The very nature of terrorism, of course, is to engender fear and panic into the population base. Thus, targets are so numerous that complete protection of all is impossible. Targets could include any of the governmental buildings in Washington, D.C., courthouses or public buildings in major cities, malls, churches, and transportation centers in any town. Unless the materials are manufactured in the United States, though, the most likely targets are those that exist in coastal cities with larger port access (Smith, 2001).
Terrorists tend to target places that are media hyped, affect the lives of citizens, and are usually transportation, entertainment, or financially based in larger urban areas. Indeed, for greater efficacy, targets usually involve places where there are large non-combatant crowds, causing panic and disputing the socio-economic system. Investigating terrorism is even more complicated. It may be national, international or a combination of events, often involving dozens of agencies in dozens of jurisdictions. It may be proactive in that it looks to prevent attacks, or reactive in that it works as law enforcement after a crime scene. Indeed, scholars still disagree on a specific and universal definition of terrorism, since some believe there are key elements to some groups that may have subjective definitions. Terrorism is more than armed war; it is psychological and sociological in nature. For instance, one scholar tries to combine the various definitions of terrorism into a coherent unit by noting that:
Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). Such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. The purpose of terrorism is to exploit the media in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity as an amplifying force multiplier in order to influence the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states (Bockstette, 2008).
While there are dozens of international terrorist groups that operate globally, domestic terrorist in the United States between 1980 and 2010 focuses on less than 20 active groups. Domestic terrorism in the United States is so defined as not only acts that occurred in the U.S., but also by U.S. citizens. Most of these groups are considered to be militant extremists, such that 2/3 of terrorism in the United States was conducted by non-Islamic American extremists, and increased by 95% between 1980 and 2010 (Masters, 2011).
One of the top terrorist groups in the U.S. is a white supremacist, pseudo-religious organization called the Aryan Nation. This group was founded in the 1970s based on the teachings of Wesley Swift, a figure in the Christian Identity movement. The essence of the group is a combination of extreme anti-Semitism combined with political militancy and the belief that Christian doctrine favors the White race above all others. In fact, the RAND Corporation calls the AN the "first truly nationwide terrorist network" in the United States, even though there is no single doctrine, leader and a number of individual sects and organizations (Rand, 2012).
The AN is really more of an umbrella group for right-wing extremists who believe in White supremacy. The organization advocates their view of Christianity, neo-Nazism, with the goal of a national racist state. Until 2000, the AN was centered in Hayden Lake, Idaho, but lost its property and thus the locus for regular festivals, training in guerilla warfare, and a central local for meetings and organizational activities. Since the mid-1990s, the AN has suffered from internal struggles, law suits, tax and criminal issues, and financial difficulties. Currently, the AN has split into three groups, all still considered terrorists by the FBI and Homeland Security: The Order, The Phineas Priests and the White Patriot Party. Still considered dangerous by law enforcement, for the past several years the AN has not been in the media or as psychological active as before (Steiger, 2006).
Another U.S. based group, also far-right and dedicated to the eradication of all non-White groups in the United States has a lengthy history in American culture. This group, the Ku Klux Klan (or the KKK or the Klan), has changed its tactics and organizational efforts since the Civil War. The second Klan, which flourished during the 1920s and 1930s, introduced cross-burnings and vigilantism in the Deep South. The Third Klan, which emerged after World War II, added anti-communism to its list of nemeses, and is classified as both a domestic terrorist organization and a hate group. The current Klan is estimated to have between 5-10,000 members as of 2012, still largely based in the Southern U.S. (SPLC, 2013).
The Klan is one of America's oldest hate groups, and now oppresses not only persons of color, but also Jews, immigration, Civil Rights, homosexuality, and any political orientation but Democrat/republican. The Klan seems to have two major thrusts -- a public face that advocates civil rights for whites and a covert operation that still uses terrorism and hate tactics for its mission. Indeed, the modern KKK is not one single organization, but a series of smaller, independent chapters. This has not only made the Klan more difficult to infiltrate and track, but more difficult to pin violent crimes since they often do not claim overt responsibility. They do, however, promote hate crimes against a number of groups, and have publically endorsed violence against gays, immigrants, and other minority groups. Many KKK groups, in fact, have formed alliances with other hate and white supremacist groups like the Neo-Nazis and have become increasingly "Nazified" (ADL, 2013). Ironically, despite being noted as a terrorist and hate group, the ACLU has provided legal support to certain Klan factions in defense of their First Amendment rights of free speech and public parades (ACLU Lawsuit, 1993).
Counterterrorism & Homeland Security
Counterterrorism is a direct result of terrorist groups, and is a term used to include all things necessary to prevent or mitigate terrorist activities. Counterterrorism thus becomes part of the legal and social climate, as well as the political and economic paradigm of modern society (Kiras, 2007, Chapter 7). Directly in response to the events of 9/11 in the United States, when representatives from Al-Qaida attacked New York and Washington, the Office of Homeland Security was created with the mission:
To develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks. The Office will coordinate the executive branch's efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the United States (National Strategy for Homeland Security, 2007).
Homeland Security is organized in four areas, all of which tend to overlap within the organization and with other agencies: 1) Mission Support handles medical and human resources, planning, law, fraud, and supports all other activities; 2) Law Enforcement protects key political figures by overlapping with the Secret Service and other governmental groups; 3) Immigration and Travel Security -- protection of the nation's transport system, particularly airports, overseeing lawful immigration, and; 4) Prevention and response -- protection of the public, environment, and the U.S. economy and security interests in any land or maritime region; preparedness, training, and recovery to reduce loss of life (Department of Homeland Security).
Homeland Security as an organization is tasked with being broad and inter-related, multidisciplinary and connected with all domestic law enforcement agencies.
Homeland Security (U.S.-VISIT); Washington, DC-based with offices in larger cities, other coastal, urban, or high-potential target areas. The entire department includes 187 federal agencies and services as an umbrella organization.
Emergency preparedness and response (to terrorism and natural disasters), domestic and international intelligence, border security, transportation security, biodefense, research and development on security technologies.
Immigration, Travel and Security
Homeland Security Department
Protection of Leaders, Borders
Overlap with Secret Service
Medical, HR, Facilities, Law
Protection of Leaders, Borders
Economy & Preparedness
Protection of Leaders, Borders
Medical, HR, Facilities, Law
The Patriot Act that was implemented just after 9/11 was put into place to protect American society. However, there are several examples within the act that challenge individual rights: increased electronic surveillance, search and seizure, data gathering power and even the detaining of individuals suspected of terrorist. The emergency was, of course, the Al-Qaida attack upon the U.S.; the response was to keep the community safe; individual autonomy is lessened through programs like "Carnivore" which surveys the individual's conversations on the web and cell-phone network; and the idea that there is more latitude in search and seizure, as well as longer rules of suspect detention erode, some say, the rights of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution (Olson, 2001).
Terrorism as a political and psychological entity is now part of the modern world. Regardless of the area in question,…