Security Services in UK and US After 9/11

Post 9/11 terrorist Attacks

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the whole world has attempted to strengthen its existing potential to combat acts of terrorism. Although 9/11 is slowly approaching its decade mark, what transpired on that fateful day remains fresh in the hearts and minds of millions of people across the globe. The dead were counted into their thousands; and numerous families were reaped apart under the brute force of terrorists. As a result, governments, especially from the US and UK stepped up their fight against terrorist activities. Numerous Plans of Action, countermeasures, and strategies have been employed by major world powers to combat terrorism. Of particular concern in the US and UK owing to the fact that both countries have witnessed recent terrorist intrusions in their own backyards. After the 9/11 terrorist attack on American soil, security services in both countries can no longer afford to grapple with the issue of security. Measures have been introduced by the security agents to guard against a recurrence of the attack. This essay attempts to analyze how the US and UK security services have adapted to the post 9/11 occurrences.

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To be able to discern the magnitude of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it is only imperative to give a brief description of what transpired in that day. The terrorist’s attacks were a sequence of coordinated suicide attacks perpetrated upon the US by a terrorist organization called al-Qaeda. 19 Islamist terrorists affiliated to the al-Qaeda terror group hijacked four commercial passenger jet-liners in the morning of that fateful day. Due to their murderous craze, the hijackers deliberately crashed two of the planes in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, decimating everybody on board and killing other individuals that worked in the building. Within hours, both buildings tumbled to the ground, bringing with them at least two more buildings. The third plane was literally crashed into the pentagon, with the fourth plane crashing into a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania (Brownlee, 2003). There are no known survivors from any of the commercial flights. Available statistics reveal that around 2,974 people, excluding the 19 hijackers, died in the terrorist attacks. Up to date, 24 individuals are still missing and have been presumed dead. Nationals of over 90 different nations perished within the confines of that fateful day.

Owing to the unprecedented loss of lives and property, and the huge economic and financial upheavals that the world witnessed, security agents were hard-pressed to adapt by introducing stringent counter-terrorism measures to beef up international security. Stock exchanges in major US cities closed for weeks and posted massive losses upon resuming trading. The economy of Lower Manhattan, the area where the World Trade Centre was located, grinded to a halt due to the billions of dollars lost in office space (Mathew, 2007). This called for tough counter-terrorism measures from the US federal government. Other peace loving countries of the world, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Australia joined in the flay to try and make the world a better living place for all of us. The word counter-terrorism was in the lips of every senior security chief of the world’s most powerful countries. The concept of counter-terrorism refers to the tactics, practices, strategies, and techniques that police departments, militaries, corporations, and governments adopt in a direct or indirect response to terrorist actions or threats. The terrorist action can either be imputed or real (Wilkinson, 2007).

Of course, the US and its allies undertook a massive military campaign to topple the al-Qaeda funded government of Afghanistan. In a war that NATO took a central charge, the terrorists, including Osama bin Laden were driven out of the seat of power in Kabul to the rugged mountainous regions of Kandahar. Therefore, it is imperative to say that military intervention has been one of the strategies adopted by the US and UK governments to keep terrorists at bay. After the strike, the NATO council resolved that the terrorist attack on the US was tantamount to an attack on member NATO countries. So, NATO rebuked Articles 5 of its charter to conduct a retaliatory attack on perceived terrorist networks. Australian Prime Minister John Howard played a significant role in starting the warfare when he invoked Article IV of the ANZUS treaty (Raman, 2008). President’s Bush administration formally announced the War on terrorism during the immediate aftermath of the attacks, with specific objectives of netting Osama bin Laden and his associates. All over a sudden, the US government came to recognize the stark danger posed by terrorists’ networks such as al-Qaeda. By all means, the perpetrators of terror had to be stopped, arrested, and brought to justice. To that end, the security operatives of both countries proposed to use any means possible – economic or military – to punish those nations perceived as safe havens for terrorists’ activities.

