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USA Reconsiders Homeland Security

NCJ Number
Jane's Intelligence Review Volume: 14 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2002 Pages: 20-22
Mickey Galeotti
Date Published
February 2002
3 pages
This article examines the creation of the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) to address concerns about vulnerabilities in the United States to asymmetrical threats.
Asymmetrical threats are when the enemies are unable to match the U.S. military might and turn instead to terrorism and psychological warfare. The USA PATRIOT Act was passed in the wake of September 11, 2001 and introduced a range of powers and provisions, some of which have human rights implications, such as the sharing of information from grand jury investigations among Federal agencies. These new structures and reorganizations build on the Alien Terrorist Removal Court (ATRC), which requires the use and disclosure of sensitive information to the terrorists that would compromise intelligence gathering sources. The ATRC was created in 1996 to deport terrorists operating on U.S. soil but has never been used for that reason. The whole emphasis of U.S. security risks has changed from fighting conventional wars to combating terrorism. Anti-terrorist task forces are being set up across the country. The creation of the new cabinet-level OHS is to coordinate these efforts and oversee a national strategy to safeguard against terrorism and respond to future attacks. The Homeland Security Council (HSC) is a new body to decide and coordinate Federal policy. However, the resources are severely limited for this office, with little staff and money allocated from the budget. Prior to September 11, terrorism had not been a major priority for the Government and this explains why there are 43 different agencies with jurisdiction but no clear coordinating mechanism or central doctrine in the war against terrorism. Certain agencies within the government are infamous for withholding and not sharing information. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the OHS will be coordinating information systems among agencies like these to help officials identify potential terrorists and organizations. The current inquiries regarding why intelligence agencies did not prevent the attacks will probably conclude that information was held by too many separate agencies and was being sent to the field late and in ambiguous terms. A single, coherent plan is needed to strengthen interagency cooperation.