Despite a significant increase in peace efforts since the last world war, physical aggression and intimidation still exist in modern human society. Terrorism still presents one of the most important threats to public safety in many countries around the world including the United States. Few people have not heard about terrorism, but the most accurate definition of this phenomenon seems to be widely unknown. Taking into account the consequences that terrorist attacks have on social, economic, and political aspects of life throughout society, it is necessary to focus on the real nature of terrorism and the governmental structures responsible for reducing the threat of potential terrorist attacks.
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The Nature of Terrorism
The majority of people may be likely to associate physical violence with injustice and the violation of rights of other people or animals, forgetting that violence has accompanied humanity since its appearance on the planet. Ancient people had to be violent toward their sources of prey to have enough food and survive. Although methods of cattle slaughtering have changed, the violent need behind the action remains the same. Similarly, the use of physical violence is more often than not the only way that people whose countries are attacked during wars can defend themselves. As is clear from these examples and other, similar, ones, there are cases when violence seems to be the only way for people to survive. When it comes to the differences between this unwanted but necessary violence and terrorism, it needs to be highlighted that the latter is usually directed toward people who do not present any real or imaginary threats encouraging terrorists to commit crimes (Richards, 2014).
Terror: A Method of Manipulation
As is clear from the term itself, terrorism is based on the systematic use of terror and intimidation of the population that can help organizations responsible for such acts to achieve numerous purposes. For example, terrorist attacks in different countries present highly important and newsworthy events and, due to their sensationalist nature, they can be organized by groups willing to distract the attention of the global community from other events to prevent them from achieving their goals in other areas.
When trying to establish democracy in developed countries, governments provide people with the right to form groups and express their own opinions on any topics if the latter does not violate accepted laws. Terrorist attacks can be used by criminal groups as one of the means of decreasing protests and deterring outspoken detractors. Additionally, such methods geared toward influencing the population can be used by those powers willing to organize a coup d’etat as the presence of violent civil disturbances decrease people’s confidence in their well-being and have a negative influence on the perceptions of the work of the current government (Post, McGinnis, & Moody, 2014). Worse still, there is the so-called state-sponsored terrorism that is aimed at resolving political struggles with opposition members.
Terrorism Prevention: Homeland Security
The political situation in the twenty-first century has never been stable across the entire world, and the perpetual threat of new terrorist attacks encourages governments to establish and improve safety systems. The United States Department of Homeland Security is the governmental department that was established to maintain the safety of the American population. In particular, the department is supposed to be responsible for reducing the number of opportunities for terrorists. The majority of terrorist attacks require the participation of several people who are responsible for both organization and performance.
While exchanging information on places, weapons, and other topics connected with future acts of violence, people planning terrorist attacks may come to the attention of pertinent authorities due to the mistakes of conspirators related to their illegal organizations. Based on this, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to control suspicious activity involving information exchange to prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States. In addition to that, the range of responsibilities of the department includes mitigating the consequences of those terrorist attacks that have not been prevented. Keeping in mind that criminals attempt to organize terrorist attacks when and where they are the least expected, specialists who are responsible for managing the consequences of terrorist acts should always be equipped with everything they need for work. Such professionals include response groups, special medical teams, and specialists providing psychological assistance in emergencies.
The homeland security system that exists in the United States is not only connected with responses to terrorist attacks, it can be responsible for managing other tasks as well. For instance, the department may oversee responses to other types of emergencies such as naturally-occurring catastrophic events that pose threats to the lives and safety of families and communities (Lewis, 2014). The system that ensures the safety of people living in the United States includes several responsible agencies, and each of them possesses its internal structure that can be more or less complicated. For instance, the CIA, which is also responsible for homeland security activities in the United States, is the organization that primarily works with national security data.
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Through gathering data and the use of data analytics, it is supposed to help to improve the work of the armed forces and political organizations both within the country and in external missions. Even though the CIA, as is clear from the nature of their primary tasks, has limited opportunities to disclose information on their organizational structure, it is known that the agency consists of six primary parts that include the executive board and five divisions that work to fulfill various tasks (Richelson, 2016). The divisions provide a structure that is responsible for intelligence. Collecting and analyzing information that may have a bearing upon national security in the United States, they help the government to make decisions and assess real and potential threats that face the nation. Additionally, there are departments responsible for the development and implementation of digital innovation, the storage of intelligence information retrieved during different periods, and the proper use of resources.
As for the operations of the Department of Homeland Security within the country, its structure is rather complicated due to the great number of tasks that it performs. This department is headed by a member of the cabinet of the President, called the Secretary of Homeland Security, who is responsible for dealing with all issues related to homeland security. The department has more than twenty different agencies that it controls (Sylves, 2015). The structure of the Department of Homeland Security is believed to be well-developed, with segregation of duties helping the system to react to urgent situations faster. Despite that, there are negative opinions concerning the success of the Homeland Security system in the country.
Keeping in mind the reaction of various political parties in the United States following the establishment of the department, it should be said that this decision was widely criticized and many specialists claimed that it was ineffective for the security of citizens. Aside from the Department of Homeland Security, some organizations are parts of the system which help to protect citizens and prevent the occurrence of terrorist acts. One example is the Federal Bureau of Investigations which consists of six branches, each responsible for various aspects of security (Martin, 2017). Various departments are responsible for intelligence efforts, security assurance, the use of modern technology, and other tasks related to national security. State and local governments are also involved in the process of ensuring the security of people living in the United States. The concerted efforts of state and local police and the help of specialists providing emergency services present an additional element of the system aimed at ensuring homeland security. Therefore, the well-developed structure of the system that unites the efforts of different departments helps to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks in the United States.
In the end, taking into account that the consequences of terrorist attacks are detrimental, the government of the United States has decided to improve the system aimed at protecting national security after the most famous terrorist act at the beginning of the twenty-first century. As it is used as a means of manipulation and intimidation of the population, terror still presents a significant threat to the common people, especially those living in countries with developed economies. For this reason, a system with a well-developed structure including such bodies as the CIA, FBI, DHS, and emergency teams was established in the United States.
Lewis, T. G. (2014). Critical infrastructure protection in homeland security: Defending a networked nation (2d Ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Martin, S. A. (2017). Lessons learned about obtaining data from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the Supplemental Homicide Reports (SHR) as provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Investigative Sciences Journal, 9(3), 1-8.
Post, J. M., McGinnis, C., & Moody, K. (2014). The changing face of terrorism in the 21st century: The communications revolution and the virtual community of hatred. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 32(3), 306-334.
Richards, A. (2014). Conceptualizing terrorism. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 37(3), 213-236.
Richelson, J. T. (2016). The US intelligence community (7th Ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Sylves, R. (2015). Disaster policy and politics: Emergency management and homeland security (2d Ed.). New York, NY: CQ Press.