Although the United States is currently faced with a multiplicity of challenges to its security as well as in ensuring the prevalence of global peace and stability, that of terrorism cannot possibly escape unnoticed due to the solemn obligations demonstrated by the U.S. Administration towards protecting the security of the American people.
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Today, terrorism is stated as one of the main challenges to security and stability, not only in the U.S. but also globally (McLoughlin, Noone & Noone, 2009). The events of 9/11 abruptly shattered the expectations of invulnerability previously held by the U.S. and boldly underlined the fact that terrorism is deeply entrenched in the society, thus the need to come up with various multidimensional measures to curtail terrorist attacks in the future.
The Defense Science Board has developed some defense imperatives that are critical in solving the multiple security challenges facing the country. This paper wishes to discuss and analyze the imperative on thwarting terrorism and bringing terrorists to justice. In particular, the analysis will focus on assessing the integrity or efficacy of the imperative in addition to suggesting various recommendations that may fast track the fight on global terrorism and bring excellent outcomes.
The imperative on the prevention of terrorism exposes some of the challenges that America continues to face in its counterterrorism strategies. In particular, this imperative decries the lack of critical information needed to develop intelligence regarding terrorists such as their identity and location, ideologies and rationale, financial sources, and their weapons and destructive capabilities (DSB, 2008).
McLoughlin et al. (2009) are of the opinion that terrorists have mutated into global networks of stateless dissidents advantaged by the ongoing globalization trends and the convergence of technology in the 21st century. Importantly, it is the same technologies that the U.S. must rely on to connect the dots that so far are missing if counterterrorism efforts are to bring the desired outcomes.
In its presentation, the Defense Science Board underlines the importance of acquiring usable information against terrorists not only to enhance collaboration among allies interesting in the fight on global terrorism but also to effectively rearrange organizations tasked with the responsibility of fighting terrorism in a more effective way.
In the Boards view, having comprehensive information on equipment, materials, financial sources, communication networks, training facilities, potential targets and motivational paradigms of the terrorists may boost counterterrorism efforts (DSB, 2008). This view is bolstered by the recent killing of Osama bin Laden, who is said to have been cornered after American intelligence systems were able to track his communication networks through a trusted courier.
It is correct to assume that terrorists will have a limited capacity to pursue a strategic terrorist attack similar to 9/11 if their cover is blown on all the above variables, but McLoughlin et al. (2009) warns that terrorists are able to adapt to various situations depending on the strategies taken by the pursuers.
In this context, the task should really be on how to disenable the terrorists by employing communication technologies that seek to intercept communications linked to suspected terrorists without necessarily seeking warrants. Indeed, the Board stresses that information collection on terrorists “needs to be close-in, intrusive, and covert, and must achieve deeper penetration” (DSB, 2008, p. 37).
An important observation made by the Board is that domestic terrorism intelligence must be at par with foreign intelligence since terrorists are more decentralized than previously thought, not mentioning that these dissidents’ may indeed be homegrown, may use internal mechanisms to raise funds, or may use internally sourced materials to manufacture bombs, therefore effectively circumventing foreign intelligence efforts (DSB, 2008).
The Board goes on to say that “while the ideology may be global, the recruitment, planning, and execution may be local” (p. 38). This is a valid observation reinforced by McLoughlin et al. (2009), who argues that the stateless factor, ideological orientation and fast conventional ways of operation may indeed make it possible for terrorists to operate within the U.S. boundaries.
The challenges mentioned as a direct consequence of the lapse or ineffectiveness of the U.S. domestic intelligence efforts are worrisome, particularly on how local suspected terrorists are perceived in law, availability of materials to make weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), availability of expertise and information on WMD, and availability of disaffected potential recruits.
In light of these observations, it is highly recommended for the Obama Administration to pass new legislation necessitating the arrest and potential detention of local individuals suspected of engaging in terrorist activities. As a matter of priority, the government must also provide adequate restrictions on locally available materials that could be used by terrorists to perpetuate their criminal acts.
For instance, a comprehensive database on individuals and industries using such materials must be developed and monitored frequently by security agencies to ensure that terrorists are kept out of such deadly materials. Another recommendation would be for the U.S. justice system to reengineer and redirect its basic correctional frameworks to ensure that convicts in jails do not turn into radicalized elements that may be used or hired by the extremists for their selfish interests.
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Comprehensive domestic intelligence efforts must be viewed as the precursor of a safe America, but efforts must also be made to harmonize domestic efforts with foreign intelligence-gathering efforts to achieve optimal effectiveness in the fight against global terrorism. Indeed, the Board is right in suggesting the bridging of “schisms between military intelligence and civilian, between national strategic and theater-tactical-operational intelligence” (DSB, 2008, p. 39).
In the fight against terror, the Defense Science Board has emphasized: “the value of open-source materials and the relatively efficient, low-risk acquisition attendant on these materials” (DSB, 2008, p. 39-40). Open-source information, in my view, is useful in examining the motivations behind the terrorists, their ideologies, and their way of operations.
However, the Board decries that current open sources of information are not only inadequate, but the administration is yet to make good use of them. Consequently, the U.S Administration need to work out on ways that could be used to extract useful information from open sources such as the blog posts traditionally used by terrorists to communicate or pass information.
The role of the media should be underlined since it is well known that some terrorists are comfortable dealing with media houses perceived to be sympathetic to their cause such as the Aljazeera and other cable networks (McLoughlin et al., 2009). Such media houses should be encouraged to collaborate and pass on useful information, not mentioning that the obligation of the media should be strengthened to create more public awareness about terrorism.
To conclude, it is essential to note that the recommendations made by the Board in respect to thwarting terrorism efforts are valid in their own right. The efficient flow of information between the military and the civilian population is particularly essential if global terrorism is to be defeated.
Consequently, the U.S. needs to fundamentally alter some of its foreign policies that demonstrate the country as a bully in the international arena to more friendly and people-oriented policies that will encourage local and international civilians to share information.
To secure the future, the current administration must realize that contemporary terrorists prefer networked organizations to hierarchical structures (McLoughlin et al., 2009), thus the need to target modern information-sharing protocols such as the internet to mine information about terrorist activities.
The noose on locally available materials and intelligence on weapons of mass destruction must be tightened, and local suspects of terrorism need to be exposed to the same principles applicable to foreign terrorists. The U.S., by virtue of its superpower status, must also begin an initiative that ensures that poverty, unemployment, and religious indoctrination are tackled globally.
The knowledge that these three variables breed radicalism and intolerance is in the public domain (McLoughlin et al., 2009). Collaboration and financial rewards for information must also be encouraged to acquire useful information that could lead to thwarting terrorism and bringing terrorists to account. Lastly, counterterrorism efforts need to be refocused on curtailing the benefits that terrorists intend to gain by pursuing their criminal activities.
Defense Science Board. (2008). Defense imperatives for the new administration. Retrieved from <https://www.acq.osd.mil/>.
McLoughlin, J.P., Noone, G.P., & Noone, D.C. (2009). Security detention, terrorism and the prevention imperative. Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, 40(3), 463-505. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier Database.