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Countering Terrorism: the US Intelligence Community Essay

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Updated: Jun 10th, 2020


The U.S. Intelligence Community is an alliance of 17 government agencies that improve national security by collecting, analyzing, disseminating, and acting on intelligence information. Examples of these agencies include Air Force Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, Army Intelligence, Central Intelligence, Agency, Coast Guard Intelligence, National Security Agency, Marine Corps Intelligence, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Drug Enforcement Administration (Richelson 2011, p. 24).

Terrorism is one of the greatest challenges that security agencies face in America. Members of the Intelligence Community (IC) work both independently and in collaboration to counter terrorism threats. The war against terrorism is not fully won because of various limitations that affect the alliance’s activities. For instance, poor sharing and dissemination of information between agencies limit counterterrorism efforts (Richelson 2011, p. 31). This limitation is primarily due to bureaucracy and the rules that individual agencies follow. Eliminating bureaucracy, improving communication, increasing funding, and creating new methodologies and techniques of handling intelligence are strategies that can be sued to counter terrorism threats effectively.

Roles of the IC in countering terrorists’ threats

As mentioned earlier, the Intelligence Community plays a key role in improving national security by countering terrorism. Its activities and operations have been primarily successful because of collaboration among its various members. The roles played by the IC in countering terrorism threats include espionage, collection and analysis of foreign intelligence, gathering of civilian intelligence, and planning of military operations (Richelson 2011, p. 27).

According to Executive Order 12333, intelligence agencies are required to perform six main roles. First, they are responsible for collecting important information that is requested by the President, the National Security Council, and other top government officials for purposes of improving government operations (Borene 2010, p. 37). Second, they collect and distribute intelligence relating to domestic security. Third, they collect information relating to terrorism that is disseminated by foreign governments, organizations, and individuals. In that regard, they track the activities of suspected terrorists. Third, they perform activities that support U.S foreign policy and that neutralize terrorism threats (Borene 2010, p. 39).

In performing these activities, they remain anonymous in order to mask the participation of the United States. Fourth, they carry out commands issued by the President (Borene 2010, p. 39).

The major role of the IC in countering terrorism is to collect intelligence of threats and neutralize them before disaster happens (Borene 2010, p. 41). The success of this role depends on the effectiveness of individual agencies and their collaboration with other security organizations. The IC responds to intelligence by either carrying out certain military operations or arresting suspected terrorists for further interrogation.

Each of the agencies plays a different role in countering terrorism threats. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collects civilian intelligence and any other information relating to terrorism threats within the United States (Meingast 2009, p. 44). It also collaborates with other agencies in response and recovery operations, counterterrorism activities, and border security. For instance, it collaborates with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to ensure that any information relating to terrorism is collected, evaluated, and shared with other agencies to avert possible disasters (Borene 2010, p. 47).

The DHS also tracks the activities and networks of suspected terrorists (Meingast 2009, p. 49). The Department of Treasury (DOT) tracks the financial transactions of suspect groups and individuals in order to prevent the financing of terrorist activities. The National Security Agency (NSA) collects and disseminates intelligence from foreign affiliates and also facilitates communication and data processing (Borene 2010, p. 53). The Marine Corps Intelligence plays various roles that include threat assessment, production of intelligence to aid in planning and decision-making, and dissemination of information necessary for training and education of law enforcement officers (Meingast 2009, p. 57).

Each member of the IC plays its role individual and in other cases collaborates with other members. The most important aspect of the alliance’s operations is the sharing of information among its members. After each of the 17 agencies generates and analyzes intelligence, the findings are shared with the other members to aid in counterterrorism efforts. The activities of the alliance are effective because agencies analyze both civilian and local intelligence. Therefore, terrorism threats are countered within and outside the United States. Finally, the IC performs counterintelligence in order to protect sensitive information from leaking to foreign governments and terrorist groups (Meingast 2009, p. 66).

This role is played by the FBI in collaboration with other partners that include the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterintelligence Executive, and the National Counterproliferation Center. The Intelligence Community counters terrorism threats by collecting, analyzing, and acting on intelligence regarding the networks and activities of suspect groups and individuals within and outside American borders (Borene 2010, p. 72). The success of the alliance is based on the cumulative effects of the work done by individual agencies and the subsequent dissemination of information.