Therefore, military intervention is one of the ways that have been used by security services in the UK and US to respond to terrorist networks and their activities. This was the main justification behind the US invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 bombings. However, history and emerging trends point to the fact that military intervention has never been a successful counter-measure of preventing or stopping terrorist’s operations (Ervin, 2007). Military interventions rarely end terrorists’ threats even though they are credited with disrupting the activities of the terrorist groups on a temporal basis. The Iraq experience can reinforce the fact that military intervention in its own accord cannot deal with terrorism. Although the US won the popular military contest within months, it has been unable to win the war against terrorism in Iraq four years into the military occupation.

Secondly, increased intelligence sharing and global surveillance have been the top priority of security services of the two nations in their war against terrorism. To this day, both US and UK security services have been collecting and sharing information that can help them to pursue the criminals. Information sharing has enabled the US led coalition to hit and eliminate key terrorists’ installations, therefore effectively helping to keep terrorist activities down during the past seven years (Naik, 2008). All pointers indicate that future information sharing among security agencies of the countries involved would have a big influence on the war on terrorism. If the security operatives continue to cooperate, the war on terrorism can be on course to achieve its global objective – that of capturing top terrorists, including the master, Osama bin Laden.

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In recent times, counter-terrorism efforts between the two countries involve an increase in domestic intelligence sharing and standard policing. Tracing of suspected terrorists and interception of communication to track down other terrorists have effectively being used by security services in both US and UK to curtail acts of terrorism. International sharing of information and intelligence among security operatives of the two nations have often been directed to particular terrorist organizations, defined on the basis of religion or origin (Blalock et al. 2007). Intelligence sharing between security services has increased the probability of stopping the terrorists before they hit.

The security services of both countries have been overly involved in transforming the aviation sector, the very sector that terrorists chose to use to penetrate the US. The Lion’s share of counter-terrorism efforts have been focused on streamlining the aviation industry. Security agents have spent considerable time trying to close the existing security lapses in the aviation sector among nations (Kamiya, 2008). During the past six years, air marshals have almost doubled in major airlines, cockpit doors have been hardened, and some pilots fly while armed. Airport security screeners have undergone security training. Airport security checks have increased to arrest any situation that would facilitate a would-be terrorist to board a plane. But a critic would argue that every government study that has been conducted on the airports security systems seem to reveal the fact that it is as easy as it was some seven years ago for terrorist networks to sneak in to the country deadly weapons under the unsuspecting eyes of airport screeners (Ervin, 2007).

Ever since the 9/11 terrorist activities, security operatives of both countries have been employing the tactics of pre-emptive neutralization (Anthony & Nana, 2007). This involves killing, capturing, or disabling suspected terrorists from their cells before they could engage in mounting an attack. The security services of both countries have since 2001 been involved in interrogating suspected or known terrorists for the purposes of obtaining information about other specific targets, plots, and identity of their masters. This idea has been credited with the creation of Guantanamo bay jailhouse by security operatives in the US. The UK security services have been instrumental in arresting and repatriating suspected terrorists to Guantanamo bay for investigation. The confinement facility uses extreme methods to get the suspects to testify against their terrorist activities, including the use of drugs and sleep deprivation devices. The bottom line is to let the terrorist reveal as much information as possible in relation to their activities and sponsors. This information is then used to track the masters and disable them before they could cause any harm (Ken, 2005). This strategy was not known before the 9/11 terrorist bombings, thus the strategy must have been developed to help nations combat the rising fear of post 9/11 terrorism.

Security operatives have worked extra hard to improve the security status of the ports – a major entry point to nuclear terrorism. Experts around the American intelligence system are all in agreement that the likeliest way for any terrorists to utilize as a conduit of smuggling weapons of mass destruction is one of over 11 million cargo containers that pass through American 361 seaports annually (Ervin, 2007). Security services have increased their surveillance of the seaports to prevent the terrorists from gaining entry. Although security checks have been increased at seaports, it appears that the technology used to screen cargo containers in US ports are underutilized, with present figures indicating that only 6 percent of containers at US seaports go through inspection.

This shows that loopholes exist in our port facilities that could effectively be used by terrorists to gain entry and cause mayhem to American or British interests. Port security must be at the centre of security operatives in that ports are facilities that could be used by unscrupulous terrorists to cause untold suffering. Imagine the damage a 10 – 20 kiloton of raw nuclear material could do in a major seaport. It would directly be responsible for the deaths of between 50,000 to one million people, and would damage property worth between $50 – 500 billion (Mark, 2001). Such a catastrophe begs for serious security measures to be undertaken by the security agents of the two nations.

