Article appears with permission of the Kansas Association of Private Investigators
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.
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:
- Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Defense
- Military Support to Civil Authority (MSCA)
- Critical Infrastructure Protection
- Computer Network Operations Defense
- Counter/Anti-Terrorism (CT/AT) Operations
- National Missile Defense
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:
- Department of Defense. DOD focuses on four missions in Homeland Security:
National Missile Defense, Computer Network Defensive & Offensive Operations, Military
Support to Civil Authorities, and CT/AT Operations (primarily outside the U.S.). Its missions,
however, include all aspects. DOD is maintaining response teams for internal WMD attacks,
identifying critical infrastructure for its operations, and producing intelligence that may be
utilized by other agencies.
- Department of Justice. Many portions of the department are providing support for the
prosecution of terrorists as criminals. In addition to prosecution of any criminal cases, it also
addresses four of the Homeland Defense mission: weapons of mass destruction, critical
infrastructure protection, CT/AT operations, and computer network operations defense. The
primary agency it uses is the F.B.I. Here are the most important substructures implemented by
the F.B.I. to perform the expanded taskings assigned as the lead agency inside the United States:
- A.N.S.I.R. Awareness of National Security Issues and Response was designed to provide
unclassified national security threat and warning information to U.S. corporate security
executives, law enforcement, etc. Initially operating at the national level in a very open manner,
its information web site came under attack about a year ago; this resulted in a reduction of its
- N.D.P.O. The National Domestic Preparedness Office is intended to help coordinate all
federal efforts to assist first responders to internal attacks. Initial actions included the conduct of
training programs in many large cities throughout the United States and the development of
continuing training opportunities to allow state and local authorities to properly prepare for their
response role to WMD and similar attacks. New York was one of the cities selected for this
training and benefited from the initial phases of these programs. [Go to www.npdo.gov for more
- N.I.P.C. The National Infrastructure Protection Center is designed to detect, deter,
assess, warn, respond and investigate both physical and cyber attacks upon the infrastructure
which includes banking and finance, telecommunications, energy, water systems, government
operations and emergency services. It is intended to be a bridge between the federal government
and the local community to address defense issues in this area. [Go to www.nipc.gov for more information]
The F.B.I. has implemented these centers and its additional responsibilities by appointing
special agent coordinators in each of its regional offices, making contact with local authorities,
and establishing local chapters of the N.I.P.C. to draw in the local community. The agency also
participates in interagency committees as detailed below.
- H.R.T. The Hostage Rescue Team was originally organized to address assault on
airliners or buildings to release passengers or government officials being held hostage. While
training for this speciality role, its mission has broadened.
DOJ also supervises the Immigration & Naturalization Service, Border Patrol, U.S.
Marshal Service and other agencies with screening and security roles in support of CT/AT
- Federal Emergency Management Agency. Tasked to coordinate response to any large
natural or man-made disaster, F.E.M.A. has developed training for first responders and state
emergency management agencies. Its role incorporates previous Civil Defense Agency
operations and includes a vary broad range of taskings. Its contact with state and local authorities
- Treasury Department. Several of the law enforcement agencies assigned to Treasury
perform security and investigative actions in support of CT/AT. There has been no significant
change to their missions.
- Department of Transportation. Supervises the FAA which is tasked with standards for
airport security. DOT also prepares and supervises the movement of various hazardous
- Department of Energy. DOE is tasked to provide security at nuclear facilities inside the
U.S. It establishes security standards in this area. It also crosses over into the infrastructure
- Department of Health and Human Services. HHS supervises the Centers for Disease
Control, the Public Health Service, and similar agencies whose capabilities are needed in the
event of a chemical, biological or radiological attack.
- General Services Administration. Supervises the Federal Protective Service which
provides physical security at most federal government buildings.
- E.P.A. The Environmental Protection Agency is involved in consequence management
in hazardous material situations.
- Department of Agriculture. DOA has responsibilities in certain biological weapons of
mass destruction situations.
- Department of State. DOS continues its roles in diplomatic security, embassy security,
and overseas travel advisories. It also participates in joint committees with other agencies to
allow a coordinated approach.
- Central Intelligence Agency. The counterintelligence role of the C.I.A. was modified to
allow it a more expanded role inside the United States to prevent a disconnect between its
operations and those conducted by the F.B.I. It participates in joint committees.
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.
- Background Checks. Expect a rise in the number of requests for and increased extent of background checks by clients.
- Armed Officers. Expect a rise in requests for armed security for both uniformed and
plainclothes officers. There is also likely to be an escalation to the use of rifles or carbines in many settings. The use of certain types of ammunition (HP) is likely to be restricted to meet the Law of Warfare.
- Threat Evaluations. More businesses will request investigations into threats made
against them. Investigators will be asked to evaluate the validity or seriousness of them.
The nature of the threats made is likely to change requiring the investigator to be more
knowledgeable of terrorism, WMD, cyber threats, etc.
- Vulnerability Assessments. Requests for risk assessments for various terrorist threats or
techniques is likely. Investigators will need to know more about terrorism, WMD, cyber
- Training. Businesses in general, investigators and security personnel will identify and
seek training related to countermeasures of all types. Training providers should expect an
increase in demands and should shift the content of the courses to meet the requirements.
- Shifts in Salary, Qualifications and Privatization. Demand for and salary offerings for
certain security operations will increase; the most obvious is airport security. Some
operations may remove private security and change to security provided by police
agencies of various types. This will affect the qualifications demanded for these
positions. Many buildings now lacking security may institute it; an increase in
government contracts should be expected over the short term.
- Activations. Some private detectives will be activated to perform military service or
emergency services. Those of you monitoring e-mail groups have already seen messages
indicating that a well-known New Jersey private detective has responded to the Trade
Center in a firefighting capacity. Others may follow. A temporary shortage of trained
workers may require the recall of retired police officers, military personnel, etc. This will
affect some small firms very strongly.
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