Post 9/11 Law Enforcement Response to Terrorism

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Compare and contrast the pre and post 9/11 law enforcement response to terrorism. What strategies could be implemented to increase future law enforcement capability in countering terrorism?

“We’re in a new world. We’re in a world in which the possibility of terrorism, married up with technology, could make us very, very sorry that we didn’t act.” (Rice, 2002). Law enforcement response to counter-terrorism fundamentally changed as a result of the unprecedented events of September 11th 2001 in New York and Washington (Kaldas, 2002, p61-62). This essay will examine how law enforcement has evolved in response to the changing nature of terrorism, with an emphasis on how this has impacted Australia. An analysis of arrests and subsequent convictions of terrorist related incidents since 9/11 in Western democracies throughout the world, highlights that law enforcement agencies have demonstrated a significant capacity to respond to the threats of terrorism as they arise. It is imperative for law enforcement to embrace the notion that counter terrorism is the responsibility of all law enforcement officers (O’Hare, 2006, p1). Unequivocally, Police perform a crucial role in counter-terrorism due to police being best placed to prevent and detect the emergence of local terrorist threats, and to respond and investigate local terrorist attacks (Clarke and Newman, 2006, p 9). It is critical that law enforcement continually work on effective strategies, strengthen capabilities, and maintain collaborative workable relationships within the communities they serve. To achieve this outcome, law enforcement needs to continually understand the changing nature of terrorism threats and to treat each and every threat as a crime. Terrorism is a crime, (The Counter-Terrorism White Paper, 2010, p 23) having no like or equal which requires an effective, holistic law enforcement response. The term ‘terrorism’ comes ‘from the era of the French Revolution describing state-directed policy of inflicting terror to obtain political and social control’(Hancock, N. 2002, para. 6). The definition of terrorism has evolved to describe offences by those prepared to use terror in order to obtain ‘discrete political objectives’ (Chadwick, E, 1996/97 p330). Since the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the Australian Government has introduced more than 40 new counter-terrorism laws to assist law enforcement in responding to terrorist threats. These laws have produced new criminal offences, new detention and questioning powers for law enforcement agencies, new powers for the Attorney-General to declare illegal terrorist organisations, and new initiatives to manage people’s movement and activities without criminal convictions. These changes in legislation have become ‘game changers’ in relation to significantly increasing the capacity of law enforcement agencies to respond to threats of terrorism on Australian soil. One of the fundamental changes post 9/11 for law enforcement in Australia were the changes in legislative powers in the form of a single set of terrorism offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (The Counter-Terrorism White Paper, 2010, p 55). The legislation defines an act of terrorism. A ‘terrorist act’ is defined ‘as an act or threat, intended to advance a political, ideological or religious cause by coercing or intimidating an Australian or foreign government or the public, by causing serious harm to people or property, creating a serious risk to the health and safety to the public, or seriously disrupting trade, critical infrastructure or electronic systems.’ (National Counter-Terrorism Plan, 2005 p2.2). A ‘terrorist incident’ is a ‘combination of circumstances or conditions which may lead to or result from a terrorist act, and which require preventative and or responsive action.’ (National Counter-Terrorism Plan, 2005, p2.2). The offences outlined in the Criminal Code Act 1995 are focussed on persons who engage in, train for, prepare, plan,...
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