The Threat of Terrorism – The Problem of the 21st Century


The Threat of Terrorism

The threat of terrorism serves as one of the most major challenge that the U.S faces in the 21st century. In an effort to combat the rising threat of terrorism, the U.S government introduced the Patriot Act that received an overwhelming support from the Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11 on the U.S. Despite the intelligence approach by the Patriot Act aimed at addressing the threat of terrorism, it has remained a subject of criticism from civil liberties groups. For defenders of civil liberties, the Patriot Act and intelligence measures undertaken by the federal government with an aim of combating the threat of terrorism does less to avert the danger, but only serve in infringing the individual rights that are well defined in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S Constitution. Despite the criticism leveled against the law enforcement officials in their method of data collection, the measures undertaken are crucial in addressing the threat of terrorism. As opposed to ending the surveillance programs by the federal government, there is need to take more pro-active measures by identifying indicators of terrorist activities before they perpetrate terrorism acts. A close examination of the magnitude of the threat terrorism within the U.S and possible intelligence measures is provided in the paper.

The Threat of Terrorism
In the United States history, the country’s commitment to civil liberties has often come into test and with the continuing threat of terrorism, it even becomes worse. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S, the federal government under the leadership of President Bush passed the USA Patriot Act with an aim of intercepting and obstructing terrorism. The act was signed to law on 26th October 2001 providing law enforcement officials together with intelligence agents with expansive authority in combating terrorism (Stefoff, 2011). Despite the law receiving a synonymous approval in Congress by the time it was passed, most of the provisions in the law have faced opposition from civil liberties as they contravene individual rights. This study is of significant importance in that it informs American citizens about the potential threat of terrorism and the measures that the government can undertake in addressing such threat. Terrorism possesses potential threat of harming the U.S by loss of life and property.
Threat profile
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the U.S served as a mark of a dramatic destructive terrorist attacks in the U.S. Before the incident, the U.S was still a target for terrorists with its friends suffering terrorist attacks. Terrorist attacks targeting the U.S and its citizens began in the 1980s where 23rd October, 1983 saw truck bombings of the French and U.S military leading to a total of 295 lives lost. While the incident remained as the most dreadful terrorist attack in the history of the U.S, the September 11 attack left the U.S and the world shocked as it involved more than 3,000 victims (FBI,2003). Consequently, the attack indicated a trend by terrorists in targeting civilians. After the incident took place, the federal government saw the need to empower the law enforcement agents to combat and halt threats of terrorism targeting the U.S. Furthermore, the law enforcement officials realized that they face two types of terrorism threats that comprise of domestic and international. Domestic terrorism entails threatened use or unlawful use of violence by an individual or a group that operates entirely within the U.S without receiving foreign directions. International terrorism on the other hand entails violent acts conducted by an individual or group within the U.S jurisdiction by foreign individuals or persons engaging in the act of terrorism under foreign direction. The introduction of the Patriot Act was focused on ensuring that the law enforcement officers possess adequate understanding and counter terrorism before damage is done.
While the Patriot Act was introduced with an aim of ensuring effective measures in combating terrorism, civil liberties argue that the law contradicts the U.S Constitution as outlined in the Fourth Amendment regarding individual rights. The Fourth Amendment prohibits government searches while conducting criminal investigations without using court warrants that specify the specific place where the search will take place and the reasons for conducting the search. However, Title II of the Patriot Act allows the law enforcement agencies to conduct greater surveillance of suspected spies and terrorists both within the domestic and foreign level (Stefoff, 2011). Civil liberties groups present an argument that the increased surveillance by law enforcement officials impinges on individual rights while they rarely help in protecting U.S citizens from threats of terrorism. The law allows the government of the U.S to use trap and trace together with pen registers in collecting information regarding telecommunications sent as well as those received from a specific source or from any individual suspected to engage in terrorism. The law enforcement officials are further allowed the powers to use roving surveillance as a measure in responding to new technologies that comprise of things like cellular telephones, emails as well as other means of rapid communication.
Despite Title II of the Patriot Act requiring terrorism investigations to be accompanied by warrants for searches, it provides the government with powers to avoid notifying the individuals it intends to search while equally requiring the officials to keep the searches secret. As the searches conducted happen without property owners knowledge, they are referred to as ‘sneak and peak’ by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. According to a report by Pew Research Center (2013), 44 percent of Americans have indicated their concerns regarding the manner anti-terrorism policies undertaken by the government has gone at a level high in restricting civil liberties of American citizens. Consequently, 39 percent of the population has a perception that the policies lack sufficient proof that they protect Americans and their country from the threat of terrorism. Civil liberties groups assert that despite the policies introduced by the government associated with the ability of detecting terrorist activities, everything has remained unchanged when it comes to protection of the citizens. Republicans and Democrats have equally raised their concerns with 41 percent of Republicans believing that the government in its efforts of detecting terrorism and terrorist activities has led to restriction of civil liberties. Among the Democrats, 49 percent believe that anti-terrorism policies adopted by the federal government limits civil liberties. Civil liberties groups equally challenge the legality of CIA in monitoring, collecting and sharing private data collected from American citizens. Under the U.S Constitution, the respective bodies tasked with the role of law enforcement are well spelt out with the CIA not among those bodies (Stefoff, 2011). As such, other than only questioning infringement of civil liberties, the issue of constitutionality of CIA when handling terrorism is brought into perspective.
Irrespective of the civil liberties groups and individual concerns, the U.S citizens need to understand the threat posed by terrorism and thus accept to sacrifice some of their individual rights to enhance in protecting the nation. Terrorism is associated with political, social and economic conditions. Political conditions result from the interest by terrorists to challenge the ruling government and portray it as inappropriate in protecting its people. In such situations, people lose confidence with their government. Economic conditions serve as the most significant issues that enhance terrorism to thrive. For terrorists to succeed in their mission, they must possess adequate resources to fund their activities. Resources at the disposal of terrorists are used in training terrorists and purchasing weapons and other products for use while conducting their terrorist acts. As terrorists work secretively to avoid detection by law enforcement units, they require significant resources to keep their operations running until and after accomplishing the set objectives (FBI, 2003). Again, for terrorism to take place, social conditions must exist where the social environment where terrorists train must accommodate the terrorists and their behaviors. For example, the Al Qaeda, one of the leading terrorist groups and one that took responsibility of the September 11 attacks thrives in the Middle East where they hide in the name of Islamic religion. As such, it is indicative that terrorists thrive in social environments where there are conditions that help them thrive and thus have time for planning their terrorist activities.
Goals and objectives
