Term Paper: International Terrorism and Homeland Security

Pages: 6 (1883 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Terrorism  ·  Buy This Paper

International Terrorism and Homeland Security

It is a basic principle of government, even in democracies, that when a country faces great danger, it may be necessary to curb some personal liberties to ensure the safety of the country. This has especially been true during times of war. The difficulty has always been that the government may be tempted to go too far. One example of the United States making that mistake would be when they interred nearly all Japanese-Americans living in the United States during World War II. While some may have actually been spies or saboteurs for Japan, the great majority were loyal Americans angry at their country of origin. By today's standards, this event is viewed as going much too far to secure the country.

Today we have a similar problem. We know that some extremists have viciously attacked the United States, and that they would welcome another opportunity to do so. In fact, we know that they actively look for such opportunities. With the ongoing risk of people who may know how to build "dirty" nuclear bombs, or use biochemical warfare, or build a truck bomb, and believe that if they die in the attempt they are guaranteed an honored and distinguished place in the next life, we have to take steps to protect ourselves. The difficulty is that our vigilance has to be 100% effective 24 hours a day, every day of the year, in every corner of our country as well as our interests abroad (such as embassies and business sites), while the enemy only has to get lucky once (Taylor, 2003). It is a daunting task.

TWO VIEWS of HISTORY

Although we have been aware for some time that terrorists attacked on soil foreign to them, having seen it occur in Japan, Canada, Great Britain, France and countries in Africa in recent history, concerns for our internal safety ratcheted up several times, including the first attack on the World trade Center in 1993, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1997, and of course, the destruction of the World Trade Towers, the damage done to the Pentagon, and the crash of a plane heading for a second government target in 2001. The marked coordination of the September 11 attacks were clearly an act of war.

Since we know the group behind those attacks, Al-Qaeda, still seeks to attack us, we have to be prepared for what they might try next. One of the best ways to understand what an enemy might do next is to understand how that enemy thinks as completely as possible. The September 11 attacks were "fueled by rage" (Cohn, 2002), and to understand why the attacks happened, and why they may happen again, we must understand that rage. To the terrorists who have targeted us, the United States has participated or supported attacks on them for decades. They point to our policies with Israel, or lack of sanctions for abuses toward Palestinian refugees, and even our military presence in Saudi Arabia, something Osama bin Laden himself has referred to (Cohn, 2002). Saudi Arabia is his country of birth, and his anger over that is not something to be taken lightly. Because of "roiling hatred" (Cohn, 2002) in the Arab world regarding the United States, and fueled by grinding poverty and a lack of real political power, some will turn to terrorism and feel quite justified to act in terrorist ways.

While we are outraged at the lost of more than 3,000 people, overwhelmingly private citizens, the terrorist view these deaths as collateral damage: it is not possible to conduct warfare without killing some innocent civilians. They see it as part of the realities of war (Cohn, 2002). This means that in a terrorist attack, our enemies feel no obligation to pick what most would consider military targets. In fact, they viewed the World Trade Towers as a military target, because it was a financial center for the United States, and they see United States economic interest as driving much we do that they object to (Cohn, 2002). While we are outraged at their strategies as well as their reasons, they view the United States as a rogue nation that ignores United Nations statements of policy and rules regarding aggression toward other nations (Cohn, 2002). Finally, the Middle Eastern world, with its long history, views history differently than a country founded in 1776. They view the Crusades, wars where Western countries actively attacked them based on religious differences, as current history (Cohn, 2002) the way we view our Civil War as not happening too terribly long ago. Just as we know there are still some lingering resentments in the South regarding that war, people in the Middle East still see the Crusades as relevant today.

OUR RESPONSE

Until September 11, 2001, the United States had not been attacked within its borders within the memory of many people, as most of the United States population has been born since 1941. While the attacks on our African Embassies were technically attacks on our land, emotionally it did not feel like an attack within our boundaries to most people. We might have recognized that our enemies did see it that way, but most people did not understand that perspective. Such attacks put the United States in a difficult position, because ours is a country founded on personal liberties, including the right to privacy and protection from unreasonable (meaning unjustified) search and seizures (Taylor, 2003). After September 11, we were suddenly and unexpectedly at war, but the laws protecting our personal rights, which were made stronger after excesses during the Viet Nam war, tied the hands of those charged with finding out where the threats lay and how to best protect us (Taylor, 2003).

A distinct example of this fact is demonstrated by the detention and investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui. Moussaoui was detained on August 16 for staying in the United States past the date his visa expired. However, he was actually arrested after authorities were told about his odd behavior at a flight school in Minnesota. He wanted to learn to fly the plane in the air, but was not interested in either take-offs or landings. The FBI had other evidence to suspect that he might be a member of Al-Qaeda. Since the September 11 attack, he has admitted to being a terrorist and was eventually identified as being the missing 20th hijackers: three of the four planes had five hijackers, but one had only four (Taylor, 2003). However, the FBI's ability to investigate the extent of Moussaoui's actions, plans and affiliations was hampered by laws protecting people from excessive investigative practices.

To put our country's laws more on a war footing, Congress passed the U.S.A. Patriot Act. This act gives the government greater latitude when trying to protect us from attacks. They have greater leeway when looking at communication from suspected terrorists, and agencies that gather information in other countries have broader flexibility as well. In addition, the Treasury Department has enhanced ability to ferret out money laundering. It gives the government increased powers for detaining suspected terrorists and for forcing them to leave the country. It tightens efforts at our borders to keep terrorists out, and allows agencies to work more efficiently when attempting to stop both domestic and international terrorists (Doyle, 2002).

This law also defined new crimes and clarified the definitions and consequences for old ones, including attacks on mass transportation, use of biological weapons, money laundering for terrorist purposes, actions that put domestic or international trade at risk, and for knowingly donating to supposedly charitable organizations that actually act as a front to gather money for terrorist purposes (Doyle, 2002). It allows "sneak and peek" search warrants, which can be issued based on less evidence than required for non-terrorist crimes, improves government access to confidential information when needed to combat terrorism, improves their ability to gather DNA samples, and clarifies law regarding attacks on American installations abroad (Doyle, 2002).

The Department of Homeland Security, formed in response to the September 11 attacks, was set up to organize and oversee the roles the many different agencies as well as some private industries must play in order to protect America from further terrorist attacks (Haynes, 2004). President Bush immediately asked the Office of Homeland Security to focus on three specific issues: preventing further terrorist attacks, reducing our vulnerability of such attacks, and devising ways to help diminish damage from such attacks and recover rapidly if another attack or attacks should occur (Haynes, 2004). The 2004 United States Budget supported the functions of Office of Homeland Security and the agencies it collaborates with by funding extra money for: securing our borders: securing our transportation systems; protecting our ports and coastlines; protecting our water supply; providing extra preparedness for national emergencies; analyzing ways to protect the infrastructure; improving knowledge and use of emerging science and technology; and improving the ability of Citizen and Immigration Services to spot those who should… [END OF PREVIEW]

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