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Legislation After the 9/11 Terrorist Attack in New York

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The USA Patriot Act was one of the key pieces of legislation signed into effect following the 9/11 terror attack in New York City. The USA Patriot Act was signed on 26th October 2001 and focused on the enhancement of law enforcement powers and intelligence gathering procedures (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009). First of all, the Act facilitated criminal investigations and intelligence gathering by authorizing “nationwide execution of court orders for pen registers, trap and trace devices, and access to stored e-mail or communication records” (Doyle, 2002, p. 2).

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In essence, this provision allowed law enforcement and other agencies involved in the investigation process to gather information about a person’s communication. For counterterrorism, this created new opportunities to investigate planned terror attacks more effectively, as well as to uncover terrorist organizations and chains by tracking down their communication. This provision affected the work not only of the law enforcement but also of other agencies involved in counterterrorism operations, including the CIA and the FBI. Secondly, the USA Patriot Act improved cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and foreign intelligence investigators (Doyle, 2002).

The provision is explained in Chapter 206 of the act and notably allows U.S. agencies to gather information about a person’s communication based on the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Doyle, 2002). Many terrorist organizations are transnational, which calls for international cooperation in counterterrorism efforts. Therefore, this provision improved the efficiency of the U.S. counterterrorism efforts against transnational terrorist groups and organizations.

This provision is especially beneficial for the CIA, as it could help to gather intelligence to inform its foreign operations. Thirdly, the Act provided the Secretary of the Treasury with increased authority to monitor financial activities between the U.S. institutions and foreign entities (Doyle, 2002). For instance, this provision established mandatory suspicious activity reporting, which allow tracking possible money laundering efforts, thus preventing terrorists from obtaining financing from the U.S. Apart from the Secretary of the Treasury, this provision is probably used by the FBI to establish finance channels used by terrorists to generate funds for future attacks.


Doyle, C. (2002). The USA Patriot Act: A sketch. Web.

Falk, O., & Morgenstern, H. (Eds.). (2009). Suicide terror: Understanding and confronting the threat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

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Falk and Morgenstern (2009) show that studying past terror attacks can help to develop resilience and effective response to any future terrorist actions. The authors explain that suicide bombings cause more casualties and have more serious health and psychological consequences for the victims, which makes it difficult to respond to them; however, by analyzing past cases, medical first responders can identify patterns and trends and alter their response by the new information (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009).

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This, in turn, can make them more effective in providing first aid and medical services in the aftermath of a terror attack. A similar connection between past terror attacks and counterterrorism was evident following the 9/11 attack. The use of civilian aircraft by terrorists prompted the revision of flight security laws all over the globe, thus helping to prevent further cases of terrorists using commercial aircraft in their attacks.

For example, in 2006, terrorists were planning to use liquid explosives to bomb 10 U.S.-bound commercial flights (Zuckerman, Bucci, & Carafano, 2013). Terrorists were based in London, UK, and supposedly had ties with al-Qaeda, although no proof of the connection was discovered (Zuckerman et al., 2013). Terrorists were planning to smuggle liquid explosives on board of commercial flights heading from Heathrow Airport to various destinations in the U.S. The British law enforcement played the key role in the investigation and arrest procedures, which brought eight of the 24 suspects to trial (Zuckerman et al., 2013).

However, the jury felt that there was not enough evidence to charge the suspects with plotting a terror attack, but found three men guilty of conspiring to murder (Zuckerman et al., 2013). Although the rest of the suspects did not face any charges, the foiled plot highlights the threat of terrorists using civilian aviation to carry out attacks. Indeed, the level of the threat of hijacking remains high (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009). This is mainly due to the high vulnerability of civilian aviation. Past hijackings and terrorist plots show the need for enhancing security controls to mediate the threat.


Falk, O., & Morgenstern, H. (Eds.). (2009). Suicide terror: Understanding and confronting the threat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Zuckerman, J., Bucci, S., & Carafano, J. (2013). 60 Terrorist plots Since 9/11: Continued lessons in domestic counterterrorism report SR-137. The Heritage Foundation. Web.

