Last Updated 25 Dec 2020


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What is counterterrorism? Why is it important to understand the motivations behind terrorism efforts? What kind of general motives might you find among terrorists in this country and abroad? Counter-terrorism is a combination of practices, strategies, techniques and practices that the various governments, police departments and the military service units use to stop terrorism acts with both the response to completed acts and the detection of potential terror acts included in counter-terrorism.

The techniques and practices used in counter-terrorism aim at preventing or stopping certain terrorism acts, with the strategies usually offensive in operation. One major reason why the motivations behind terrorism efforts need to be understood is its great role in the development and implementation of effective counter-terrorism strategies. Since counter-terrorism measures depend on the nature of the terrorism act being mitigated, it is vital to identify how and why certain terrorism act is undertaken in order to also combat it successfully.

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Understanding the motivation behind terrorism efforts forms the base for the development of an effective countering action where lack of a clear understanding of all the issues surrounding a terror act, makes the possibility of curbing the act properly and effectively almost impossible (Bolz. F et al. 2001). In addition, understanding the motive behind terrorism efforts allows the appropriate government organizations to select amongst the many, an effective action to counter a terrorism act that seems like an isolated event.

This kind of understanding promotes good intelligence which forms a very vital component of preparing an effective counter-terrorism strategy. Another reason why identification of terrorist motives is vital is the huge role it plays in hunting down hard-core terrorist. It is through proper knowledge of a terrorist’s motives, that a government can isolate the hard-core terrorists and cut them off from external supplies. This makes it possible for the terrorists to be referred to as criminals, making it easy to hunt terrorists according to the law and with popular support.

When a government or an organization plans and implements a counter-terrorism strategy, there is need to understand how terrorism efforts violate the human rights. This in turn enables the governments to develop effective measures that ensure that severe and appropriate actions are taken against the terrorists who are viewed as human rights violators, a situation that may repel others from participating in terrorists’ activities.

Counter-terrorism experts are able to eradicate any terrorist organization if they correctly and accurately understand the terrorists’ motives, where one is able to understand the terrorists’ thoughts so that one can anticipate their next move correctly to stop it on time. In the USA and other countries, terrorist’s motives are many and they vary (Crank, J. et al.. 2005). In the USA, Some of the general motives that might be found in terrorists include, political motives, fighting for the injustice of a given group of people, economic superiority as well as the creation of fear and a sense of insecurity in the American citizens.

When they view themselves as the underserved underdogs on a mission, the terrorists use the strategy of using the weak to weaken the strong and to strengthen the weak. Is counterterrorism a tactic of warfare or crime-fighting? What role does due process play in either context? What are the implications when terrorists can be characterized as the “enemy” rather than mere criminals? Counterterrorism can be used as both a warfare tactic or as a crime fighting tactic. However, in the United States counterterrorism is usually used as a crime- fighting tactic.

For instance, the computer and the Internet are used to undertake warfare actions through the cyber space. Counter terrorism as a warfare tactic is then used and can be used to stop people from using terrorism tactics against a given nation or organization. In such a case, comprehensive tools can be used to deal with possible terrorist incidents and can further be used to repulse attacks that have been directed against a nation. As a crime fighting tactic, counter terrorism is used by the law enforcement authorities to hunt down terrorists who have been labeled as criminals.

The authorities normally cut off hard-core terrorists from external sources of supply so as to label terrorists as criminals, and then use the law to easily hunt the terrorists down (Combs. 2005). When terrorists are referred to as “enemy” instead of "criminal," it encourages more terrorist’s attacks or strengthening of terrorist organizations. For example, it leads to the recruitment of more followers in the terrorist organizations because those who are recruited have developed great desire to become fighters against their enemy.

The labeling of terrorists as an enemy serves as a motivation for every group to strengthen itself to attack another group they view as “enemy”. It further encourages terrorism behavior of solidarity, loyalty and self protection even when the group faces difficult times. The members get convinced that they need to protect themselves from a group that views them as an “enemy’. Finally, referring to terrorists as ‘enemy’ instead of criminals makes it very hard for the concerned organization or government to hunt down the terrorist according to the law.

In addition, the organization lacks the popular support to hunt down the terrorists (Crank. J et al.. 2005) because they are seen as just revenging against other people with an unjustified reason. The terrorists cannot be tracked down in pursuit of justice which makes it difficult to use force against hard-core terrorists with the use of brutal force generating more terrorism and terrorists. How has surveillance changed from the “traditional” to “new surveillance”? Are these changes potentially problematic for civil liberties in any way in the United States?