Close to port security is the border security. It should be remembered that the 19 hijackers that facilitated the terrorist attacks on the US had acquired 30 state-issued documents and accessed US border security 68 times (Zalman, 2008). They had made 43 contacts with customs and immigration officials, and 25 attempts to acquire US visas. This is a serious breach of national security. Ever since the terrorists activities of 9/11, security services from both countries have intensified patrols at their key border points to curtail terrorists’ invasions. Some six years ago, it was relatively easy to evade been scrutinized by border security inspectors. Loopholes existed that enabled the 9/11 hijackers to gain entry into American soil through utilizing legal points of entry. But the lessons of the September attacks have enabled our security systems to protect our border points from external terrorists’ aggression. It is no longer easy to slip past the southern and northern borders of the US undetected (Bures, 2007).

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Through the security services, it is extremely complex to penetrate US and UK borders, especially where the suspected terrorists come from countries whose nationals require visas to visit the countries. The process of visa application and registration is more stringent than it was prior to the 9/11 twin bombings. After the bombings, the US security operatives introduced a system known as US-VISIT system (Anthony & Nana, 2007). This system has ensured the safety of our border points by taking digital photographs and two-finger scans for international visitors intending to use border points to gain entry into the US. This method, introduced after 9/11 have given US authorities an upper hand in deciding who legally enters a country and who between the visitors is a suspected or known terrorist. But a critic to the border security system would argue that the VISIT system is deficient. It is only operational at land crossings, indicating that border security inspectors must have to be suspicious of an individual to scrutinize him. Besides that fact, Canadians and Mexicans, who make up the bulk of individuals who travel to the US by land, are exempted from the VISIT programme (Stephens, 2008).

Security services from the UK and US have developed special units that are effectively mandated to handle terrorist activities. Numerous security agencies, special mission units, as well as elite tactical units have been designed to directly engage the terrorists and avert terrorist attacks. The establishment of the numerous policing agencies has made it possible for the two countries to respond appropriately to an ongoing terrorist attack, preventing such actions, and acting as hostage rescue teams in case of a terrorist intrusion (Ervin, 2007). After the 9/11 bombings on American soil, both countries have been in the forefront in training counter-terrorism teams and agencies. Security agents from both nations have time and again performed security drills together to sharpen their techniques, tactics, and procedures employed for man-hunting the terrorists.

Over the past five or so years, both countries have been able to train security agents with necessary tactics to effectively fight terrorism. These security agents are specifically trained for their work and include snipers, assault teams, dog handlers, EOD experts, and intelligence officers (Ken, 2005). At the tactical level, the majority of counter-terrorism operations in America is conducted by national, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. In the UK, counter-terrorism operations are conducted by both police agencies and the Scotland Yard. Overall, the security agencies involved have been able to achieve quite a lot during post 9/11 era to curtail a recurrence of such an attack.

Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, more security personnel were deployed to check the country’s mass transit security system. The London underground attacks of 2005 also served as a wake up call for the security apparatus of UK to concentrate more on the country’s mass transit system as a possible route to terrorist activities. Various alleged and real terrorist plots been aimed at New York City have utilized the mass transit system. As such, the security systems of both nations have invested extensively in the system. In Northeast cities, and other cities around the US that depend on the mass transit system, police have increased their patrols. The area has received special police focus seen in the deployment of bomb-sniffing technology and bomb-sniffing dogs. The security services in both countries have worked extremely hard to set up surveillance cameras in mass transit systems that can curtail any terrorist activities. In other areas, the security system has increased public awareness campaigns and random bag searches like it is the case within New York City. The increased surveillance system on our mass transit systems has been viewed as one of the ways that security operatives have used to adapt to the post 9/11 era (Ken, 2005).

