What is counterterrorism
Before defining counterterrorism, it is pertinent to understand what terrorism is all about. Executive Order 13224 recognizes terrorism as any kind of violent activity whereby human life is endangered or the violent activity may prove to be dangerous to infrastructure and property in general. In addition, the act is said to be a terror motive if the intention was to intimidate the civilian population. If the coercion is directed towards influencing a government policy, the act also qualifies to be a terrorist activity. It is also possible to have the violent act being done with the intention of intimidating government activities by either carrying out assassinations, mass destruction or taking people hostage.

There is no single way of defining how terrorism is countered and rather counterterrorism applies several practices or strategies in fighting terrorism. Counterterrorism is also not restricted to a particular arm of the government but it involves several players including the society at large. This implies that the government may liaise with businesses which may help in providing commercial data important terrorist investigations. Other players in counterterrorism other than the military include the army, police and local organizations. Counterterrorism entails activities such as collecting intelligence information, disposing bombs, rescuing hostages or even engaging in negotiations. Important to note about counterterrorism is that it is not restricted to acting after a terror attack but also encapsulates all the activities that are aimed at preventing occurrence of terrorism.

Terrorist never attack without a given intention. Identifying the root of the problem is a big step towards resolving any puzzle. Answering the question of why terrorists are attacking say a group of people or certain nations would be very helpful in finding the solution. Having done excellent intelligence studies, it is unlikely that terrorism acts would be accomplished with success. The motivation behind any terrorist act is predicative of the tactics that the terror group is likely to use, the goals of the group and what they intend to achieve as well as how long the terror group is likely to last. Fettweis (2007) says that proper understanding of terrorist motivation is necessary to devise counterterrorism strategies that have the highest likelihood of success. Since combating terrorism requires sufficient and intelligent planning, having a clear understanding of the motivation of terrorists is very important principle in effective planning. It is even more effective in fighting terrorism since terror groups are usually given wholly to the motivation behind attack and therefore unearthing this motivation helps to fight the ideology behind their actions.

Identifying the motivation of terrorist groups has been identified by Ganor (2005) as one of the functions of the counterterrorism equation. In this equation, Ganor terrorism is given as equal to motivation plus operational capability. Thwarting the motivation means that the equation is not complete and therefore terrorism activities are rendered ineffective. It is easier and less complex to counter a terrorism motivation than to counter the terrorism itself. As such, recognizing the motivation and countering it is an important aspect in counterterrorism. After all, it is possible to carry out counter-motivation in the underground but offensive counterterrorism moves can provoke more violence.

There have been a number of terrorist attacks in the United States. In 1996 alone for instance, there were three terrorist attacks. One of them involved the pipe bomb explosion whereas another one involved bombings and robberies carried out by the Phineas Priesthood. Perhaps the most well known and recent terror attack was the September 11 attack of the Twin Towers. It is also clear that there are both domestic terrorism involving groups within the United States and international terrorists where terrorists carry out their attacks beyond national boundaries. A clear look into such terror attacks indicates that there are certain motives behind them.

Among the main motives of terrorism in the United States has been to get the attention of the government to the cause of the terror group. The Phineas Priesthood group for instance carried out the 1996 attack as retaliation due to the arrest and harsh treatment of individuals belonging to the Freemen Organization. There are other groups that carry out their terror attacks for alleged political reasons. This was particularly in the 70s and 80s. For instance, the Irish Republic Army carried out its attacks in quest for certain political concessions (FAS, 2009). Recently (as from the end of twentieth century), most international terrorism moves have been aiming at causing massive killings in spite of still holding to other causes. Terrorists have been targeting the masses as was the intention of the World Trade Center bombing. The attacks have been carried as intimidation acts against the American government by targeting American citizens and friends of the United States. This is demonstrable with not only attacks within American soil but also attacks in Americas embassies in other countries.

Even with the motive of causing high casualties, there have still been religious motives as found with the Al-Qaeda group under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden. In such a group, religious motives have been put together with hatred for certain governments. It is notable that political motives have been going down and instead, some terrorist groups are driven by visions of a post-apocalyptic future or by ethnic hatred (FAS, 2009, para 12). The intentions of such groups have been to kill their opponents in the largest numbers possible.

