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Coast Guard on counter-terrorism patrol in Upper New York Bay. Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in distance spanning The Narrows between Brooklyn (left) and Staten Island (right).
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Counter-terrorism (also spelled counterterrorism) incorporates the practice, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, police departments and corporations adopt to attack terrorist threats and/or acts, both real and imputed.
The tactic of terrorism is available to insurgents and governments. Not all insurgents use terror as a tactic, and some choose not to use it because other tactics work better for them in a particular context. Individuals, such as Timothy McVeigh, may also engage in terrorist acts such as the Oklahoma City bombing.
If the terrorism is part of a broader insurgency, counter-terrorism may also form a part of a counter-insurgency doctrine, but political, economic, and other measures may focus more on the insurgency than the specific acts of terror. Foreign internal defense (FID) is a term used for programs either to suppress insurgency, or reduce the conditions under which insurgency could develop. Counter-terrorism includes both the detection of potential acts and the response to related events.
Most counter-terrorism strategies involve an increase in standard police and domestic intelligence. The central activities are traditional: interception of communications, and the tracing of persons. New technology has, however, expanded the range of military and law enforcement operations.
Domestic intelligence is often directed at specific groups, defined on the basis of origin or religion, which is a source of political controversy. Mass surveillance of an entire population raises objections on civil liberties grounds.