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Al Qaeda is one of the most famous terrorist organizations, particularly due to its attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, which resulted in almost three thousand deaths. Al Qaeda was also notable for its structure; for years, it was one of the biggest transnational terrorist organizations with a complicated leadership network (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009). Al Qaeda was also notable for its use of suicide terror, as it largely contributed to the dissemination of this method worldwide.

Al Qaeda was formed in 1988 by Osama Bin Laden and Abdallah Azzam in Afghanistan. Initially, the group included various functional branches, such as financial, operations, and intelligence (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009). Al Qaeda established training camps in Sudan and Afghanistan, training radical Islamists from all over the world to spread its agenda and message. After training, recruits would return to their homes; this contributed to the formation of Al Qaeda’s complex network of branches and affiliate organizations (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009).

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For instance, ISIS initially operated as the branch of Al Qaeda until the group declared its independence in 2013. The diffusion of Al Qaeda’s structure was also caused by the U.S. war on terror and the military action in Afghanistan, aimed at damaging Al Qaeda’s structure and resources. In response to the actions of the U.S., Bin Laden attempted to build a distinct infrastructure to support collective action and decision-making in different divisions of Al Qaeda (Gunaratna & Oreg, 2010).

The key success of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy against Al Qaeda was the elimination of Bin Laden. Without a strong leader, the different branches of the organization were no longer connected, which led to the defeat of Al Qaeda as a whole but generated new threats, such as ISIS. Overall, the U.S. strategy against Al Qaeda was beneficial, as it allowed to disrupt the chain of command. However, targeting smaller branches in addition to the main infrastructure of Al Qaeda would have been more effective, as it would allow preventing the spreading of Al Qaeda’s ideology while also eliminating its core structures.


Falk, O., & Morgenstern, H. (Eds.). (2009). Suicide terror: Understanding and confronting the threat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Gunaratna, R., & Oreg, A. (2010). Al Qaeda’s organizational structure and its evolution. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 33(12), 1043-1078.

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America’s first experience with suicide terrorism occurred on 9th September 2001, when the terrorists from Al Qaeda used hijacked civilian aircraft to perform an attack on the World Trade Center (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009). Although this was the first instance of a suicide terror attack against the U.S. on U.S. soil, there was already a history of suicide attacks against Americans outside of the country.

For instance, in 1983, a suicide bomber performed an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, which resulted in 63 dead, 17 of whom were Americans (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009). Suicide attacks against Americans were also common in Iraq, which became the primary site of suicide bombings after the arrival of the U.S. military forces in 2004. The vast majority of the attacks are carried out by Sunni insurgents (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009).

Counterinsurgency has thus become among the key concerns of American troops operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other destinations. Counterterrorism is the effort for the disruption and prevention of terrorist activities with the end goal of eliminating the target organization. For instance, in the case of Al Qaeda, the key counterterrorism actions were to disrupt the organization’s infrastructure and to destroy its key leaders, while at the same time gathering and using intelligence to counter future attacks on the U.S. Counterinsurgency, on the other hand, refers to the elimination of internal threats affecting the success and functioning of military operations.

Thus, whereas counterterrorism aims to prevent terror attacks against the U.S. civilian population, counterinsurgency aims to prevent attacks that affect counterterrorism operations, such as car bombings. Feik (2009) discusses counterinsurgency as the process of reducing the damage to the U.S. troops in Iraq, highlighting the role of community ties in successful threat assessment and prevention.

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Similarly, Ricks (2006) notes that it is among the fundamental principles of counterinsurgency that soldiers develop ties with the local community to gather intelligence. Where counterterrorism laid the foundation for the Global War on Terror, counterinsurgency helped to respond to the new threat brought by the U.S. involvement in the GWOT (Cooper & Landler, 2010). Counterinsurgency is thus closely linked to counterterrorism as it is crucial to mediate the damage incurred by the U.S. fighters.


Falk, O., & Morgenstern, H. (Eds.). (2009). Suicide terror: Understanding and confronting the threat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Feik, N. (2009). David Kilcullen on strategy and counterinsurgency in Iraq. Web.

