Article appears with permission of the Kansas Association of Private Investigators

The WheatStalker

September 16, 2001

A Short Review of Modern Terrorism and the U. S. Counterterrorism
Policies and Structures.

By John W. Ellis, B.S., M.A.J.    Major, Military Police

Licensed Private Detective        U. S. Army Reserve

In view of the terrorist actions in New York and Washington, D.C. on 11 September, it seems advisable to review the policies and structures in use to combat the problem inside the United States and to make some general forecasts of the probable effects on our profession. The contents of the article are based on previous research, experience, publications and on-going training in the subject area.

Modern Terrorism

The onset of modern terrorism began with airplane hijackings in the early 1960s, primarily by Palestinian groups. This led to the initial implementation of airline security procedures with which we have been familiar for the last four decades. This type of terrorist activity was followed by various kidnappings and building takeovers where various diplomats, executives, officials and ordinary citizens were held hostage for political negotiation purposes or ransom. Package and letter bombs were also seen during this period. The response to these actions was the development of increased building security or entry screening procedures including special response teams such as the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team with their snipers, special entry procedures, and negotiators. All of this lessened the ease and effectiveness of hijackings, building seizures and small bombs. The response by terrorists was to shift into less restricted activity. Assassinations tended to replace kidnappings while car and truck bombs came to the forefront. For the last 15-20 years, the primary threat has been the truck bomb, chosen by terrorists due to its ease of both construction and deployment, the lesser complexity of the operation, and the increased destructiveness. Many security people had been forecasting a shift in terrorist tactics, but were focused on the exotic end of the spectrum, the chemical, biological and nuclear devices. The use of aircraft as the vehicle to penetrate building security is a parameter shift, but relies upon previously known terrorist tactics; it simply adapts them to avoid effective security countermeasures developed against previous methods. Countermeasures adapted in the past will have to be modified to address the new form of the terrorist threat.

Historical Response of the U.S.

United States policy and terrorist countermeasures developed and evolved along with the terrorist tactics, but certain core principles remained the same. Terrorist activities would be considered as criminal activity in the country where the action occurred; that country would have the primary responsibility for dealing with it. Other countries might contribute resources or assistance on request. Terrorists would be treated as criminals not as nations; nations would not be held directly responsible for the terrorists' individual conduct. This approach was implemented by the United States and specific duties were assigned to the State Department and the Department of Justice. Outside of the United States, the State Department would serve as the lead agency in dealing with terrorist actions; inside the United States, the Department of Justice, through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, would serve as the lead agency. In the international sphere, the State Department announced a seven point policy for dealing with terrorists and cooperated with many nations in the development of international agreements on related topics. Internally, the F.B.I. concentrated on the counterintelligence aspects of terrorism, developed a tactical counterterrorist team to address limited tactical risks, applied standard criminal techniques to prosecute specific incidents, and supported the development of local response teams to deal with the tactical problems at the scene. Within the last decade, the evolution of events has caused various federal officials to reevaluate the countermeasure requirements and the necessary structure to implement it. Included in this evaluation, was the development of what is called 'Homeland Defense'; a term most of the public, and most security officials, first heard this week. It was preceded by two Presidential Decision Directives and Congressional studies, resolutions, and recommendations.

Development of the Current Structure

Public Law 104-201 (National Defense Authorization Act for 1997), Presidential Decision Directive 39 issued June 21, 1995 and Presidential Decision Directive 62 issued May 22, 1998 outlined many of the basic organization taskings currently in use within the federal government. The key parts are a separation of responsibilities on the basis of crisis management and consequence management. The former is primarily prevention and defense, the latter is primarily response. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is designated as the lead agency for crisis management while the Federal Emergency Management Agency is designated as the lead agency for consequence management. These assignments were in line with the concept of Homeland Defense which is envisioned as having six parts:

Over the last five years, the various federal agencies have been sorting through the duty assignments in this Public Law and PDDs and either continuing or realigning their resources to perform them. This process was advancing, but not yet complete when the attacks occurred this week. Recognizing that some of these areas require action by more than one agency, here are the basic taskings to the various agencies:

Finally, there are two interagency structures which are very important.
S.I.C.G. The Senior Interagency Coordination Group on Terrorism is composed of representatives of DOD, F.B.I., F.E.M.A., Public Health Service, E.P.A., D.O.E., D.O.J., D.O.T., D.O.A., G.S.A. and the National Communications System. This group coordinates activities and exchanges information related to terrorism.
N.C.C. Presidential Decision Directive NSC-24 in May 1994 established the National Counterintelligence Center. It links various intelligence agencies and some private security groups with specialized products and services. It operates closely with N.I.P.C.
There are other agencies with roles in counterterrorism; those listed are the most important or most frequently encountered.

The Impact on Private Detectives

From a business viewpoint, many of the K.A.P.I. members may wonder what the impact on them is going to be. Based on previous experience in an antiterrorist role, an understanding of what is occurring and an in-depth examination of the problem, here is what I believe you should expect to see.

These forecasts are made, essentially, off the top of my head; There is no way to tell exactly how accurate they are. Others could be made. Use them as the basis to forecast how your business will change.