Should law enforcement be permitted to use all technological resources available to accomplish its mission including in the fight against terror? Are there limits? Traditionally, counterterrorism strategies and techniques against terror acts were hugely the responsibility of the military force, and the level of surveillance not as intensive as it is in the new strategies of surveillance. The major reason for this is that in the past, terrorism acts were not as many as they are in the modern world.

Traditional institutions approved surveillance only when it was seriously necessary to do so, as compared to new surveillance which has been blamed for overstepping the bounders. The ever increasing terrorist attacks against certain states in the world have demanded the development of many and effect counter terrorism measures through surveillance, in comparison to the traditional surveillance. In new surveillance, building of the counterterrorism plans has integrated all the segments of the society or government agencies.

New surveillance has seen the development of counterterrorism strategies that have increased both the standard of the police as well as domestic intelligence. While traditional surveillance involved the interception of communication and tracing of the suspected terrorists, new surveillance has expanded its ways of operation due to the advancement in technology. For instance, new surveillance has managed to expand the range of both the law and the military enforcement operations. The direction of domestic intelligence at specific groups that is based on origin and religion is a feature of the new surveillance.

Mass surveillance is also done in new surveillance where an entire population is investigated. In the United States, changes in the surveillance have raised concerns based on the civil liberties. One good example is the mass surveillance which involves the surveillance of an entire population, an issue that has been objected since it is considered to defy civil liberty of the citizens. The surveillance defies the citizen’s liberty in that mass surveillance is done whether or not there is the consent of those being surveyed.

Furthermore, surveillance is done whether it serves or it does not serve the citizen’s interest. For instance, use of a network of secret police informers is considered a new surveillance abuse. In the United States, the government has been accused of illegally cooperating with the National Security Agency to monitor the US citizens’ phone records. Further allegations that the government has conducted electronic surveillances of domestic phone calls without warrants are an issue that has been said to go against the civil liberty.

However, the law enforcement organizations should not be fully allowed to use technological resources to fight terror. This is because uncontrolled use consequently may result to severe negative effects. For instance, there have been some instances where technological measures against terror have resulted to the abuse and violation of the human rights. The return and extradition of people within countries and restriction of freedom of citizens are some of the examples that violate human rights during the process of counterterrorism.

Invasion of people’s private lives through technology-advanced tools need to be stopped by limiting how far the law enforcement bodies should go to fight terror. Lack of a boundary within which technology can be used poses a great risk, where the authorities may undertake counterterrorism practices while they violate the human rights at the same time. What is the FISA court? Explain how it works. What authorities can it grant law enforcement? How is it different from traditional courts? What concerns exist about expanding the use of FISA?

A FISA court refers to a secret court in the USA that has the responsibility of approving the wiretaps that target the terrorists. It was established and has been working since 1979 to ensure that terrorists and foreign agents are monitored. The FISA court was established under the 1978 US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The court has approved domestic wiretaps and has continued to handle very sensitive domestic wiretaps in the US national security investigations| . The FISA court operates through a process that is based on probable cause.

An application to a FISA court judge is normally made by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) if it believes that it can show probable cause that the target of the surveillance is either a suspected terrorist or a foreign agent. The application should contain 4 documents; a request for a wiretap, FBI directors’ or executive branch official’s certification that information cannot be acquired through the normal investigative tactics, and an FBI supervisory affidavit with a statement of fact about the target of surveillance.

This is then followed by the submission of the documents to the Justice Department for the Justice Department attorneys’ review. The application is then forwarded to the FISA court and presented to a federal judge. There are 10 federal judges in the FISA court who sit on the court on a rotating basis. The FISA court grants authority to the law enforcement authorities based on the probable cause presented to them. It gives warrant to the authorities to conduct surveillance on a suspected target, if enough evidence is provided in the court to justify why a suspect should be surveyed.

It receives an application if the FBI director certifies that there is need to obtain information above the normal investigative tactics. Clear indication of facts about the target of surveillance is also demanded by the FISA court before they give the authority and the judges often demand for more details about the targeted communication to authorize or approve a wiretap. It maintains a high rate of secrecy where a judge can make an ultimate decision to approve a wiretap.