Counterterrorism- a tactic of warfare or crime-fighting
Counterterrorism has been viewed in one way as a tactic of war and on the other as a way of fighting crime. It all depends on the strategy taken to counter terrorism. Among the tactics include placing of embargoes and trade sanctions to the terror groups and their supporters, freezing assets under the control of such individuals and the more controversial waging war against terror groups and their supporters (Day, Berry  Howard Foundation, Inc, 2004). The war on terrorism that arose after the 2001 attack raised questions on whether it was a way of waging war against enemies countries or the intention was to fight terrorism indiscriminately.

In the process of fighting crime, it is important that those combating crime adhere to the principle of human rights as well as remaining under the law. Any response towards countering terrorism that does not adhere to these principles is not fight against crime but rather qualifies to be termed as warfare. In view of this, counterterrorism is warfare since privacy rights are infringed during surveillance. By attacking Iraq in 2003, the bush administration can be regarded as having had warfare against Iraq. There were cases of inhumane treatment as with the case of Guantanamo Bay prisoners. On the other hand, counterterrorism can be termed as fight against crime considering that it is implemented under various regulations such as the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act or the U.S. PATRIOT Act.

The way terrorists are viewed determines whether they are to be countered in form of warfare or as fighting crime. Characterizing terrorists as enemies is likely to invite war as each side would fight to eradicate their enemies whom they consider to be a hindrance in furtherance of their interests. A perfect example is the War on Iraq in 2003 where Iraq was being considered as an enemy of the U.S. Such a war is intended to eliminate rival groups contrary to fight against crime where stopping crime is the main agenda and can be achieved through peaceful means.

Traditional versus new surveillance
Surveillance is an intelligence gathering means whereby certain persons or groups are monitored by either observing them or listening to their conversations. This can be done by visual or aural or sometimes both techniques can work simultaneously. A direct observation by intelligence agents without the use of such tools also amounts to surveillance. Surveillance has undergone several changes with time just as terrorists tactics have evolved.

Traditional methods of surveillance can be categorized as those methods that existed prior to the 911 attack which was a major turning point for surveillance methods. Such methods included the use of closed circuit television (CCTV) and video cameras in airports and other public places. The CCTV is positioned in areas where the persons being monitored are unaware of. This kind of surveillance is known as covert surveillance as opposed to overt surveillance where the individual(s) being monitored are aware of such activities. Wiretapping is a surveillance technique whereby a conversation between individuals is overheard. This falls into the category of surveillance of communications. This method has been in use for many years now. The so called new surveillance methods are not as novel as they are termed but rather most of them are developments on the traditional techniques.

After the 911 attack, the science and technology industry advanced the surveillance techniques. Facial recognition software has been added. The use of biometric systems in the surveillance process has been expanding since the 911 attack. These have been used in public places more so in the aviation sector. This technique identifies physiological and physical traits such as gait, voice recognition, and fingerprints among other biological characteristics. Other than those developments, governments especially the U.S. and Britain have gone ahead to keep DNA databases as well as databases containing personal information. The databanks can be used to track individuals and their activities. With the establishment of such databases of information, a new and sophisticated surveillance technique known as data mining has been developed.

Data mining is the application of database technology and techniques-such as statistical analysis and modeling-to uncover hidden patterns and relationships in data and infer rules that allow for the prediction of future results (Guzik, 2009, p 6). This is a predictive technique that takes certain characteristics in individuals and computes the likelihood of such persons being involved in terrorism.

Change in the surveillance techniques have raised questions on how democratic they are. They are a threat to civil liberties since they infringe on privacy thus contravening the Fourth Amendment and they are also likely to be used for other purposes. Surveillance through CCTV for instance has been intensified in both public and private places thus making Americans paranoid and without personal privacy. Since wiretapping and internet surveillance continued post 911, National Security Agency came under criticism over infringing personal privacy. DNA profiles in the databanks are also likely to be used by some individuals maliciously such as to discriminate certain individuals from employment with specific genetic predisposition. The heavily criticized technique is the data mining method that has been mentioned to lead to racial profiling. Persons of Middle East and North African as well as the Muslim community have faced discrimination and a common label as most likely suspects of terrorism.