However, the police and other security systems have not been able to maintain the surveillance of our mass transit systems to avoid any terrorist activities. In fact, ever since the scares faded from the world headlines news, security measures on the mass transit systems were either done away with or scaled back. This has represented a real threat for terrorists to be able to penetrate the countries and cause untold suffering to innocent citizens in the form of terrorist attacks (Ervin, 2007). The situation has to be reversed by increasing security checks and installations along major mass transit conduits. That way, both nations would be a lot safer from the hands of terrorists.

As a direct response to the September 9/11 terrorist activities, the US federal government came up with the Department of Homeland Security, a department charged with the responsibility of protecting the country against real or perceived, internal or external terrorist threats. The UK has a similar department. The creation of such departments arose as a countermeasure to adapt to the 9/11 terrorist activities. In the US, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) streamlined the activities of several security agencies in their fight against terrorism. Government agencies that were affected includes the United States Coast Guard, The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States National Guard, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the US Customs and Border Protection, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Transportation Security Administration, Civil Air Patrol, as well as The United States Secret Service (Ken, 2005). However, security services such as the CIA, FBI, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Defense remained outside the control of the DHS. The streamlining of the activities has played a significant role in ensuring that terrorists are kept at bay. The arrangement has worked well for the US, with all homeland security being coordinated from the White House by Frances Townsend and the Homeland Security Council.

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Through the DHS, security services are able to collect and analyze data that can effectively be used to avert possible terrorist activities on American soil as well as in other countries. Through the information collected, DHS was able to forewarn the UK authorities on possible terrorist activities during the London underground bombings (Raman, 2008). The DHS has been able to unite various arms of government agencies to ensure that crucial information flows effectively and efficiently to enable the country’s security apparatus to respond to or prevent a planned terrorist activity. DHS has been instrumental in helping to deter and prevent major terrorist attacks by ensuring secure and safe borders. This has helped boost the US homeland security (Stephens, 2008).

Through homeland security, security services in the US have been able to undertake emergency response and preparedness for both natural disasters and terrorism activities. In Fact, security services are better prepared than they were prior to the 9/11 bombings. They have been well equipped to man critical infrastructure facilities from terrorist attacks through tightening maritime and border security. Through the DHS, more security agents have been trained on effectively detecting radioactive materials (Brownlee, 2003). This has helped in the war against terrorism. Though the war has not been won, it is a step in the right direction.

Also, security services in both countries, especially the FBI, CIA, and the Scotland Yard have been instrumental in pursuing the terrorists’ financial bases and donors. They have unearthed various institutions, corporations, and countries that are directly related to the funding of terrorist activities (Naik, 2008). In fact, security agents of both nations have been quick to accuse countries such as Iran and Syria for funding terrorist activities in their own backyards. As a counter-measure, security agents have been directly involved in collecting and correlating crucial information that have been effectively used to introduce economic sanctions to individuals, corporations, and countries that support terrorist networks. This strategy has been used by the US government as one of its most powerful strategies in the fight against terrorism. Economic sanctions have worked positively for both the US and UK governments in their war against terrorism by depriving terrorist networks the financial might to conduct and support terrorist activities of the September 11 magnitude (Blalock et al., 2007).

The security services in both countries have increased their surveillance on critical infrastructure, often viewed as soft terrorist targets, in their own countries. Critical infrastructure includes the energy sector, food industry, financial systems, and other economic systems. Such facilities are of critical importance to nations, and therefore, any terrorist attacks against such installations would seriously jeopardize the security status of a country. Security agencies in both US and UK have been proactive in guarding against critical installations as a counter-measure to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US (Wilkinson, 2007).

However, security services have encountered problems in guarding the critical installations against terrorist activities in that around 85 percent of the infrastructure in the US is operated and owned by private corporations. In the UK, around 60 percent of major critical infrastructure is privately owned (Kamiya, 2008). As such, security agents have found it hard to instill measures that can regulate the industry and make it immune from terrorist activities. Security agents have also been instrumental in beefing up security of soft targets – areas that terrorists can easily penetrate and cause maximum damage. Such areas include sports arenas, restaurants, movie theaters, and shopping malls. However, to be more effective in beefing up security in the soft spots, security agents need to increase police patrols, bag searches, and bomb-sniffing dogs. This way, both countries would be assured about the security of their citizens.

