Terrorism and Counterterrorism in the United States
On September 11th, 2001, at 8:46 AM the United States experienced something that would transform it forever. The first aircraft smashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center and the second hit the South Tower at 9:03. At 9:37 a third airliner hit the Pentagon and at 10:03 the fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. This was a truly sad day when nearly 3,000 people were killed in this violent terrorist act. It has not stopped there. Since 9/11 there have been over 50 terrorist plots that we know about (Mueller). Very few have been effective, and none of which that even come close to matching the devastation caused by the 9/11 attack. The United States can attribute the terrorist's lack of success to America's rapid policy changes and implementation of numerous antiterrorism programs. The largest policy implemented is the Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act). The Patriot Act made many changes within the government on what and how they were allowed to monitor and collect communications for intelligence gathering and policing. It also gave powers to the Secretary of the Treasury to monitor and track the movement of money to prevent money laundering, specifically for the purpose of funding terrorism. The act also played a major role in restricting our borders, and better monitoring of foreign nationals within our borders. Lastly it created a multitude of new laws and policies to use against both foreign and domestic terrorism (PATRIOT Act Overview). Although the United States government has done an outstanding job at preventing both foreign and domestic terrorism since 9/11 there are still a number of areas that need addressed such as ensuring that all federal law enforcement agencies are working cohesively, ensuring that the current laws and regulations are not violating the civil rights of the American people, and ensuring that we are focusing on the right counter-terrorism programs to give the American public as much security as possible. Prior to 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act there were numerous laws in effect that prevented federal agencies to share information with one another. For instance the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) prevented intelligence officials within the FBI from exchanging data with criminal investigators. This lack of information sharing is one of the key points on how we as a nation allowed 9/11 to even happen. Take for instance Steve Bongardt from the FBI. He was working on the criminal investigation of the USS Cole bombing. One of the suspects of the Cole bombing was Khaled al-Mihdhar. Mihdhar was also on the FBI international terrorism watch list as someone who may have planned to blow up the L.A. airport. While Bongardt was working on his investigation he received an email from an FBI intelligence official. It was an email from Dina Corsi, an intelligence analyst at the FBI. This email mentioned that al-Mihdhar may have entered the United States. Bongardt requested more information about this lead however he was given an order to delete the message and was told that the message was sent to him by accident. The next day he received a phone call over a secured line from both Corsi and the supervisor. They told him again that he would need to "stand down" and they explained to him that he was not entitled to that information as a criminal investigator. He pushed the issue but was told by both that his orders was to "stand down". He then sent an angry email that stated, "Whatever has happened to this -- someday somebody will die -- and wall or not -- the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain "problems" A few weeks later Khalid al-Mihdhar helped to hijack Flight 77 which hit the Pentagon. (Wright, 352-353). This is just one example...
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