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Monday, February 15, 2016

Terrorism in American Cities

Terrorism in American Cities

A commonly agreed upon facet of defining terrorism is that the goal of an attack is to spread terror. One method of achieving this goal is by creating mass casualties. Mass casualties are easier to create in a city environment. Cities have been targeted repeatedly by terrorists; New York City in 1993 and 2001, Madrid in 2004, London in 2005, and Boston in 2013. The United States, as the principal symbol of liberty in the world, will be targeted again. Can American cities be protected by taking away the rights of American citizens?

Perhaps it would be better to to predict and preempt terror attacks. The capabilities for analyzing terrorist data and using that to predict terrorist activity is growing constantly. The use of statistical analysis and relationship mapping software technologies had advanced, but a true leap forward has been made in using the internet to build a human analysis network;“social forces that are propelling network intelligence – namely citizen groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the
world – are formidable and continue to grow” (Deibert, 2003, p. 175). This prevents data from being "stovepiped”, “which means they keep much of the immediate results of their intelligence collection activities within their own institutional structure” (Lee & Schwartz, 2005, p. 1473). Once terrorists have been identified they can be killed or captured, preemptively ending their attacks. Terror attacks can never be fully prevented, especially in a country that tolerates extremist anti-American views and is open to free movement.

Local law enforcement must be involved in American counter terror efforts. This “need for improved sharing of intelligence information between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies was recognized as early as the 1964 Warren Commission report” (Davis, Rand Corporation, & National Institute of Justice (U.S.), 2010, p. 39). The attacks of 9/11 further confirmed such a need. Legislative reforms of the security community and the intelligence institutions removed some of the barriers for intelligence sharing. Many of the reforms of the 1970's were “based on a presumption that domestic terrorism could be handled by investigating crimes after they were committed rather than preventing them” (Powers, 2004, p. 45). Barriers of this type are not conducive to developing sound counterterror policy, and must be avoided.

It is not necessary for Americans to give up personal freedom for improved security. By using effective intelligence to target actual terrorists and preempting their attacks, there is no need for a mass data collection, “shotgun” approach to surveillance. Indeed, Americans are hostile to the idea of an all encompassing police state.“American legal traditions, cultural norms, and a deeply-ingrained minimalist philosophy regarding the size and capacity of the state make a heavy-handed approach both undesirable and politically unacceptable” (Clutterbuck & Rosenau, 2009, p.5). Americans may not be able to prevent large scale attacks on our cities, but we wouldn't be able to do so even with a security state.


Clutterbuck, L., & Rosenau, W. (2009). Subversion as a facet of terrorism and insurgency the case for a twenty-first century approach. Strategic Insights: v.8, issue 3 . Retrieved October 17, 2014 from https://calhoun.nps.edu/handle/10945/25445

Davis, L. M., Rand Corporation, & National Institute of Justice (U.S.). (2010). Long-term effects of law enforcement’s post-9/11 focus on counterterrorism and homeland security. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=669776

Deibert, R. J. (2003). Deep probe: The evolution of network intelligence. Intelligence & National Security, 18(4), 175–193. doi:10.1080/02684520310001688925

Lee, R. D., & Schwartz, P. M. (2005). Beyond the “war” on terrorism: Towards the new intelligence network. Michigan Law Review, 103(6), 1446–1482. Retrieved September 10, 2014 from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=17240839&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Powers, R. G. (2004). A bomb with a long fuse. American History, 39(5), 42–47. Retrieved September 10, 2014 from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=14624935&site=ehost-live&scope=site

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