Cooper, H., & Lander, M. (2010). Targeted killing is a new U. S. focus in Afghanistan. The New York Times. Web.

Ricks, T. E. (2006). U. S. counterinsurgency academy giving officers a new mind-set: Course in Iraq stresses the culture, challenges the conventional. The Washington Post. Web.

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Hezbollah is among the key terrorist organizations operating in Lebanon (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009). It is a Shiite group; in Iraq, Shiite groups are less violent than Sunnis (Feik, 2009). However, Hezbollah has been known to represent the greatest danger compared to other terrorist groups in Lebanon. Hezbollah has a distinctive hierarchy and maintains close ties with the local population in Lebanon by providing much needed social services to people (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009).

Although it is usually viewed as a local group, it has been involved in international terrorism. The organization also has established channels for smuggling weapons and explosives to key destinations, such as France and Spain (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009). Hamas is another dangerous terrorist group operating in the Middle East. Hamas plays a significant part in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to Falk and Morgenstern (2009), “Hamas opposes any durable peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” (p. 91). Hamas has a solid infrastructure and generates funding through charity associations, as well as by smuggling and weapon trade. Lastly, Al Qaeda differs from Hamas and Hezbollah in its international outreach and a complex chain of affiliated organizations and branches.

Due to the differences in the methods and structures of the groups, different strategies are needed to combat them effectively. For instance, due to Hamas’ strong community ties, counterterrorism efforts might be halted by loyal civilians, which is why the counterterrorism agencies must try and separate the organization from its local social context. A similar strategy might work with Hezbollah, as the two organizations have structural and ideological similarities. To defeat Al Qaeda, on the other hand, it is vital to target its different branches and divisions simultaneously, which requires a coordinated international effort. Strategies used with the previous two groups might not be successful in countering Al Qaeda, as the organization differs a lot by its structure.


Falk, O., & Morgenstern, H. (Eds.). (2009). Suicide terror: Understanding and confronting the threat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Feik, N. (2009). David Kilcullen on strategy and counterinsurgency in Iraq. Web.

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The collaboration between humans and technologies is vital to both counterterrorism and intelligence collection. Several types of intelligence can be collected by technologies, such as geospatial intelligence and signals intelligence. However, human workers play a vital part in interpreting intelligence. For instance, an experienced analyst can use his or her experience to identify a possible location of a terror attack.

The interpretation of information is thus more human-dependent, whereas the collection of data is more technology-driven. Moreover, human intelligence, collected by agents from human subjects, constitutes an important part of intelligence used in counterterrorism efforts and operations (Lewis, 2016).

Removing humans from the process of collection and analysis of intelligence might reduce the costs and improve the timeliness of operations; however, technology is based on certain algorithms and schemes that equip computers with a subjective view of the information. Humans, on the other hand, can analyze, interpret, and even collect information using their particular skills, memory, and experience. The absence of these skills and experiences might affect the success of operations that previously relied on human workers.

Moreover, it would be impossible to remove agents from covert human intelligence gathering, as espionage highly depends on the personal abilities and communication skills of the agent. In counterterrorism operations, on the other hand, the presence of trained human agents is vital during the negotiation and recovery phase.

For instance, computers would not be able to be as effective as humans in negotiating with terrorists and helping the victims to obtain help and support, which are both important stages of counterterrorism efforts (Falk & Morgenstern, 2009). Moreover, human agents can make decisions based on subjective judgment, which allows them to invent creative solutions to crises. Therefore, whereas technologies are crucial in data analysis and collection of a certain type of intelligence, it would be impossible to replace humans with technologies without decreasing the effectiveness of counterterrorism efforts.


Falk, O., & Morgenstern, H. (Eds.). (2009). Suicide terror: Understanding and confronting the threat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Lewis, B. A. (2016). The death of human intelligence: How human intelligence has been minimized since the 1960s. Military and Strategic Affairs, 8(1), 75-90.…02/20/AR2006022001303

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