Ideology and motivation serves in influencing the goals and objectives of terrorist operations, most notably depending on the casualty rate. Terrorist groups that possess secular ideologies as well as non-religious goals will often aim at selective and discriminate acts of violence with an aim of achieving a specific political aim. Therefore, terrorist groups focus on keeping casualties at the highest level so as to achieve their objective. The action happens with an aim of avoiding a backlash that may lead to a severe damage to the organization and also in maintaining the appearance of a rational group that possesses legitimate grievances. All terrorist groups focus on attaining similar goals and objectives. Some of the notable goals refers to producing widespread fear and obtain a global or national recognition as a result of their action as they attract the attention of the media and embarrass the security forces of the government with an aim of making the government overreact or appear repressive. Other goals of terrorists comprise of satisfying vengeance and create a doubt regarding the ability of a government in protecting its citizens.
Target preferences
Terrorists exact target comprise of public places and government properties. Targeting government offices and properties serve in fulfilling the goal of terrorists to weaken the government. When strikes are directed to government offices, it signifies that the government fails to serve its people effectively (Jensen et al., 2003). Again, by conducting attacks on public places, terrorists succeed in achieving their set objective of impacting the highest possible number of victims. Some of the notable public places where ordinary persons are found and where terrorists target comprise of schools, hospitals, airports and bus stations. Other public places comprise of offices, companies and other institutions that employ high numbers of civilians. Hotels, fields, shopping malls, theatres and bars equally serve as possible terrorist targets as they comprise of volumes of ordinary citizens in most instances. Consequently, it is important noting that terrorists target major organizations like manufacturing and communication companies to ensure that the economy of the target country crumbles. For example, where a terrorist act hits major communication companies, it leads to creation of confusion across the country as individuals, organizations and government agencies fail to communicate effectively. Where a communication challenge is experienced within a nation, it signifies that such a nation fails to conduct its economic activities in an effective manner. American embassies serve as another potential target for terrorists.
Again, it is important noting that there are specific types of crimes that terrorists commit so as to attain their set goals and objectives. The most common type of terrorist act refers to bombing as portrayed in Appendix A. Appendix A offers an analysis of different types of terrorist act and the possibility of occurrence of the various types of terrorist acts. Bombing serves as the most common type of terrorist incident in that it is easier to manufacture and also cheap to purchase. Terrorists in the modern world benefit from technological advancements that help in manufacturing improvised explosive devices that are not only smaller, but equally harder to detect. Improvised devices contain significant destructive capabilitiessignifying that they assist terrorists in achieving their desired goal of causing the highest number of victims possible. Kidnappings and house hostage-takings serve as the other common type of attack conducted by terrorists. Terrorists make use of kidnapping together with hostage-taking so as to develop a bargaining position and that elicits publicity. Kidnapping however, serves as one of the most challenging acts that terrorists accomplish, but where it becomes successful, terrorists may benefit from money, release of their comrades from prison and increased publicity. Hostage taking entails the seizure of a location or facility and then the terrorists take hostages. Unlike in the case of kidnapping, hostage taking leads to a confrontation between the terrorists and authorities. The authorities are forced into making dramatic decisions or adhere to the demands of terrorists. Appendix A portrays the level of kidnapping and hostage-taking usage among terrorists. Armed attacks together with assassinationsserve as the other type of attack that terrorists use where armed attacks comprise of raids as well as ambushes. Assassinations on the other hand refer to killing selected victims by using bombs or arms. Drive-by shooting serves as one of the most common technique employed by unsophisticated terrorist groups that helps the terrorist to create fear and attract media attention.
Arsons and fire-bombings serve as the other type of acts that terrorists use in accomplishing their goals (FBI, 2003). These forms of attacks mostly emanate from loosely organized terrorist groups and also those that are less trained. By conducting arsons and fire-bombings against a utility or public place, terrorists intend to send a message that the ruling government has failed in maintaining order. The nest type of attack that terrorists use refers to hijackings and skyjackings where hijackings involve seizure off a vehicle together with its passengers using force. Skyjacking on the other hand involves seizure of an airplane providing terrorists with varied hostages drawn from different nations leading to significant media attention. Again, skyjacking proves important to terrorists as it provides them with mobility of relocating the aircraft to a region or country that offers support to their cause while equally providing the terrorists with human shield. There are other types of terrorist acts with cyber-terrorism serving as one of these types and a modern type of terrorism that is expected to grow in scope as a result of the continuous technological developments in the field of information technology (Heuer, 2013). Terrorists equally engage in other acts of violence that comprise of robberies as well as extortions so as to finance their actions in case they lack funds from the sympathizers.
Most likely targets
Terrorists focus on achieving their desired goals and objectives in the best possible manner. In the recent past, terrorists have changed their tactics from their initial approach where the military and police were they currently target softer targets where private citizens are found. Appendix B presents the trends of terrorist attacks depending on specific target. The reason for change of tactics to target private citizens is driven by the notion that private citizens in public places are often in large numbers with security equally less strict. As a result, terrorists are assured of high number of victims and also significant media attraction (Steiner, 2009). Again, it is important noting that statistics reveal that there are certain days that comprise of public holidays that are most likely to experience terrorist attacks than the other days. That results from the notion that terrorists understand that members off the public are concentrated in specific places enjoying their holiday or travelling to different destinations. Appendix B further provides an analysis of terrorist acts depending on specific days within the U.S. As such, the most likely targets for terrorists comprise of shopping malls, bus terminals, bars and hotels together with airports. These places possess high number of civilians signifying that a successful terrorist attack must yield victims.
Terrorist activity indicators refer to observable anomalies or incidents that portray the probability that an individual or group will engage in an act of terrorism. These indicators comprise of preoperational planning measures that take place before terrorists hit their preferred target. These indicators comprise of surveillance activities by individuals, other than the law enforcement officials. Appendix C discusses further some of the measures that terrorists may employ to survey their targets. The next indicator refers to theft of law enforcement materials that comprise of uniforms among others. Stockpiling of explosives or weapons and attempts of testing physical security serves as other indicators of possible terrorist activities.
Recommendation for intelligence collection plan
Law enforcement officials should incorporate people and objects in collecting surveillance intelligence information. As such, it signifies that private data surveillance should continue despite the raised concerns about impact on civil liberties. However, the information collected while the government conducting private surveillance should only be used in protecting the citizens against the possible threat of terrorism. Appendix C presents an Intelligence Collection Plan that will enable in collecting information from the identified indicators.
Terrorism possesses potential threat of harming the U.S by loss of life and property damage. In an effort to combat the rising threat of terrorism, the U.S government introduced the Patriot Act that received an overwhelming support from the Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11 on the U.S. The measures undertaken by the government comprise of surveillance programs on individual data and property that civil liberties groups argue that it contravenes the Fourth Amendment of the U.S Constitution. Despite the raised concerns, the U.S government must continue with its surveillance programs and implement further measures to identify possible indicators of terrorist activities.