It is worthwhile to apply every technology available to enforce law including fighting terrorism. Considering that terrorists mainly hit with surprise as far as technology and tactic is concerned, the law enforcers have no other option but to keep ahead of the terrorist. Such a cutting edge can be achieved by using all technologies available to predict terrorism and even to halt the activities of terrorists. Knowing how to detonate explosives and neutralize toxic biologic agents are examples of good use of technology in fighting crime. Even with such promising achievements, it is necessary to regulate the use of these techniques. To avoid racial profiling, unwarranted invasion of privacy and any kind of discrimination, and regulations should be set to limit the extent to which the technologies should be used. The United States have Acts governing such issues. The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act as well as the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act are in place to regulate surveillance of personal communication. It is only unfortunate that introduction of such Acts as the USA PATRIOT Act seems to disregard OCCSA and FISA.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was established in 1978 by the Congress with the aim of ensuring that the government provided safety for all Americans from attacks and at the same time ensuring the respect of civil liberties. As such, wiretapping and personal searches can only be carried out once a warrant has been issued by the FISC. The court which is currently made of 11 federal judges as appointed by the U.S. Chief Justice for a non-renewable term of seven years is headed by a Chief Judge selected from the eleven. The Court is mandated to review surveillance applications as put forward by the government intelligence agencies. This happens in case the intelligence agency wants to monitor individuals either within the country or outside but who pose a risk to the security of Americans and their property. After the request has passed through the NSA and the Office of Intelligence Policy Review, a recommendation is made to the Attorney General who approves the application. This is when the FISC is given permission to give a surveillance warrant.

The functioning of the FISC is different from the traditional courts in several aspects other than the composition of and terms of Judges. Review of requests takes place in the Justice Department (DOJ) with only DOJ lawyers being allowed in the Court. In addition, the individuals to be monitored are kept unaware and therefore they cannot have representation in the Court. This means that it is an ex parte proceeding (U.S. Courts, 2010, para 5). There also exists a Foreign Intelligence Court of Review which handles appeals arising from the requests. The U.S. Supreme Court takes over appeals arising from the Foreign Intelligence Court of Review.

The continued use of FISA has not been without outcry from various sectors of the society. Civil Liberty Unions in America have protested over the secrecy of the FISA proceedings. Such groups have been calling for enactment of an Oversight Bill for the public to be aware of the activities of the Court. This is said to be a move towards ensuring that democratic principles are used in matters of surveillance and that the court does not abuse its powers. The role of the FISA has however been insignificant in surveillance since the introduction of the U.S. PATRIOT Act making most people call for its abolishment. This means that foreign surveillance would be carried out without need for a warrant as it merely protects individuals who form the target of surveillance.

Aviation security since 911
Security in the aviation sector was one of the main issues of concern to the government bearing in mind that the 911 terrorists accomplished their heinous act through the use aircraft.  There was need to intensify security measures which called for several changes. Prior to 911, security in the aviation sector was mainly left in the hands of the security screeners hired by the airline companies. These were often incompetent and fairly inexperienced hence the 911 incident. The need for tougher security measures called for the establishment of the Aviation and Transportation Act (ATSA) in 2001. The Transportation Security Aviation (TSA) was also set under the ATSA as a measure of enhancing security in the aviation industry. The federal government took over the mandate of maintaining airport security from previous private contractors. Regulations under ATSA were tight such that criminal background of passengers and employees became a requirement while screening of baggage and personal screening was heightened including performing cross-checks with FBI.

The enactment of this bill brought about some change although it has been criticized on the other hand. One achievement is that TSA enabled the confiscation of prohibited items such as firearms with the Department of Homeland Security intercepting about 49,331 box cutters among other items as of 2003. On the other hand, TSA has been under criticism that it concentrated more on hiring personnel rather than allocating resources to development of novel technologies that would be effective in screening passengers and baggage. It has therefore been a challenge to the TSA to come up with new screening technologies that would uncover a wide range of prohibited items other than relying on X-ray and metal detection technologies only.

Perhaps the development of the data mining technology and the application of this technique in the aviation industry are more promising. There are software systems that are used to classify individuals risk of terrorism. Such include the Computer Assisted Passenger Screening System (CAPPS) and the Secure Flight. These systems are under criticism of creating racial profiles in the name of ensuring aviation security. Since the systems seem to discriminate against individuals from the Middle East and North Africa as well as Muslims, they stand to miss terrorists who may not be from such ethnic and religious backgrounds. The profiling-based aviation security is prone to false positives as well as false negatives and therefore they should not be fully relied on as absolute measures of aviation security. Racial and religious profiling no matter how promising it may be in ensuring aviation security should not be used solely to determine risk of terrorism but criminal background and tangible evidence should be the principle items to look for in ensuring a secure aviation industry.


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