Terrorism refers to the organized use of threat and violence that intentionally targets and disregards the safety of civilians, as a way of coercion or intimidation for political, religious, or ideological reasons (White, 2011). The 9/11 attacks against the United States revealed the extent to which the US was vulnerable to terrorist attacks; therefore, this prompted the US administration to put emphasis on the protection of the homeland from such attacks. Homeland security is an umbrella terminology that is used when making reference to national efforts towards the prevention of terrorist attacks in the United States, reduction of the US vulnerability to these attacks and the minimization of the extent of damage should an attack occur, and devising mechanisms for disaster preparedness (Moser, 2008). The Department of Homeland security (DHS) refers to the inter-agency body created through the efforts by the federal government, the state and local governments, and private industry, formed after the 9/11 attacks and mandated with the responsibility of securing Americans and key institutions from terrorist attacks. This paper will look into the effect of homeland security in reducing the vulnerability of the United States population and infrastructure to terrorist attacks
The formation of homeland security was a principle strategy aimed at combating terrorist activities and enhancing disaster preparedness and effective responses. The idea behind the creation of the umbrella security body was to increase cooperation and the sharing of intelligence among diverse agencies that are mandated with the responsibility of providing security services to the Americans (Viotti et al., 2008).
The formation of homeland security also saw the enactment of the National Strategy 2003, whose core objective is to strengthen the United States security both within and abroad (Maniscalco & Christen, 2011). The national strategy provides homeland security with the responsibility of ensuring the security of the nation from internal terrorist attacks; on the other hand, the strategy gives homeland security the responsibility of defusing and identifying terrorism threats before they reach the country’s borders. The strategy also involves an undertaking to carry out actions against terrorist groups in a progressive manner that will disrupt, degrade and eventually destroy the organization of the terrorist units.
The strategy of homeland security also encompasses the idea of forming new alliances with the aim of enhancing regional-based solutions that would help limit the expansion of the terrorist networks (Viotti et al., 2008). The constant strikes against the terrorist networks shall be sustained at all costs to ensure that terrorists do not gather or exchange ideas. Consequently, these efforts will incapacitate the organization and command of terrorist units and limit their scope.
The United States is also supposed to help other nations fight terrorism because the terrorist networks work with the ideology of hurting the interests of the US in other countries (Maniscalco & Christen, 2011). The involvement of the US together with other countries will further reduce the spread of terrorist networks (Kitchen & Moore, 2008). The US can also enlist support from other like-minded countries with the objective of fighting a common enemy. The United States’ economy might shall be utilized in helping poor and weak countries get rid of terrorists and their networks (Kitchen & Moore, 2008). All these strategies are aimed at eliminating the terrorists and their networks, thereby, ensuring the security of the homeland.
Terrorism and Homeland Security
The underlying and evolving threats posed by the terrorists keep bleaching the security of the people and that is why Homeland Security was created to keep pace and protect the people from terror. Homeland Security functions at a nationwide level of protecting the US, on the outside and within the boundaries (Martin, 2011). The goals of the DHS are preparedness, prevention, and prompt response to disasters caused by terrorist activities. The DHS has helped to promote security in the US population and infrastructure through coordinated communication channels with the various states and the local governments, the private sector, and the people about the signs of threats, reporting, and preparedness.
The DHS aids in the guidance and equipping of first responders, the management of the federal emergency, and the synthesis and scrutiny of the Homeland security intelligence from a variety of sources (Martin, 2011). With the advanced technology, terrorists manage to carry out major attacks using very sophisticated means, causing deaths of people and destruction of property through nuclear and explosive weaponry, chemicals, radiological, biological, and cyber attacks. It is very clear that the extent of damage caused by nuclear weapons is very devastating and the outbreak of diseases poses risk to national security (O’Sullivan, 2008). The DHS, therefore, has come up with mechanisms aimed at thwarting various forms of threats. For instance, it has strengthened nuclear safety through nuclear recognition architecture and ensuring that nuclear materials in the nation are safe. Additionally, it has devised mechanisms to help in a coordinated response.
Terror attacks may be posed from within the country or emanate from abroad; therefore, the prevention measures applied by Homeland Security lookout for terrorist recruitment by involving the targeted communities to prevent further recruitments and terror attacks (Martin, 2011). The major reason why Homeland Security was created was to protect the American people and property from terror attacks with an aim of preserving the nation’s freedom and prosperity.
The DHS uses advanced technology to protect the nation’s borders, ports and passengers, and cargo transportation (Viotti et al., 2008). This is achieved by laying risk-based approaches to fight and prevent terrorism in the nation. Technology has helped the department detect explosives and other dangerous weapons used by the terrorists, protecting critical infrastructure and thwarting looming cyber attacks. They have also managed to protect cyber networks and infrastructure from attack. Homeland security has constructed information-sharing partnerships that aid in the prevention of terrorism. This is accomplished by working together with both domestic, international, and private sector partners. Preventing terrorism, in addition to preventing property destruction, injuries, and deaths, is significant to a country’s economic security; therefore, Homeland Security secures the nation and facilitates trade and travel to protect economic security (White, 2011).
