Each level of the counter-terrorism strategy present in the United States has its own flaws and its own weaknesses.
Law enforcement cannot be left behind in the pursuit for more professional counter-terrorist elite units. The New York Police Department sets the bar for what municipal police can put together in terms of counter-terrorism, NYPD Shield, as its known, has conducted several successful operations since its inception in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. Naturally, New Yorkers feel a special need to create a strong counter-terrorism unit beyond that of the United States government, due to the nature that the city is under constant threat from attacks. (Economist, the 2009). London, too is under this threat, however the London Police are not as well prepared for counter-terrorism efforts as the NYPD has proven to be. (Brant, 2011). Law enforcement's participation is a necessary part of counter-terrorism work for three reasons. First, police and law enforcement officers are already boots on the ground in order to achieve a quick response to new intelligence gathering. This simple fact that police already exist all over the country, and are already paid for by the state, means that properly training the police in counter-terrorism procedures is a great "bang for the buck" strategy. In a country as large as the United States, with so many porous borders and avenues of entrance, simply having every population center covered by trained law enforcement is one of the pillars of America's counter-terrorism strategy. Although the common street officer is not usually a party to classified intelligence, their ability to immediately become a part of the chain of command in an emergency situation is an excellent resource for the protection of the civilian population.
Another reason for law enforcement's involvement in counter-terrorism is for the local understanding of geography, population, and infrastructure, which may not be present in FBI, National Guard or Special Operations soldiers. (Alexander, 2010) This local knowledge not only supplements the advanced training of professional counter-terrorism units, but also allows for the easy canvassing of territory in the event of a need for a massive amount of law enforcement officers in a specific area. Not all missions require small elite CT teams, but rather some may call for creating barricades and blockades, which are in the purview of law enforcement. Also, the police have access to local weaponry and vehicles if the mission calls for these tools in the hunt for terrorists on American soil. There can be no replacement for the organizational value of having a 'reserve' CT force resting idly in every city in the country.
Finally, law enforcement provides an excellent training ground for future counter-terrorism professionals, and many counter-terrorism professionals are chosen from amongst police forces, as real world experience is crucial to the high stress environments that officers may get themselves in to. It must be understood that cooperation is fostered when the various aspects of America's counter-terrorism strategy are trained and chosen from amongst each other, creating bonds which will boost capability if a counter-terrorism event surfaces at any time. The biggest failure of the FBI and the wider intelligence community just before September 11th was the lack of communication and cooperation between the various agencies, often a point of pride and secrecy. The Department of Homeland Security was created in order to overcome this issue, yet the Dept. Of Homeland Security only combined the various counter-terrorism units, but does not control local law enforcement in any way. Rather, DHS helps SOCOM, a military organization, to conduct operations domestically, if necessary, providing a link between SOCOM and local police. (Brown, T.D. 2005). As a law enforcement agent, being able to operate independently from the Dept. Of Homeland Security for most of their service, but then being able to take commands from Dept. Of Homeland Security when needed, creates a very flexible and strong system for meeting all of America's counter-terrorism challenges in the future.
Special operations forces units have become increasingly important to President Obama's wartime strategy, as conventional forces are seen as expensive and ill-trained for the pressures of Special Forces teams. SOF are drawn from all four branches of the U.S. military, and technically, teams such as the Navy's Seal Team Six have very different specialties than Army's Delta Force. The missions undertaken by SOCOM, or Special Operations Command, include, reconnaissance, offensive action, foreign military training, counter-insurgency operations, counter-terrorism, and sabotage or the disruption of enemy logistics. An example of a successful Special Operations mission in training foreign military is in Uruzgan, a tribal central Asian region helped by SOF forces to institute the rule of law in their land. (International Security Assistance Force). Special Forces are not jack of all trades, despite their large mission parameters. By default, SOF must be able to quickly enter and leave a situation, in direct contrast to the CIA which plants spies for years in various parts of the world. Special Forces also are extremely visible, like in Somalia in 1993 when 18 American soldiers were killed, and therefore it is wiser to take months to plan operations and then surgically striking, rather than trying to hold territory or invade capitals, no matter the organizational capacity of the enemy.
The Central Intelligence Agency is America's cloak and daggers organization, filling in every crack in the world, gathering knowledge to be buried in the enormous pile of information collected. The CIA is both feared and misunderstood by Americans and others, as the world knows that most likely, somewhere in their country, there exists an entire network of spies passively collecting data to be processed and used in Washington. The CIA above all else is a forensic organization, truly America's detective agency for the external world at large. As the military mission in Iraq ends in the coming weeks, special forces will no longer have a role in countering Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and therefore the U.S. loses one of its greatest counter-terrorism assets in the region. The CIA, however, is not leaving Iraq any time soon, and in fact is working out plans to take over drone operations within the country before the military departs. (Lake, 2011).
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is notoriously private in its domestic counter-terrorism operations, in opposition to the CIA, which often partners with foreign governments and agents abroad. The FBI has possibly the largest burden of the counter-terrorism effort, as intelligence is the most important modern tool in America's arsenal for the early prevention of terrorism on our shores. Rather than being swallowed up by the Dept. Of Homeland Security, the FBI was actually given far more power after September 11th, in large part because of the Patriot Act. This legislation permit the FBI to conduct warrantless wiretapping, as well as warrantless investigation into the spending and daily habits of suspected terrorists in the United States. This power had never before been given, and therefore presented a difficult divide in the federal government over the power of the Constitution and the rights it affords over the necessary countermeasures to terrorist cells working in the United States. Thus far, the FBI has conducted repeated successes in the discovery of potential terrorist cells, whether it is Russian and Iranian spies, or small groups of African and Middle Eastern Islamic terrorists. Despite the success of the FBI, the agency needs to understand its role in the counter-terrorism movement, and local law enforcement as well as military Special Forces need to be interacted with and information needs to be divulged so that terror situations do not flourish in the United States.
Matching Forensics and Intelligence Gathering with SOF Operations
Special Forces are trained to be fast, and to leave very little behind after the end of their operation revealing what they came to do. (Department of Defense, 2011) This policy is in direct contrast with one of the main tenets of effective counter-terrorism, that is the need to gather intelligence. The forensic analysis perfected by the CIA is nowhere to be seen in the set mission of Special Forces, and this may be a problem in the future. SOCOM, Special Ops Command, is increasingly learning how to conduct extremely quick forensic analysis to be processed in Washington from locations as remote as tiny villages in the Afghan mountains, all while trying not to exceed the necessary amount of force applied by Special Forces on the local population, a strategy successfully implemented in 2009 by the Obama Administration. (Amnesty International, 2010). There is a need for Special Forces to cooperatively coordinate with local law enforcement agencies, whether at home or abroad, in order to collectively gather intelligence in a detective/police work style. This role is vastly different than the traditional Special Forces, but as the world's dynamics shifted to counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, so too must the Special Forces update their regimen.
The Osama bin Laden raid in Pakistan, for example, saw a quick 40 minute data collection process by the invading SOF forces,…