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Can The U S Prevent Future Acts Essay

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Can the U.S. Prevent Future Acts of Domestic Terrorism?
A Research Study of Extremist Terrorism and the Role of the U.S. Intelligence Community

Pete Dwyer
03/20/2012
Thesis / Research Paper
GWU Security & Safety Leadership

Abstract of Project
While terrorism is not a new phenomenon to the human race, the past ten years have ushered in a previously unfamiliar rise in terrorism attacks on U.S. domestic soil. This problem has posed a significant challenge to U.S. national security which both government and commercial entities have so far struggled to adequately address and prevent. This research project focuses on the rise in domestic terrorism in the U.S. over the last decade, beginning with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The 9/11 attacks provide a starting point to compare and contrast findings from subsequent acts of domestic terrorism in order to evaluate improvements (and lack thereof) over the same period of time. Findings include action and behavior trends by terrorists and intelligence community/law enforcement personnel in a number of high-profile terrorist cases. Gathered research can provide substantial proof as to the government’s (i.e. intelligence community’s) ability to prevent or at least capably respond to future acts of terrorism in the U.S.

Table of Contents
Introduction.……………………………………………………………………………………...1 Argument and Approach………………………………………………………………………..4 Literature Review………………………………………………………………………………..7 Methodology…………………………………………………………………………………….12 Research…………………………………………………………………………………………16

Case 1: Christmas 2009 Northwest Airlines Underwear Bomber…………………….…16 Case 2: 2009 Fort Hood Lone Terrorist Shooting……………………...…………………23 Case 3: 2009 Fountain Place Bombing Attempt in Dallas, Texas…..……………………31

Case 4: 2010 New York City Times Square Bomber………………..…….……………...39 Findings………………………………………………………………………………………….45 Conclusion………………………………………………………………………………………56 References……………………………………………………………………………………….59

Introduction
The Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11th, 2001 marked a turning point for many facets of American life. American citizens started viewing the world through a different looking-glass. People in New York City and Washington, D.C. witnessed first-hand that their lives could be profoundly changed by the distant events and opinions of people they were not familiar with half a world away; all other Americans watched in horror as the events unfolded live on national television and were replayed again and again. The events revealed that the U.S. government was a general target for likely future attacks. All federal departments and agencies and the people who worked for them were now possible targets merely because of their affiliation with the U.S. government. This reality called for reconsideration of established practices and wide-sweeping change, some more than others. Specifically, the U.S. Intelligence Community realized it had to change its practices and procedures to detect and counter the emerging threat of terrorism against U.S. citizens and entities. The question quickly emerged as to whether the U.S. Intelligence Community could effectively prevent future acts of terrorism against U.S. citizens and entities.

In reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a government-sponsored commission was established by the U.S. Congress and President Bush. This committee was named the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, or what has more frequently been referred to as The 9/11 Commission. The commission was established to “investigate ‘facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, “including those relating to intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, diplomacy, immigration issues and border control, the flow of assets to terrorist organizations, commercial aviation, the role of congressional oversight and resource allocation, and other areas determined relevant by the Commission” (The 9/11 Commission Report, 2004). The commission spent nearly two years conducting its review of the events and presented an in-depth report of what had allowed foreign entities to conduct a domestic attack against the United States. Findings within the report revealed a series of mistakes and self-imposed limitations that allowed for a group of Al-Qaeda terrorists to illegally enter the country, plan their attacks, hijack four commercial airliners, and crash them into prominent American buildings. Due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, nearly three-thousand people lost their lives that day and many more lost their former sense of peace and security.