Homeland security has carried on with efforts of mitigation, which aid in the reduction of incidences of loss of lives and property (White, 2011). It manages these functions through all-hazard emergency management programs of prompt response, mitigation, recovery, and preparedness that aid in the protection of the national institutions and people. The DHS has also transformed the culture of emergency management from one that responds to terrorism and other kinds of disaster to one which aids in helping people and communities from becoming victims to such activities (White, 2003).
Homeland Security has been significant in supporting other states to improve and maintain security by providing training, technology, and technical backing. They also support these states by giving funds to their security departments, connecting them to the federal systems, providing personnel support, and offering security clearances. Homeland security also offers training on how to recognize, document, and report suspicious behaviors related to terrorism (Moser, 2008). Over two hundred and twenty-nine law enforcement have received this training and have acquired a standardized way of gathering intelligence and sharing it with the law enforcement and community in the country. An information network has been established to provide secure internet where local, first responders can be able to share information with the federal agencies in an attempt to prevent terrorism (White, 2003). This information may be about a suspicious observation which may lead to the prevention of an attack from occurring and arresting the terrorists. “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign was launched to create awareness to the public on terrorism issues and behaviors related to terrorism. This campaign focuses on providing people with knowledge on how to report suspicious behaviors and what channels to consult in case of terrorism-related issues (Moser, 2008). Over thirty-six billion dollar funds have been granted to different states to help them get prepared in cases of terror threats in order to build and sustain targeted capabilities that aid the states in prevention, response, and recovery from such risks, threats, and attacks of terrorism.
To curb terrorism that comes from abroad, Homeland Security has put in place measures aimed at improving the screening of passengers getting into the nation (Szyliowicz, 2008). Currently, there are over 1.3 million members of Trusted Traveler Programs, who enhance this kind of security. Pre-departure programs have been put in place to vet passengers so that high-risk passengers are forbidden from boarding a commercial aircraft. Over five thousand and seven hundred passengers have been forbidden from boarding and have been found inadmissible in case they landed in the US. After the 9/11 attack, a 9/11 commission was formed and in 2010, it implemented a TSA Secure Flight Program aimed at recognizing suspicious passengers by vetting and prohibiting them from boarding any flight in, out, and within the US (White, 2011). Passenger Name Record data have been effectively used in identifying suspicious passengers and over 1,750 cases have been identified through this method. Customs and Border Protection officers have been trained and posted at foreign airports to identify high-risk travelers by analyzing passenger information through Immigration Advisory Program.
Baggage and Cargo Screening
Since the 9/11 attack, a hundred percent screening of all checked and carry-on baggage and cargo are carried out to detect explosives (Szyliowicz, 2008). This is done on aircraft that get in and those that depart from the US and by the end of 2012; Homeland Security has accomplished necessitating screening in all international inbound cargo that is transported on passenger aircraft. Container Security Initiative operates in over thirty-two countries and in fifty-eight seaports carries maritime cargo screening to identify possible risks to avoid terrorism (Szyliowicz, 2008). These moves of screening detect explosives and this leads to arrests of the terrorists; thereby reducing the chances of terror attacks.
Homeland security has implemented a fully functional program that helps in the identification of biological threats, through four pillars, ranging from threat awareness, prevention and protection, surveillance and detection to response and recovery (O’Sullivan, 2008). The DHS has enhanced bio-preparedness and circumstantial awareness through sharing of intelligence about public health between the authorities and the local partners. Through intelligence analysts and bio-defense experts, the homeland security, through the National Biological Threat Characterization Center, is able to conduct and deliver authentic results from studies and experiments that can aid in filling in the gaps in information and also aid in understanding and counteracting the present and prospective biological threats.
The DHS guards the physical safety and the protection of chosen agent facilities through the completion of the Buffer Zone Plans and Site Assistance Visits, which provide expert analysis of security vulnerabilities, offer remedies to them and provide funding in order to prepare the state as well as the local law enforcement, who will be the first to respond to any incident in the facilities. The DHS protects the wellbeing of the whole nation through the provision of early detection and forewarning of impending biological terror attacks (O’Sullivan, 2008). The National Biosurveillance Integration Center helps to enhance the federal’s capabilities of promptly identifying and monitoring biological occurrences that are of national interest. The DHS continues to improve mechanisms for rapid responses through research, which also aids in the development of new approaches. These mechanisms also cater to the restoration of critical facilities and services following a bioterrorism incident.
National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS)
This system was created by homeland security to aid in the dissemination of timely and detailed information about terrorist threats to the public, governmental bodies, transport hubs, and the private sector (Purpura, 2007). NTAS is based on the recognition of shared responsibility for the promotion of national security; therefore, Americans should be aware of the increased risk of terrorist activity and the action they should take. The alerts present a succinct summary of the possible threat, information about the actions to be taken by the public to ensure their safety, and the actions to be taken by the government and the private sectors to aid in preventing, mitigating, and responding to the threat.
