By continuing with a "business as usual" attitude, the terrorists would not have a long-term psychological impact on American society, culture and economic development.
While the long-term psychological impact appears to be the most prominent value that a weapon of mass destruction has for a terrorist, it seems reasonable to argue that these weapons also serve as a means for terrorist groups to have their political voices heard. Terrorist attacks bring to light the activities, beliefs and values of a specific terrorist group. Although many in the U.S. were familiar with Osama bin Laden before 9/11, his implication in the terrorist attacks made him and Al-Qaeda household names. In this context, bin Laden was able to bring to light the organization's hatred of the United States and the organization's political agenda for the entire international community. The publicity gained from terrorist events clearly has value for terrorist groups.
4. Given the importance and value of terrorist activities to terrorist organizations, it seems reasonable to argue that efforts to combat terrorism must address these pressing issues in a manner that is both meaningful and purposeful. With this in mind, it is now possible to consider the current intelligence system and its strengths and weaknesses for dealing with terrorism. A careful review of this system will demonstrate areas in which improvements are needed to ensure comprehensive homeland security.
Considering first the strengths of intelligence gathering and homeland security, research in this area suggests that in the months and years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has improved its ability to collect and gather intelligence. In the direct aftermath of the attack, the U.S. Congress passed the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which called for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Under this agency, intelligence gathering was to be improved by providing all federal law enforcement agencies with the ability to communicate with one another. In addition, DHS was to coordinate the efforts of state and local law enforcement agencies to help improve access to critical data that could be used to prevent another terrorist attack.
The changes to federal law enforcement agencies created under the Patriot Act were among the most sweeping in the history of the Untied States. Although the changes have been difficult, the reality is that because of this shift, the federal government has at its disposal the technology and resources needed to investigate credible threats to national security. One could effectively argue that because no further terrorist attacks occurred after September 11, the DHS and all law enforcement agencies have been effective in both intelligence gathering and in preventing another terrorist attack.
Although the development and implementation of the DHS and the Patriot Act were focused on improving outcomes for intelligence gathering and improving homeland security, a review of what has been noted about these changes suggests that there have been some unintended outcomes. In particular, critics of the Patriot Act charge that the legislation, while facilitating the collection of important intelligence data, has promoted the executive branch to overstep its boundaries and infringe on civil liberties. Specifically, critics charge that the legislation enables law enforcement officials to gain important intelligence information by circumventing established law. This is apparent in the fact that with proper authorization, federal law enforcement agents investigating a suspected terrorist do not have to obtain a warrant to search for information or obtain a wiretap (Thornburgh, 802-3).
With the usurpation of basic legal and civil rights is one issue that has been raised in the context of the new intelligence system, a review of the situation also indicates that problems in the Department of Homeland Security remain a pervasive issue that can significantly impede the ability of the federal government to collect intelligence and ward of a terrorist attack. In particular, the creation of the DHS was such a substantial undertaking for the federal government that it will take several years before the organization has the administrative infrastructure needed to operate efficiently. During this time, federal agents working in the organization must face a myriad of challenges, including a basic lack of structure that may make it difficult for the organization to effectively carry out its duties. Thus, while efforts have been made to improve intelligence system, improvements are clearly needed.
5. An examination of terrorist organizations operating across the globe indicates that there are a number of operations that could have a potential impact on the United States. However, based on the September 11 terrorist attacks and the ability of Al-Qaeda to effectively infiltrate the U.S., it seems reasonable to argue that the most notable threat of terrorism comes from Al-Qaeda and related Islamic fundamentalist groups that have aligned with Al-Qaeda. In addition to the fact that the organization has developed a deep hatred of the United States, it has developed an extensive network all across the globe. As such, this organization is capable of targeting U.S. institutions on the homeland and abroad.
The most pressing issue in this case is the overall disdain and hatred that Islamic fundamentalists have developed for citizens of the United States. When examining messages from Osama bin Laden and various Al-Qaeda operatives, it is evident that these groups believe that all U.S. citizens are unworthy of their place and position in society. This group has become completely detached from a larger collectivist society and is no longer willing to become part of a larger international democracy. Further, this group appears to have no reservations about the consequences of its actions. Members of Al-Qaeda are actively willing to sacrifice their lives in order to advance Islamic fundamentalism.
Although Islamic fundamentalists represent a notable threat to the United States, the RAND Corporation argues that there are other groups that pose a unique threat to the U.S. And its international presence. In particular, this organization notes the following organizations:
Nepalese Maoists: According to the RAND organization, this group does not directly attack the U.S. However, it attacks Nepalese targets that are associated with U.S. interests. This has a destabilizing effect on Nepal and America's ability to maintain international security ("The dynamic...," 9).
The PLO, Spain's Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA): the RAND Corporation argues that these organizations maintain informal ties with Al-Qaeda and enable this organization to carry out terrorist attacks against the U.S. And its allies ("The dynamic..., 10).
Lashkare-Toiba (LeT): This Pakistani terrorist group does not directly attack the United States. However, this organization attacks U.S. interest and allies, making it difficult for the government to effectively maintain international security ("The dynamic..." 10).
FARC: FARC or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia operate in Colombia and consistently attack American targets in the country. Although organizations such as FARC do not represent a substantial threat to the American homeland, they do impact American operations and destabilize international security ("The dynamic..., 11).
Based on the data provided by the RAND Corporation, it is evident that terrorist groups can create a number of notable vulnerabilities for the United States. In addition to directly attacking the homeland, these organizations also attack U.S. interests and allies abroad. In this context, these organizations have a destabilizing impact on the international community, making it difficult for all Western countries to protect their interests.
6. Considering the targets that could be used by terrorist organizations to achieve maximum effect, it seems reasonable to argue that, in terms of creating sheer terror and mass casualties, America's nuclear power facilities would make a good target. These facilities are located all over the United States and, in many instances, these facilities do not have aggressive security polices in place. Further, the overall impact of this type of terrorist attack would be quite substantial in both the immediate aftermath and the long-term psychological implications. A terrorist attack on a nuclear facility would release dangerous radiation into the environment, which could impact hundreds if not thousands of individuals over the course of time. Further the magnitude of such and attack would make Americans fearful of nuclear power. This could markedly impede the ability of U.S. power companies to supply basic power to all citizens. Finally, attack of a nuclear facility would not require special equipment or weapons for the terrorist organization. A large bomb would be sufficient for creating a widespread radiological threat.
While nuclear facilities appear to be a good target for terrorist organizations, there are other targets that would also be viable. In particular, terrorist organizations could consider large family tourists destinations -- "i.e. Disney Land, Bush Gardens, etc. These facilities are open 365-days a year and, on any given day, thousands of people are visiting. A terrorist attack perpetuated at this type of a facility would not only produce considerable causalities, but also it would produce a huge psychological impact. Americans would have to sit in their homes and watch as rescue and recovery efforts attempt to find families and children. The media would be overrun with stories of children that have lost…