Terrorism is at this point one of the main threats that decision makers in the field of national security have to deal with especially in the United States. The issue has been raised mainly after the events from 9/11 2001, but have been a constant concern for the law enforcement agencies since the beginning of the 90s and even before. The United States have a particular way in which it deals with homeland security issues given the nature of its administrative and political organization. The national, regional, and local law enforcement agencies and subdivisions are the ones that provide the legal and operational framework and background for actions to be taken at all the levels that could be affected by a terrorist threat or by any time of threat posed at the homeland security.
The present paper researches the role national security agencies have, with due regard for the shared responsibility they have at the national, regional, and local level. The structure of the research focuses on several key elements. Firstly, it points out the role of the Department of Homeland Security, as the coordination mechanism for all actions taken in preventing and responding to threats that may exist at the internal security of the United States. Secondly, the role of the Border Patrol is essential in the way in which certain sensitive issues such as immigrants are dealt with. Thirdly, a look at a state and local law enforcement agency provides a more comprehensive image on the homeland security system set in place.
Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security is among the newest structures of the American executive and, aside from the Department of Defense, one of the most important. This is largely due to the fact that its creation was the result of increased concerns at the level of the population and the citizens of the country in the wake of the 9/11 events. The terrorist attacks that took place in 2001 provided the certainty that the security framework had changed dramatically in the last decades and the Cold War period had determined mutations in terms of the definition of the actual nature of threats and conventional war and unconventional reactions to threats. Moreover, the terrorist attacks in the United States determined a complete shift in perspective and in the paradigm of international security and international relations as a whole. The reactions to the terrorist attacks were global and were characterized by similar actions and measures taken at the level of all states. More precisely, new security strategies were set in place and new agencies were created to better coordinate the activities of the regional and local agencies on the ground in order to ensure that proper security measures are taken in order to limit and even avoid any potential new similar terrorist threats and attacks.
It is in this context that the Department of Homeland Security was created. Among other issues, perhaps the most important one is related to the actual scope of the structure. It focuses on the protection of the citizens from any potential threat, terrorist or of other nature, that would endanger the lives of the persons living on U.S. soil. The mission of the Department is rather straight forward and provides the complexity of the activities undergone and supervised by the structure. More precisely, its mission is "to secure the nation from the many threats we face. This requires the dedication of more than 240,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cyber security analyst to chemical facility inspector. Our duties are wide-ranging, but our goal is clear - keeping America safe" (DHS, 2013).
In trying to achieve its mission, the Department undertakes actions at the national, state, and local levels in order to attain the most efficient results. This is largely due to the nature of the threats that has become extremely diverse and that targets all the levels of the society. It must be pointed out that, taking into account that the threats and the level of penetration of these threats have changed in recent decades, a different approach was necessary. More precisely, during the Cold War period, the nature of the threats were rather classic in the sense that they were usually addressed to the national security and what the Department of Defense would have dealt with (Kissinger, 1995). After the end of the Cold War however the tactics of the insurgency war and the techniques used by the world powers in order to ensure control over a rather bipolar war backfired in the sense that the what were until the end of the Cold War allies in fights against communist threats (examples here include Afghanistan, Cuba or other countries in which the United States supported insurgency movements) became freedom fighters of their own and, in the name of the freedom of religion, of national freedom, or other creeds invoked by extremist and insurgency groups, appealed to terrorist actions to state their case and make their own cause known to the world. This resulted however in a limited control over their actions and the level of vulnerability of the countries that, in one way or another, were stakeholders and decision makers in international politics, increased dramatically.
The particular levels of action targeted by the agencies, that of national, state, and local, are rather significant, at least in theory, for identifying and dealing with potential threats. As mentioned previously, these threats are diverse and may include terrorist attacks and natural disasters alike. Due to the complexity of these threats, the tackling taken at all levels of the society and national responsibility is extremely important and, at the same time, the confirmation that these agencies, at the national, state, and local level, do achieve their aims of preventing and protecting is crucial for building public confidence in the state and limit the potential of new events such as the 9/11 attacks or even the Katrina Hurricane provide casualties among the civilian population.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is one of the most significant components of the homeland security department not necessarily because of the fact that it was created at the same time with the Department but rather because it ensures, through different means, the security of the borders of the United States, from all types of threats and possible security loopholes that may relate to the security of the borders. According to the official website, "CBP's priority mission is to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States and ensuring the security of our nation at America's borders and ports of entry. We must maintain this line of defense while allowing legitimate travel and trade that is vital to our economy and way of life." (CBP, 2013)
The nature of the CBP is federal and takes into account the actual nature of the United States as a federal state. More precisely, the role of the borders themselves is crucial in the light of the terrorist attacks and, at the same time, given the complexity of the threats the trans-boundary exchanges pose. The United States has a particular position in the world for numerous reasons. However, one of these reasons relates to the fact that its borders to the south and the north are somewhat opposing in nature. In this sense, the Canadian border for instance lacks any type of special protection and consideration and the level of checking as opposed to that of trade, and exchanges is almost completely different from the one attained by the United States with its other major border, Mexico. The United States are, geographically speaking, in a position of buffer between Canada, one of the most respected and safe countries of the region and of the world, and Mexico, which is well-known for its immigrant situation and its economic related immigration flux. Therefore, the approach from the United States must be differentiated as well. This is one of the reasons for which the safety concerns at the Canadian border are almost opposite to the ones expressed at the Mexican border.
The role of the CBP is yet extremely important considering the way in which the issue of Latin American immigration is taken into account and dealt with at the level of the legislative. The concern and therefore the need for action from the side of the CBP is even greater given that "Every year, an estimated 350 million people legally cross the border, with another 500,000 entering into the United States illegally. No single barrier stretches across the entire border, instead, it is lined with a patchwork of steel and concrete fences, infrared cameras, sensors, drones, and nearly 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents." (Taylor, 2013) The number of illegal immigrants pose a serious concern to the national security particularly because there is no viable account of the people entering the United States and therefore no means of actual identification and verification of the people that chose to…