FBI. (2003, June 27). FBI — The State of the Terrorist Threat Facing the United States. Retrieved from
Heuer, R. (2013, June 26). Psychology of Intelligence Analysis — Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved from
Jensen, C.J., D.H. McElreath & M. Graves. (2013). Introduction to intelligence studies. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4665-0003-7.
Pew Research Center. (2013, December 3). Section 4: The Threat of Terrorism and Civil Liberties | Pew Research Center. Retrieved from
Stefoff, R. (2011). The Patriot Act. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.
Steiner, J. E. (2009, October 28). Improving Homeland Security at the State Level — Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved from

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Note taking, using binoculars, maps and cameras that seem out of context

Theft of law enforcement properties
These comprise of uniforms, badges and official vehicles among other resources that provide individuals with the ability of gaining access to restricted areas

Stockpiling of explosives or weapons
Acquiring weapons and explosive materials in a beyond normal practice. Possession of materials used in making explosives among them volatile chemicals and propane tasks also serves as an indicator of pre-operational planning

Attempts to test physical security
The action happens with an aim of assessing whether it is possible to breach physical security

Information Provided

Inadvertent or intentional revelation by an individual that results from a casual encounter, an official meeting of revealed through informant relationship
Law enforcement officers

Physical together with functional traits of an item that is identified through visual or physical examination
Military equipment

Clues regarding the identity together with activities of the originator
Intercepted communications

Evidence regarding existing and traits of target entities
Imagery documents

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