Limitations of the U.S. Intelligence Community in countering terrorism threats

The success of the IC in neutralizing terrorism threats depends on the efficiency of individual agencies and the degree of collaboration among them (Borene 2010, p. 72). One of the major limitations that the alliance faces is ineffective communication and dissemination of information among the agencies (Dahl 2008, p. 64). A report released by the FBI regarding the September 11 attack revealed that poor cooperation among security agencies was the main cause of the attack (Meingast 2009, p. 33).

The report highlighted the need for better cooperation and communication especially in the areas of collecting intelligence and conducting domestic counterterrorism activities. The 9/11 Commission Report gave several reasons for the failure of the intelligence community to avert the attack. The reasons included poor analysis of intelligence information, dearth of long-term strategies of dealing with intelligence, and numerous organizational limitations that hampered cooperation between the agencies involved (Dahl 2008, p. 37). Another limitation is widespread bureaucracy within the alliance that causes organizational clashes between agencies. The alliance also lacks a conclusive domestic intelligence-gathering strategy. Each agency has its own organizational structure and bureaucratic procedures that govern its operations (Meingast 2009, p. 49).

Organizational bureaucracy prevents free sharing of information between agencies. Each organization adopts certain ways of reacting to terrorism threats. Therefore, it is difficult for an agency to adopt the methods and techniques used applied by another agency. It is important for the American Intelligence Community to find ways to eliminate bureaucracy in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its counterterrorism efforts (Borene 2010, p. 61).

Another limitation is lack of improved analytical methodologies and techniques to counter terrorism threats (Dahl 2008, p. 63). This limitation has existed for a very long time. However, after the 9/11 attack, the government made several changes and improvements that strengthened the operations of the IC. For instance, it introduced new techniques and methodologies that encouraged the use of imagination and creativity in analyzing information and developing long-term intelligence strategies (Dahl 2008, p. 73).

Poor imagination leads to lack of long-term strategies to deal with terrorism. It is important for the alliance to create new and autonomous departments that deal with long-term intelligence collection and analysis. Studies of unsuccessful terrorism threats have revealed that the IC was able to counter them because of increased electronic surveillance, cooperation between security agencies and the public, free and timely dissemination of intelligence, and availability of strategic intelligence on threats (Dahl 2008, p. 83). Finally, there is inadequate allocation of funds to agencies by government. There is uneven allocation of money to the agencies. Certain agencies are deemed more powerful than others. Therefore, their budgetary allocations are higher. Inadequate budgetary allocation limits the activities and operations of certain agencies especially those involved with the collection of domestic intelligence (Borene 2010, p. 93).

There is need for the creation of an agency or commission to deal with this challenge in order to streamline the operations of the IC. Another limitation is the poor performance of the bureau that is responsible for streamlining the activities of the 17 agencies. One of the reasons for the 9/11 attack was poor communication between agencies especially the CIA and the FBI (Borene 2010, p. 86). The formation of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) improved communication between the agencies. However, more needs to be done in order to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy.


The United States Intelligence Community is an alliance that comprises 17 security agencies that deal with improving the security of Americans by fighting threats such as terrorism and cyber attacks. Examples of these agencies include the FBI, the CIA, Marine Corps, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. The roles of the alliance include collection and analysis of intelligence regarding terrorism threats, planning of military activities, and conducting surveillance of terror groups and suspected individuals. Each of the 17 agencies plays a different role and shares information with other members.

The effectiveness of the IC has been stifled by several limitations that include bureaucratic issues, poor communication between agencies, and ineffective dissemination of intelligence. There is need for organizational change in order to eradicate bureaucracy and enhance cooperation among agencies. In addition, development of new methodologies and techniques of analyzing intelligence and increment of budgetary allocations to different agencies are necessary. Terrorism is a global threat that requires cooperation among security agencies and the participation of the public.


Borene, A 2010, The US Intelligence Community Law sourcebook: A Compendium of National Security Related Laws and Policy Documents, American Bar Association, New York. Web.

Dahl, E 2008, . Web.

Meingast, S 2009, Intelligence reform and Counterterrorism Effectiveness, Books on Demand, New York. Web.

Richelson, J 2011, The US Intelligence Community, Westview Press, New York. Web.

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