Terrorist threat has emerged as one of the major global threats in the 21st Century that has significant impacts on global security. In the past few centuries, the nature and values of terrorism have slowly shifted and resulted in the emergence of different definitions or descriptions of terrorism. These different descriptions have not only been used by scholars but also by governments to broaden the phenomenon to political, judicial, psychosocial, and moral arenas. The differences in definitions of terrorism is attributed to the fact that these attacks are usually characterized by political motivations towards the use or threat of violence, intentional and pre-meditated actions, fear, psychological effects, and asymmetric warfare. The other aspects of these definitions include immorality, social coercion, and reactions. However, terrorist groups and activities continue to pose significant threats to every facet of the modern society including the commercial sector (Raman, 2008, p.1).
Motivations for Terrorist Organizations:
As the threat and impact of terrorism has continued to evolve and become a major threat to global security, the ideological motivations for these activities have also evolved (Lemieux & Prates, 2011, p.368). Since the beginning of the 19th Century, the ideological motivations for terrorist organizations, groups, and networks have developed to structured contemporary extremism rather than organized anarchist activities. Generally, terrorist organizations react to changes in political arenas and continue to thrive through renegotiating the separation of power as evident in different historical periods.
Since the nature of terrorism and terrorists behaviors ranges across a broad set of data, terrorism activities generally have several motivations based on the particular interests of the individuals, groups, or organizations ("Terrorist Motivations and Behaviors," 2007). In addition, a terrorist's behavior varies significantly based on his/her own intelligence, ideological commitment, geographical location, education, and organizational reach. The severity of the terrorist threat is dependent on the extent of intention and ability to sustain the threat as an enemy. Generally, the aims and objectives of terrorist organizations significantly vary across the globe and include regional single-issue as well as transnational radicalism.
Regardless of the differences in the goals of terrorist organizations, these groups consider the United States as the main target for their activities because of its status in the world. This implies that America is a major target for terrorists and extremists because it's the most popular democracy and key political, military, and economic power. The significance of the United States as a terrorism target is evident in the fact that this country has been susceptible to several terrorist attacks in the past few years. In the past decade, terror activities against the United States have been carried out for the main purpose of defeating the country economically. As a result, individual motivations and community support are important issues in understanding the recruitment of terrorists within the United States (Cragin, 2009).
As ideology and motivation have significant impacts on the goals of terrorist activities, secular ideological and non-religious terrorist groups tend to be highly selective and discriminate violent activities in order to accomplish a particular political objective ("Goals and Motivations of Terrorists," n.d.). Consequently, these organizations keep casualties of their activities at the minimum amount possible in order to achieve their objectives. However, the intentions of many terrorist groups are centered on generating widespread fear, acquiring recognition through attracting media attention, satisfying vengeance, freeing prisoners, and affecting critical decisions by government. The other general intentions are destroying facilities and communication channels, extorting money, and weaken government security forces.
Emerging Terrorist Threat to the Commercial Sector:
Since the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, there has been increased awareness of the huge probability of these attacks not only across the country but also across the globe. The increased awareness of the huge likelihood of these attacks throughout the world is attributed to several subsequent attacks in different countries since the 9/11 incident. Therefore, the risk of terrorism has increased globally to an extent that it remains a serious international concern with regards to its threat to global security (RAND Corporation, 2006, p.1). While the public sector has taken the primary responsibility to respond to the increased risk of these activities, the private sector is seeking to complement these initiatives through examining several steps that could help in the process. However, the private sector has not been completely absent from the counter-intelligence or counterterrorism field (Sims, 2008, p.228).
The commercial sector has been one of the major sectors targeted by terrorist organizations and groups. This is primarily because terrorists have frequently targeted shopping centers in major cities across the globe. The main reason for increased target of shopping centers is because these regions enable unimpeded access to the public and attract a huge cross-section of a country's population. Furthermore, these areas are governed by a complex ownership and decision-making structure that includes different stakeholders in the commercial sectors ("Commercial Facilities Sector," n.d.). The multi-stakeholder ownership and structure of shopping sectors make it difficult to implement security and risk-reduction initiatives.
There are other commercial facilities like hotels, office buildings, and shopping malls that have are targeted by terrorist groups and organizations because they provide settings for huge numbers of people to gather ("The Evolving Terrorist Threat," 2011). Commercial facilities also provide space for the country's economy to function and represent assets worth huge amounts of money that are owned by small and large investors. These facilities have emerged as key targets for terrorists because they are historic, national, or regional iconic landmarks that contain important telecommunications, transportation, and financial infrastructures.
Based on this analysis, the commercial sector, especially commercial facilities present a target-rich-environment for terrorists and extremists than any other sector. According to Purpura (2011), the banking and finance sector is a critical part of the commercial sector that is also targeted by terrorist organizations (p.384). Banking and finance sector is targeted because most of its activities are conducted in large commercial offices that contain wholesale and retail operations, regulatory bodies, fiscal markets, and physical repositories for documents and securities. Since most of the activities in the banking and finance sector are electronically transferred, the sector is increasingly vulnerable to cyber terrorism.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks were clear demonstration of a persistent intention to target the financial sector since they struck the center of Western capitalism. Actually, some Jihadist bloggers have urged aspiring terrorists to target financial institutions and sites, stock markets, and money markets ("The Shifting Terrorist Threat," 2012). Terrorist attacks on the commercial sector are mainly based on global financial crises and difficulties and government austerity measures. Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security has continued to obtain reliable, corroborated, and specific reports demonstrating terrorist threats to the commercial facilities sector ("Strategic Sector Assessment," 2009).
Reality of Terrorist Threat to the Commercial Sector:
According to The National Strategy (2003), the possibility of terrorists targeting and carrying out attacks on any particular, famous commercial facility or activity remains a difficult thing to determine (p.78). The difficulties in determining this is the likelihood of such activities are attributed to the reality of terrorist threat to the commercial sector. Terrorist threat to the commercial sector basically occurs on commercial facilities like hotels and shopping centers. As previously mentioned, these facilities are specifically targeted because of their strategic position and impact on a country's economic growth. Notably, potential terrorist attacks incorporate the use of methods that range from conventional explosives to weapons of mass destruction.
As strategic components of an economy's growth, the commercial sector remains vulnerable to terrorist threat more than any other sector within the economy. However, the vulnerability of each commercial facility to these attacks is unique based on the size, design, population, and age of the facility. This implies that terrorist threat to the commercial sector, particularly commercial facilities is not only evolving but diverse. The principal terrorist threat to the commercial sector continues to come from Islamic extremists that are either associated or inspired by the al-Qaeda terrorist network ("A Business Approach to Terrorism," 2012).
Apart from the increased vulnerability of commercial facilities to terrorist attacks and the diverse and evolving nature of these threats, the commercial sector is also more susceptible to the terrorist threat because of the decentralization of terrorists. Since the 9/11 attacks, terrorist networks have become more decentralized to an extent that individuals with no link to a particular terrorist organization or network are causing devastation (Hanford, 2010). While such terrorists cause relatively smaller attacks, they are a significant threat to the commercial sector because of the probable impacts of their activities.
The reality of increased terrorist threat to the commercial sector is also evident in the recent use of commercial airlines to destroy significant business hubs such as World Trade Center's towers (Brandt, 2011). The 9/11 attacks demonstrated the emerging use of commercial airlines by terrorists to cause devastation in the commercial sector. Even though the governments have adopted strict efforts to foster commercial aviation since these attacks, several terrorist organizations and networks have maintained an increased interest in attacking the commercial sector…