Security services have also been involved in non-military preventive actions to safeguard both countries against terrorist activities (Ken, 2005). The non-military preventive measure, introduced after the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist bombings, aimed at addressing the underlying disparities which were found to fuel terrorist activities. Security forces found out that casual issues needed to be delineated as a way of giving citizens equal opportunities to available resources. Such resources were found to have the ability to empower the citizens through freedom from want and freedom from fear. Through the partnerships between security services and the citizens of the two countries under non-militarized preventive counter-measures, terrorist threats in both UK and the US have been greatly reduced.

All in all, the war on terror is here to stay after the sad events of 9/11. Security operatives are at the forefront of this war since they are directly responsible for breaking up known terrorist cells and securing both American and British homeland. They must be at the forefront of breaking up and disrupting international terror networks such as al-Qaeda. The success of the security agents’ attempts to make the world free from terrorism will inarguably depend on the input and goodwill of various world bodies and nations. To this end, the United Nations Security Council has been in the forefront of supporting the war on terrorism by adopting resolution 1373, which obligates countries to criminalize any form of financial or material assistance handed out to terrorist networks (Kamiya, 2008). This is a plus for security agents and services involved in the war against terrorism as it gives them a foothold to strangulate terrorist activities.

However, more remains to be done by the security forces for them to be in firm control of the situation. To date, UK and US remains an open target for grievous terrorist attacks. From the known operations of al-Qaeda, they would want the next terrorist activity to be more stunning than the 9/11 attack. It is therefore the function of the security services to come up with modalities to ensure that this does not happen. Support is vital in making their attempts a success. Homeland spending must therefore be significantly increased in both countries to support the operations of various security agencies involved. The political leadership of both countries should be at the forefront in ensuring that all security agencies are ably funded and provided with the necessary tools and equipments to effectively fight the war on terrorism (Zalman, 2008).

The security services must be assisted in fighting, defeating, and destroying terrorist networks. They have to be assisted in their struggle to end state sponsored terrorism through identifying, locating, and destroying the numerous terrorist cells that are found in the world today. This is a concerted effort that needs the contribution of everyone for it to be considered a success. Security agencies have done their best in fighting Trans-border terrorism. The essay has exposed how security services have adapted to post 9/11 development through military measures, sharing of crucial information, non-military strategies, establishment of home security departments to streamline security operations, enhancing airport, seaport, and border security, pre-emptive neutralization, among other measures. But still, more needs to be done to ensure that the war on terrorism has been effectively won at an international level. The US and other peace loving countries need not be distracted by the happenings of Iraq and concentrate on the war on terrorism by providing enough facilities to security agents across the world to effectively enable them to handle the terrorist menace.

References

  1. Anthony, M., & Nana, K.P (ed). Globalization, Development and Human Security. Polity Press. 2007
  2. Blalock, G., Kadiyali, V., & Simon, D.H. “The Impact of Post 9/11 Airport Security Measures on the Demand for Air Travel.” Journal of Law and Economics, vol. 3, no. 1 (2007).
  3. Brownlee, K. Realities of the Post-9-11 World. 2003. Web.
  4. Brown, L.M. “Emergency Response: Security Experts discuss Lessons from 9/11.” VOA. 2002. 
  5. Bures, O. EU Counterterrorism Policy after 9/11.London: Routledge. 2007. ISBN: 934-1-550-42379-4
  6. Kamiya, G. The Real Lessons of 9/11. 2008.
  7. Ken, B. (ed). Critical Security Studies and World Politics. Lynne Rienner 2005.
  8. Mathew, J. D. Seven Years after 9/11, Bush Administration’s Counter-terrorism Policy leaves us less Secure. National Security Network. 2007.
  9. Mark, D. Global Governance and the New Wars. London: Zed Press, 2001.
  10. Naik, Z. Lessons of 9-11. 2008.
  11. Raman, B. Counter-terrorism: Some Home Truths. 2008.
  12. Stephens, M. Disaster Preparedness: What exactly is Homeland Security and what do they do? 2008.
  13. Wilkinson, P. Homeland Security in the UK: Future Preparedness for Terrorist Attacks since 9/11. Routledge. 2007. ISBN: 978-0-415-38375-2

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