The foolishness of this reversal of priorities would be clearly demonstrated in the contrast between the results of intelligence efforts on 9/11 and those just two years prior.
After the resignation of Tenet, who submitted as his official reason for departure the desire to spend more time with his family, his spokesman noted that "no one in the U.S. government was more aggressive in calling attention to and dealing with the threat of terrorism prior to 9/11 than was George Tenet.' The CIA's counterterrorism budget increased 50% between fiscal 1997 and fiscal 2001, while staffing went up 60%."
This ultimately resulted in an increased level of effectiveness during those years of assessing and averting terrorist plots, highlighted by the 1999 foiling of al Qaeda's millennium hijacking plan. Here, a carefully synchronized set of airliner takeovers was to strike at prominent and highly populated points within the U.S. Or utilize the hostages onboard to negotiate for the release of previously captured terrorists. However, during Clinton's final month as president, '"in the period between December 1999 and early January 2000, [The 9/11 Commission] read, 'information about terrorism flowed widely and abundantly.'"
The report goes on to indicate that, due to widespread fear that terrorists, in particular those associated with the well-established threat of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network, would seek to take advantage of the possibility of a Y2K computer glitch meltdown, agencies were encouraged to share information and to seek improvements in the defense of information technology to hacking vulnerabilities.
The ultimate outcome would be the disruption of a potentially catastrophic terrorist plot with a capacity to inflict exponentially more damage and casualty than would be manifested on September 11th. In addition to strengthening encryption methods, raising security walls to improve the prevention of infiltration to government systems and diminishing the vulnerability of government or airline transmissions, the intelligence community would also utilize its access to cellular transmission interception technologies not just to trace the correspondences of terrorists but also to use cellular devices as beacons for the relaying of a wealth of data. Following a 1999 hijacking in India by Islamic Pakistani nationals, the international intelligence community kicked these technologies into high gear and experienced what should likely today be considered the greatest preventative success yet experienced with respect to technology and the threat of terrorism.
Quite to the point, officials in the United States and Pakistan were able to connect a primary suspect on the ground named Latif with a series of communications that would ultimately connect all of the dots. As a result, "part of the design began to unravel on December 25, a day after IC814 was hijacked, when the intelligence agencies intercepted a message from the hijackers in Kandahar to their source in Mumbai. The hijackers were keen to know from their friends in India about the fallout of the hijack. The call was made on a mobile phone an d it was subsequently found that several calls were made form the same number to Kathmandu and Karachi in the preceding two days. Information gathered from these dalls led the police to zero in on Latif, who in turn was updating a source in Karachi on every aspect of the fallout, from the Government reaction to public sympathy towards the hostages."
Once officials were led to Latif, they were able to disarm a plot that threatened to put as many as twelve hijacked commercial flights into the air with the intent of being used as missiles against strategic targets. The offshoot would be some template for combating terrorism. Of course, it bears noting that in addition to the fact that a change in administration and leadership philosophy in the United States would make it more vulnerable by the approach of 9/11, it may also be suggested that the terrorist cells had learned much from both their previous successes and from the foiled Millennium Plot. Namely, the duration of time which had passed between the hijacking and the intent to strike a target was far too great, allowing intelligence and defense agencies to make the necessary connections to intervene. With 9/11, the terrorists would not repeat this error, acting quickly to coordinate the hostile takeover of four airliners and approach targets faster than a decision could be reached on how to address the situation.
This would highlight the advancement made by terrorists in the sophistication and focus of such attacks. Thus, it simultaneously highlights the pressing need for advancements in technology and the intelligent application of such technology to the prevention of terrorism. Surveillance issues in particular have occupied focus, with the apparent ease of permeation of U.S. borders and public spaces such as airports of known terrorists well recognized in the intelligence community. Many of the perpetrators of the 9/11 hijackings were in fact already on terror watch lists and due for arrest if spotted, but were nonetheless able to commit their plot to almost perfect detail. This denotes a shortcoming in the area of surveillance or the use of surveillance technology. In the U.S., leaders have for years grappled with the drive to establish the most effective and appropriate means to employing one such technological device. The use of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), both in private institutions and public spaces, has been in effect in a variety of capacities in its history. CCTV is a closed-loop broadcast which, contrary to public broadcasts that operate on transmitted frequency, is made feasible through an exclusive connection between a camera or set of cameras and a monitor or set of monitors. Such technology enables a transmitting source to broadcast its message only to selected receivers.
The ways in which public leaders have chosen to utilize Closed Circuit Television in recent years have been shaped by a confluence of technological progress and recent cultural trends. And due to the combined evolution in technological capabilities over the last decade -- which has led to the almost limitlessly expansive digital universe -- and the growing public interest in finding more effective ways to establish security against criminality, the dominant use of CCTV in the security industry is today greater than it has ever been.
Something which makes CCTV so attractive as a means of law-enforcement, public surveillance and internal security is the relative simplicity of its design. The technology required for such a means of security is well within the range of the modest economy terrain to even a convenience store clerk. "Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) is a television transmission system in which live or prerecorded signals are sent over a closed loop to a finite and predetermined group of receivers, either via coaxial cable or as scrambled radio waves that are unscrambled at the point of reception."
This most basic model requires nothing more than a coaxial cable, a camera and a monitor. This last item is essentially a television without tuning receptors.
Further research denotes that expanding certain technological capabilities within the realm of CCTV surveillance could have a dramatic impact on the ability of Homeland Security agencies to locate and apprehend individuals who possess proven and known threats to security. For instance, Ham & Atkinson refer to the prospects of "face recognition technology that can detect known terrorists as they move through crowds at vulnerable events such as the 2002 Winter Olympics."
It is conceivable that had such technology been availed to air safety and airport security personnel that the significantly documented period of heightened intelligence chatter in the summer leading up to 9/11 might have produced the apprehension of known terrorist plots.
This is to say that in the case of 9/11, even a relatively accessible form of technology such as this was poorly proliferated such that some of the highest traffic international airports in the United States could be accessed by individuals with well-known records of involvement with terrorist networks, interaction with other convicted or killed terrorists and personal criminal records or fugitive statuses were able to exit and enter the United States, its flight schools, its airports and its commercial airliners without fear of detection. This would prove a catastrophic misuse or under-use of existing technologies.
Indeed, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 highlighted to the rest of the industrial world the fundamental need for strong and meaningful routes to security. Naturally, the growing abilities becoming through digital technology and video surveillance became a purposeful avenue through which to explore the most optimal way to achieve such an end. Governmental emphasis and a public demand created the drive toward new security legislation. In 2002, such legislation appeared, and attempted to incorporate all of the above consumer and video law-enforcement devices into one cohesive strategy of public surveillance. Thus, "Part 11 of the UK Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Bill (ATCS) will allow automated surveillance of the private lives of a substantial proportion of the population through analyzing the pattern of their electronic communications. The powers are deliberately broad, and can be exercised quite generally for non-terrorist as well as terrorist investigations."