy to decidewhich evidence is sufficient enough to have a suspect convicted. Thegovernment needs to come up with certain institutions that will beable to separately handle terrorist cases with a comprehensiveprocedure and fundamental fairness.


ClarkeR. V &amp Newman G. R (2007). Police and the Prevention ofTerrorism.

Combs,C. C. (2003). Terrorism in the twenty-first century.

Coolsaet,R., &amp Vandevoorde, T. (2006). The Evolution of Terrorism in 2005.A statistical assessment.

Hoffman,B. (2013). Insideterrorism.Columbia University Press Wilkinson, P. (1986). Terrorism and theliberal state.

Lizardo,O. A., &amp Bergesen, A. J. (2003). Types of terrorism by worldsystem location. HumboldtJournal of Social Relations,162-192.

Marks,D. E., &amp Sun, I. Y. (2007). The impact of 9/11 on organizationaldevelopment among state and local law enforcement agencies. Journalof Contemporary Criminal Justice,23(2),159-173.

Reid,E. O. (1997). Evolution of a body of knowledge: an analysis ofterrorism research. InformationProcessing &amp Management,33(1),91-106.

SerraoS. &amp Peet D., (2011). How 9/11 Has Changed Law EnforcementIntelligence Analysis.

Waxman,M. C. (2009). Police and national security: American local lawenforcement and counterterrorism after 9/11. J.Nat`l Sec. L. &amp Pol`y,3,377.

Young,R. (2006). Defining Terrorism: The Evolution of Terrorism as a LegalConcept in International Law and Its Influence on Definitions inDomestic Legislation. BCInt`l &amp Comp. L. Rev.,29,23.