The 9/11 Commission Report presented detailed facts of what transpired on the day of the terrorist attacks. Additionally, the report’s authors chose to present historical findings of what took place in the years leading up to the tragedy as a way of setting the stage to explain why and how the 9/11 attacks occurred. While there are numerous detailed sections within the report, it was determined that the following issues primarily contributed to the U.S. government’s failure to thwart the 9/11 terrorist attacks: 1. The U.S. Intelligence Community and its foreign and domestic partners failed to openly share information with each other during the Al-Qaeda terrorist operatives’ planning phase. It was determined that the terrorist plans likely would have been discovered had partner agencies trusted and talked with each other. 2. Intelligence agencies and personnel displayed a lack of unity of effort in their attempts to prevent terrorist attacks against the U.S. Each agency or department within the Intelligence Community claimed an anti-terrorism role but, most importantly, no single entity was recognized as having primary responsibility for prevention of domestic terrorism. 3. Multiple layers of redundancy across various intelligence agencies led to waste of resources due to a lack of overlying structure that allowed for failed management of strategic and operational assets. 4. Despite warnings by the Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, and numerous examples, like the 1993 World Trade Tower and 2000 USS Cole bombings, senior government leaders and anti-terrorism experts had difficulty identifying potential means of attack and soft targets. 5. Ultimately, the Intelligence Community had difficulty identifying potential terrorist operatives in advance and preventing terrorist attacks against U.S. entities.

Government leaders and citizens of the United States have struggled since the attacks of 9/11 to objectively assess whether we are now safer from future terrorist attacks than ten years ago. Trillions of taxpayer dollars have been expended for the combined foreign wars in the Middle East region and U.S. homeland security in an effort to defeat and eliminate the extremist Islamist terror threat. Thousands of American soldiers have either died or been wounded in the process and the average American citizen’s everyday life has been profoundly changed, forever.

Argument and Approach
The events of 9/11 and the resulting 9/11 Commission highlighted the key role of the U.S. Intelligence Community in identifying potential terrorists and preventing future acts of domestic terrorism. The 9/11 Commission Report concluded that the only way to prevent future acts of terrorism was to provide a well-structured counterterrorism system that actively searched for terrorists both overseas and within U.S. borders. The Intelligence Community was the only group capable of assuming this vital and challenging role. In this paper, I will seek to answer the question of whether the U.S. Intelligence Community is better prepared to halt a terrorist attack than it was prior to the 9/11 attacks. While great strides have been made by the Intelligence Community to improve our preparedness and prevent future acts of terrorism against U.S. entities, I will argue that the task is far too difficult to completely accomplish, much like the task of finding a needle in a large haystack.

Since the research question is too broad to assess every angle within a single report, I will focus on particular facets of the question and tightly define the intended approach for addressing the research question. First, I will limit my research focus to U.S. domestic acts of terrorism only. For starters, there are too many terrorism cases that have taken place between September 11th, 2001 and present day; an effort to assess all of these cases would prove both insurmountable and confusing. By cutting out the foreign terrorism cases, we taper our effort significantly and avoid certain research difficulties associated with such cases. For example, foreign governments are much less forthcoming with case information which makes public research more difficult to collect and process. Also, this eliminates the need for language translations by the researcher. There is a second reason for restricting our research to domestic terrorism cases. While foreign terrorist attacks against US entities are certainly serious, they do not affect the American public in the same way that domestic attacks do. Homeland attacks have the potential to impact a greater number of American citizens but also cause greater damage to the average citizen’s psyche and confidence in the overall effort to defeat terrorism. This further adds to the import of focusing on domestic cases. Finally, I pick four domestic terrorist cases that occur between 9/11 and present day; four cases provide substantial information for comparative research but also allows the researcher to avoid being overwhelmed by available data from countless cases. While these four events are indicative of domestic terrorism trends, they also stand out as unique, high-profile cases that captured the attention of most U.S. citizens while providing the U.S. Intelligence Community with an unbiased status assessment on recently implemented improvements. Consequently, I intend to address the question of whether the intelligence community is better prepared to counter acts of domestic terrorism by examining the five major categories of weakness highlighted within the 9/11 Commission Report. Further, I will apply a method to examine improvement (or lack thereof) within these five categories from highly visible terrorist attacks that have taken place in the U.S. between 9/11 and present day. Literary reviews from both government commissions and non-government experts within the field of national security, homeland security, and counterterrorism, provide supportive data to further form the problem. I will ultimately present a substantive assessment of how the U.S. Intelligence Community has changed to prevent domestic terrorism and whether they are more prepared to do so ten years removed from 9/11. On the whole, I argue in this paper that the U.S. Intelligence Community has demonstrated marked improvement in each of the five major categories of weakness identified in the 9/11 Commission Report. This improvement is due in part to increased attention and appropriated funds as well as notable changes in procedures. These include collaboration with other effected government and private organizations. Despite these efforts, domestic terrorist attacks continue to occur in America; in fact, the number of attacks has steadily grown, as will be revealed in my research. While a comparable terrorist attack on the level of 9/11 has not occurred, some people still question whether their work and the associated expenses of American life and treasure have been in vain. The threat of domestic terrorism in the U.S. will persist, regardless of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s efforts at adaptability. Essentially, the threat of domestic terrorist attacks can only be contained; it simply cannot be eliminated. Three main reasons stand in the way of counterterrorism efforts by the Intelligence Community: 1. The sheer geographic size of the U.S. and the number of people living within its borders at any given time provide too large of a pool for intelligence analysts to collect, process, and analyze intelligence on; 2. The individual liberties afforded U.S. inhabitants make it more difficult for authorities to stop acts of domestic terrorism since privacy rights prohibit officials from invading citizens’ privacy or detaining them without cause; and, 3. The unpredictability of the “lone wolf” terrorist is awfully difficult to detect in advance and avert because of his determination and unpredictability. He rarely coordinates or shares his plans with outside parties making it virtually impossible for intelligence analysts to flush him out.