The FISA court is different from the traditional court in its secret nature of operation where the court makes approval of the applications in secret. Furthermore, the FISA court is considered to have acquired expanded authority than a traditional court to approve surveillance applications made, after President’s Clinton signing of the Executive Order 12949. Unlike in the traditional courts, the FISA court evidence can be used in criminal trials after the 1995 expansion as compared to the traditional courts where the evidence could only be collected and stockpiled only for intelligence purposes.

The FISA court has expanded powers and it has the authority to allow both the electronic and physical searches due to its expanded powers. The expansion of using the FISA court in the USA has raised great concern. One concern of the FISA court expansion is the possibility of government’s extreme intrusion into people’s private lives. Because the court operates secretly, government measures that may intrude into people’ lives unnecessarily may result. Another great concern is the fact that, it promotes surveillance that defies people of their liberty.

For instance, the expansion of the FISA court has made it able to give legal authority to approve black-bag operations, that authorize the Department of Justice to conduct both electronic and physical searches without an open court warrant. Furthermore, the subjects are not notified and an inventory of seized items not provided. Sometimes the surveillance allowed by the FISA court is considered to be unconstitutional. The Civil liberty lawyers in the United States have stated that some searches that have been conducted are unconstitutional.

It is a great worry that under the FISA court cover of secrecy, the court is likely to exceed its own broad legal mandate. The expansion of the court has been argued to have been motivated by the governments need to conduct searches they would not have been allowed to undertake under the nation’s national provisions. For instance, the US government may attempt and fail under the traditional constitutional argument to secure a search warrant, but it would go to FISA court and secure approval for a search by converting the case into a national security investigation. How has aviation security changed since 9111?

What were the provision of the Aviation and Transportation Act? Did this Act change Aviation security in a dramatic way? What role does racial and religious profiling play in securing the aviation industry and its consumers? What role should it play? Before the 9/11 terrorist attack, the aviation security in the USA was the responsibility of the Federal Aviation Administration within the Department of transportation. However after the 9/11 attack there was great urgency in securing the US nation’s entire transportation systems. The federal agencies concerned with transport security were transferred to the Department of Homeland security.

\The need to increase aviation security after the 9/11 led to the enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Act on Nov 19, 2001. This saw the creation of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) within the DOT (Department of Transportation). The Act permits the existing authorities to permit the TSA to flexibly manage and deploy the workforce to carry out important security work where the national security is concerned. The act mandates the increase in the number of federal air marshals and has placed the US airport security screeners under federal control.

All the screeners were required to be US citizens, though the provision was later changed by American Civil Liberties Union. It was the Act’s provision that all the bags in the airports to be first screened and then matched to the passengers. Another provision of the Act was the $1. 5 billion award to the airports and private contractors so that the direct costs of meeting new security requirements were met. Checks for baggage in the airports was made necessary with screening recommended by use of explosive detection machinery or manual methods.

The Act allowed the Transportation Secretary to authorize airports to use all the necessary equipment for the chemical and biological weapons detection. The Act did change the aviation security dramatically. For instance, before the 9/11 attack, the civil aviation security was handled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). After the creation of the Act, the civil aviation security was put under the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). There were also changes in the federal statutes that covered aviation security (contained in title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations Chapter XII).

The provisions that were made by the Act changed security practices in the airports with the airports implementing changes in the checking and screening procedures, where tight security procedures were and are still being developed. The placement of the airport security screeners under federal control made changes when all screeners were required to be US citizens and the matching of bags to passengers was made necessary with new security requirements adopted in airports. Racial and religious profiling in the US Aviation Security practices has been seen by some as illegal and inconsistent with American values.

Furthermore, this profiling is detrimental to the national security. Civil liberties of some religious groups have claimed that TSA employees conduct secondary screening for passengers wearing ‘religious’ clothing. For instance, TSA employees have discriminated the Sikh by ordering Sikh Americans to remove their turbans, which defies their faith. There have been an estimated 50 incidents of religious discrimination since the institution of the new policy. Racial and religious profiling has led to discrimination and humiliation of people including the ordinary Americans.

The practice leads to stereotyping of some citizens as terrorists and provokes a sense of fear against innocent citizens. The racial and religious profiling should instead promote changes that will prevent discrimination and humiliation of travelers. The profiling should not be used as a means of abuse but instead should be used with respect for the civilians. Exposing people to extra screening procedures simply because they belong to a certain race or religion should be done away with, but instead everyone subjected to the procedures to promote equality.


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