Is Predicting Terrorism a Beneficial Proposition for Intelligence for Counter-Terrorism Stakeholders  A-Level Coursework

Excerpt from A-Level Coursework :

Counterintelligence and Predicting Terrorism

Sovereign states have always had a vested interest in accurately predicting the course of future events, from the ancient espionage of medieval courts to the advanced intelligence agencies used today, but the process of anticipating and neutralizing threats on a preemptive basis has proven to be exceedingly difficult in the age of modern terrorism. Western powers explicitly targeted by Al-Qaeda and other jihadist organizations, including the United States, Great Britain, and other industrialized nations, have been forced to exist in a state of perpetual tension, knowing that the next spectacularly-scaled attack is inevitable but lacking the specific foresight needed to prevent its occurrence. With billions of dollars being invested annually to fund counterterrorism intelligence operations, and scant evidence that these efforts have constituted an efficient and effective use of valuable resources, many governments have begun to reassess this philosophy of preventative vigilance. The incredible complexity of geopolitical relations dictates that "we cannot the outcomes of events in an open system with multiple independent variables," and this observation is especially disconcerting when one considers that "the international system in which the state and its intelligence agencies must operate is such a system" (Quiggin, 2006). As such, the merits of pursuing a dubiously founded "War on Terror" largely through counterintelligence operations have been subject to an increasingly rancorous debate, pitting holdovers from the Cold War era, who favor wiretapping, espionage and other techniques predicated on preventing threats, against modern intelligence operatives who prefer to anticipate possible contingencies and react accordingly. By conducting a thorough review of the current research and literature on the subject of counterterrorism intelligence practices, it is possible to objectively determine the efficacy of this approach.

In the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks launched against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, the American government was thrust into the unenviable position of taking the lead in terms of worldwide counterterrorism. After more than 3,000 citizens were murdered instantaneously, and enduring symbols of national strength were reduced to smoldering scenes of catastrophic destruction, the Bush administration immediately adopted its controversial doctrine of preemption. According to the "Bush doctrine," the only effective means to secure America's national security interest were based on predicting terrorist activity before it occurs and striking potential threats before they are come to fruition. Leaving aside one's privately held political affiliations, more than a decade after this approach to counterterrorism was implemented it has become clear that its fundamental premise was fatally flawed. One of the most acrimonious aspects of the "Bush doctrine," and the Department of Homeland Security created to actualize its theoretical foundations, was "a White House determination that if the risk of a terrorist attack in the U.S. was even 1%, it would be treated as if it were a 100% certainty," because "critics of Administration policy argue that that 1% possibility was never properly balanced against the 100% certainty of the tens of thousands of casualties that would accompany a…

Sources Used in Document:


Kluger, Jeffrey. "Why We Worry About The Things We Shouldn't And Ignore The Things

We Should." TIME Magazine, November 26, 2006, (accessed February 16, 2013).

McNeill, Jenna B., James J. Carafano and Jessica Zuckerman. "30 Terrorist Plots Foiled: How

the System Worked." The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder # 2405, 11-19, (accessed February 15, 2013).

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