Literature Review
Despite various government reports and studies by prominent experts within the field of terrorism and security, government officials (i.e. decision makers) failed to recognize the imminent threat of domestic terrorism by foreign entities against the U.S. Instead, the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania coupled with the attacks against U.S. military targets overseas (e.g. Khobar Towers and USS Cole) lulled government leaders into thinking that the threat was restricted to overseas targets. Prior to 9/11, significant time and efforts were dedicated by the U.S. government to study the possibility of nation-state sponsored WMD terrorism. However, very little focus was placed on countering the threat of conventional terrorism at home. (Hoffman, Terrorism and WMD: Some Preliminary Hypotheses and Inside Terrorism and Lesser, Countering the New Terrorism) Key parties failed to align U.S. government and commercial entities to collaborate and cooperate in the event that a terrorist threat or attack occurred within U.S. territorial borders. This policy proved both foolish and disastrous in light of the 9/11 attacks and we have spent the better part of the past ten years trying to recover from and respond to this deadly threat. Terrorism itself has occurred in many forms throughout the history of mankind. Countless examples appear over the past two thousand years; in particular, results from specific acts of terrorism during the past two hundred years have, at times, proven quite volatile and effective. David Rapoport, a longtime expert in the field of terrorism studies, details the four waves of modern terrorism that have evolved during the past two centuries: 1) the “Anarchist wave”, 2) the “anticolonial wave”, 3) the “New Left wave”, and 4) the “Religious wave”. His writings reveal how terrorism has dynamically changed in the hands of extremist Islamic terrorists and assumed its current sensational form. (Four Waves of Modern Terrorism, p. 47) Experts on terrorism, like Rapoport, Bruce Hoffman, and others, began to detect the transformational trends of terrorism during the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to the 9/11 terrorists attacks, they wrote extensively on the notable differences between religious terrorists and more traditional ethno-national terrorists who partially constrained their actions because of their related political interests. (Terrorism and WMD, p. 46-49) Significant terrorist attacks carried out for religious motivations included the 1993 World Trade Towers Bombing, the 1993 Bombay Bombings, the 1995 Khobar Towers Bombing, and the 1998 Tanzania / Kenya Embassy Bombings. Experts warned U.S. government officials (decision makers) that this new terrorism, motivated by extremist religious beliefs, promoted unconventional tactics and that it could not be addressed within the traditional confines of the U.S. Cold War National Security Strategy because of the extremist Islamic terrorists’ unconventional beliefs and practices. While it would have been difficult for the U.S. Intelligence Community to predict the exact plans of the 9/11 terrorists, more could have been done in advance to have thwarted the possibilities of success for their abhorrent, yet highly successful, operation. The fact is that terrorism experts had provided substantial warning regarding the increased possibility of foreign terrorist attacks in the U.S. No part of the 9/11 operation had been without operational precedent by one or another terrorist group. When examining the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a combined operation, each part of the plan was taken from a previous terrorist event that had targeted either American or Western culture. For example, extremist Islamic terrorists, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and Abdul Hakim Murad, had unsuccessfully attempted in 1991 to simultaneously hijack and blow up twelve commercial airliners while flying over the Pacific Ocean. (CNN, “Plane terror suspects convicted on all counts”) In 1970, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorists successfully hijacked three airliners simultaneously in a coordinated operation. (BBC News, “1970: Hijacked jets destroyed by guerrillas”) Still other unsuccessful operational attempts during the 1990s revealed that extremist Islamic terrorists had ascertained the