The system is an authoritative source of information and carries out its functions through a website, which presents the most up-to-date information. The alerts are only issued when the available information is credible, and this is done only after a review by the Secretary of Homeland Security in collaboration with the other federal entities (Purpura, 2007). The alerts may be sent straight to the law enforcement or the susceptible region of the private sector or be broadcast largely to the people via official and media outlets. The alert also provides information about a precise date indicative of the expiry of the alert. Any changes made to the alerts or announcements of new threats will be communicated by the Secretary of Homeland Security through the same channels as the original alert.
The US head of state has expressed concern that nuclear terrorist activity is the main urgent and the greatest danger to worldwide security. A radiological or nuclear assault on the United States would result in very devastating and profound consequences for the nation (Moser, 2008). The DHS has a mission to detect nuclear weapons and carries out forensics to curb the problem of terrorism. It detects and stops states that sponsor others to make nuclear weapons and plan terror attacks. This detection acts as a form of defense in the US, foreign borders, and other countries. It has managed to minimize terror attacks and radiological violence within and outside the US.
Homeland security has used advanced technologies for terror detection purposes and the improved results have strengthened international partnerships. For more effective security measures, DHS has increased the number of law enforcers who are well trained in operating with the equipment related to detection. DHS also focuses on improving its capabilities in detecting nuclear weapons and other terrorism equipment to its places of origin. The DHS works closely with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in deploying Radiation Portal monitors as well as other radiation detector technologies to sea and land ports, and mail facilities worldwide (Moser, 2008). The systems scan all the container cargo and private vehicles getting into the US territory by land or sea. The DHS has also expanded the initiative of Securing the Cities (TSC), which is designed to help the country in the detection and prevention of radiological or nuclear attacks in the highest risk cities.
“If You See Something, Say Something” Campaign
This is a nationwide public awareness initiative by the DHS to educate the public about the indicators of terrorist activities and terrorism-related crime while emphasizing the importance of prompt reporting of suspicious activities to the appropriate law enforcement agencies or calling 9-1-1 (Moser, 2008). Other issues that represent peoples’ dynamics like race, ethnicity, and religion are not considered suspicious and should not be reported. The reports should only include suspicious behavior or circumstances that are indicative of criminal activities related to terrorism; for example, people or a person trying to enter a restricted area or a suspiciously abandoned backpack in a public area. The DHS works to expand this initiative throughout the states by forming partnerships with various entities, which include the transport systems, educational institutions, sports leagues, and local law enforcement.
Critical Infrastructure Security
Critical infrastructure provides the most essential services to the public that strengthen the society; for example, networks, assets and systems, which are fundamental to public confidence and the security, richness, and wellbeing of the country (Opheim & Bowen, 2008). Therefore, these infrastructures must be secured from terrorist attacks and measures put in place to aid in rapid recovery from all forms of hazards. This is necessitated through proactive and coordinated efforts between the DHS and a variety of other federal entities, including the operators of the critical infrastructure. The DHS provides strategic guidance to partners in both public and private sectors, promotes efforts that foster national unity, and coordinates the general efforts by the government in promoting the security and resilience of the United States’ critical infrastructure (Opheim & Bowen, 2008).
Improved explosive devices (IEDs) have remained the most preferred weapon for terrorists given the ease with which they can be constructed, their ease to access, and their destructive capability (Opheim & Bowen, 2008). The DHS, therefore, has come up with strategies that are aimed at enhancing counter-IDE capabilities and it carries out these functions through its office of Bombing Prevention. The office provides a focused portfolio of expert programs showing the requirements, capabilities, and gap analysis, which are meant to boost efforts for preventing bombing at the national and intergovernmental levels.
The DHS continuously works at expanding awareness of the IDE threat and counter IDE mechanisms in the national, private, and public sectors (Opheim & Bowen, 2008). These partnerships enhance their abilities to recognize and assess suspicious behavior and circumstances that may be indicating a bomb-making activity or the process of detonation.
The 9/11 attacks against the United States made it look vulnerable in the face of the world and therefore prompted the government to devise policies and strategies to combat terrorism, which saw the development of Homeland Security (Viotti et al., 2008). Among some of the strategies was the establishment of the DHS to aid in the protection and reduction of the homeland’s susceptibility to terrorist activities.
Homeland Security has ensured the establishment of national and state training and evaluation centers that have designed the curriculum, set standards, evaluate and award performance in various states and local governments (Moser, 2008). It has helped the American government to advance its objectives of promoting recovery of the nation’s terrorist attacks and disasters, through intelligence sharing and preparedness mechanisms. The consequences of terrorist attacks are a wide range of devastating effects, including loss of lives, destruction of property, disease outbreaks, trauma, derailment of financial markets, and loss of confidence in the government. Homeland Security strives to prevent the occurrence of terrorist attacks and also presents the mechanisms to aid the nation in recovering from the effects of such acts.
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