Terrorism has been the greatest threat to American soil since the end of the Cold War, and the country has responded to these threats by creating an elaborate counterterrorism and intelligence framework. This counterterrorism strategy must use every possible tool in America's arsenal, and must meet the highest standards in excellence for the duty it is tasked to perform. The nature of terrorist threats in America in the 21st century is the fact that nobody knows where and why terrorism may appear.
Three agencies will form the core of the new counterterrorism and intelligence gather efforts coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security. (Homeland Security, 2012) These three agencies are the CIA, the FBI, and the DOD, and each already fulfills necessary functions in America's fight on terror. While still operating within the legal framework that surrounds each agency, I look to improve the overall effectiveness of America's counterterrorism efforts. The main differences I propose are administrative in purpose, in order to better align the interests of these three interests under the umbrella of DHS. In this way, the strengths of the three will still be enhanced while maintaining crucial communication links and resource gathering between the three agencies. The more nuanced changes in each agency are discussed below.
The Central Intelligence Agency will change its role in the intelligence community, at least as far as counterterrorism is concerned. Currently, the CIA is an independent agency, but it will have to change in order to become friendlier with its peers in the field of American counterterrorism and intelligence gathering. The CIA currently works as an independent data collector, gathering information from around the world and processing it to better understand the nature of threats facing the United States. (Intelligence.gov, 2012) This data can be collected either electronically, or through hands-on spying. Some CIA agents are even able to infiltrate organizations in order to better understand the structure and operations of that organization. This data is gathered by whatever means possible, and has been a critical link in the fight against terrorism since September 11th.
The CIA has to change its focus from being an independent organization into one connected directly to the Department of Homeland Security. Instead of conducting operations alone without giving out information beforehand, the CIA will be the eyes and ears of the DHS in foreign nations. This will allow CIA operators to better relate information that can be learned by the DHS for dispersal to agencies operating on U.S. soil. The CIA will have agents that operate directly under the command of DHS, which will also be looking at FBI and DOD intelligence, and will commence operations based on the info gathered. The CIA will then be the foreign launch base for counterterrorism military operations, which will bring a closer link between the military community and the espionage community that does not currently exist due to the large degree of separation between the two agencies.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has assumed the role of intelligence gathering experts on American soil. This practice is far more difficult than that of the CIA, because there are restrictions on what the FBI can do in the investigation of American citizens without a warrant, which requires suspected evidence that the FBI does not have before it begins its intelligence gathering operation. This problem was slightly rectified when the Patriot Act was signed in 2002, that greatly enhanced the ability of the FBI to explore American citizen's records, provided they used secret courts that did not have to report what they were doing and why. These methods have been debated within the country as to whether they are truly following the rules of the Constitution or not, but regardless it has been an essential tool for the FBI.
For the FBI I would recommend greater powers to be able to observe suspected terrorists and filter through cell phone calls and text messages in ways that are currently impossible. The FBI will act in a professional manner and will not release evidence to the court without being sure that it would have all that it takes to find its case. This means that if more powers are given to the FBI, it would be able to exercise more of the powers that the CIA has perfected in the past decade on American citizens. The spying techniques of the CIA are unparalleled, and the FBI, generally thought of as a detective or police agency, will learn valuable knowledge from the CIA's operations abroad, where no protections are afforded foreign nationals.
The Department of Defense has several counterterrorism agencies that operate in different arenas and for different purposes. These include the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Agency, the Army Intelligence and Security Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Marine Corps Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency, and finally the Office of Naval Intelligence. Together, these agencies provide a full range of utility, but represent a burdensome and inefficient process by which to conduct careful intelligence work. These intelligence groups focus on the function of intelligence collection, in order to better understand the adversaries these military branches will face in the field. The problem with this system is the fact that information is not uniform across the agencies, and that the separate branches have too much bureaucracy between gathering information for themselves and interacting with America's other intelligence services, such as the CIA or the FBI.
If the Department of Defense wishes to be useful in the active profession of intelligence gathering, it requires a streamlining of its military branches into one single counterterrorism military branch, which can operate on every front on the counterterrorism effort. This branch will either be rolled into the U.S. Army, the Marines, or split off as its own independent branch, with exclusive purview over counterterrorism strategy and tactics. This branch would have to be very close with the Department of Homeland Security in order to ensure that these military units could take orders from an administrative organization. It would not require heavy military hardware, but would use a range of tools from intelligence gathering in a military setting to light infantry troop transports like helicoptors in order to rapidly reach areas where counterterrorism military units are required. This is why this agency would be best matched with one of the established military branches, in order to share resources and maintain a more streamlined and cheaper operation overseas. Their combat readiness will depend on speed and expertise in dealing with counterterrorism efforts wherever they are needed around the world.
These three agencies will interact in a forced open manner by the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Defense will develop its own formula for interacting with non-military personnel that they will encounter in both the FBI and the CIA. The military personnel will follow the intelligence leads that the FBI and CIA drop on to them, and they will be able to train and understand the network of terrorists that they are expected to face in the near future. The CIA will continue its espionage operations like always, but the administration will give up some of its independence. This will allow for other agencies to see into what the CIA is doing more easily, and will allow for better coordination across agencies. The CIA and FBI are notoriously competitors, and this problem may have contributed to the intelligence gap before the September 11th disaster. A close link between the two agencies must be forged, and this may be possible if the powers requested for the FBI are granted, and the agency is able to take a form on counterterrorism that is more in line with the CIA. Then, the CIA will be able to pass information in a uniform manner between the FBI and DOD, and the three agencies will be able to speak the same language in terms of counterterrorism.
One of the primary tools of counterterrorism and intelligence gathering has been the ability to track financial records of suspected terrorists. (Lee Myers, 2012) The closer ties the United States has formed around the world in the past decade since September 11th has paid off by allowing the U.S. To sift through controversial records of suspected terrorists. Nations allow this to happen because they know they can gain good will with the United States, and put an end to an unstable threat to the country in the form of active terrorists on their soil at the same time. Nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq have found this practice to be extremely useful in their relations with the U.S. This alliance between the local governments and the financial institutions has been beneficial to both parties.
Another tool of counterterrorism and intelligence is that of the massive spy network established by having American born Muslims infiltrate extremist cells in order to put an end to their violence. This operation has been tricky for the U.S., due…