possibility and sensationalism of using a hijacked airliner as a human-guided missile. (Hoffman, Lessons of 9/11, p. 18) The U.S. Intelligence Community and other senior government officials were aware of these previous terrorist operations. With their partners, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), they could have taken any number of steps to have addressed these key gaps in plans or procedures. This is not to say that some responsible parties had not considered or disregarded such a possibility from occurring. But they certainly never took appropriate action to collaborate between primary organizations and coordinate actions that may have stopped the series of events that unfolded on 9/11 from occurring. Coincidently, a White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security had been formed in 1996. The commission was charged to conduct a formal review of all aviation practices as they related to safety and security and they submitted their formal report to President Clinton in 1997. In the report, representatives pointed out as a key finding that significant security gaps still existed across the aviation community, including regarding the threat of terrorism. Surprisingly, the report fails to mention the still apparent vulnerability of pilots, located in the cockpit, as it related to forced-hijacking by terrorists. This procedural and resource failure has been addressed since the 9/11 terrorists attacks but could have been realized earlier, based on prior terrorist acts of hijacking starting in the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, this same commission identified multiple shortcomings in FAA procedures and organizational structure; but, it failed to flush out the extreme lack of collaboration and communication that existed between neighboring FAA Regional Air Traffic Control Centers and even the FAA Command Center in Herndon. (9/11 Commission Report) Again, the events of 9/11 revealed these shortcomings and proved to be a major failing point by government officials to respond to the threat in a coordinated and timely manner. At the same time as the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security was being conducted, terrorism and homeland security experts Ian Lesser and Bruce Hoffman released their findings from studies of the rising threat posed by extremist Islamic terrorists. They warned of the growing strength and sophistication of extremist Islamic terrorists groups like Al-Qaeda. Furthermore, they stressed the enemy’s enmity for Western culture, especially the United States, and cautioned government leaders of the growing threat to U.S. citizens and domestic targets. When they released their findings and appeared before Congress in 1999, they did not know that the single greatest attack by foreign entities on American soil was less than two years away. Lesser wrote that: Most observers now believe the threshold for significant international terrorism in the United States has been crossed, especially in the wake of the World Trade Center bombing and the 1997 apprehension of terrorist bombers in New York City. The prospect of further direct attacks within U.S. territory, coupled with the increasing lethality of international terrorism, has begun to inspire new concerns about “homeland defense”. (Countering the New Terrorism, p. 88-89) He voiced concern for the need to form a government organization focused solely on homeland security in partnership with counter-terrorism and intelligence personnel. Hoffman advanced his colleague’s argument by further highlighting the elevated threat of domestic terrorism in the U.S. sponsored by extremist Islamic terrorists like Al Qaeda: Their aims go far beyond the establishment of some theocracy amenable to their specific deity (i.e., the creation of an Iranian-style Islamic republic in either Algeria, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia). Their goals embrace mystical, almost transcendental, and divinely-inspired imperatives or a vehemently anti-government form of “populism: reflecting far-fetched conspiracy notions based on a volatile mixture of seditious, racial, and religious dicta. In this respect, the emergence . . . represents a very different and potentially far more lethal threat than the above-mentioned more familiar, “traditional” terrorist advers...

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