America??™s Security in a Post 9/11 World
The United States of America was founded on the principals of liberty and freedom for all. For over two hundred years America has stood as a proud example of those beliefs to the rest of the world. Citizens of the U. S. have enjoyed those freedoms and as a result flourished both economically and socially. Americans felt safe and secure in the belief that our government would protect our way of life. The events of September 11, 2001 may have changed that for some. The government??™s responses to the attack included closing the countries??™ boarders, grounding all air traffic, and coordinating emergency response efforts. In the days, months, and years following the attack, the government approved billions of dollars for homeland security, law enforcement agencies, and the military. The Patriot Act was passed, improvements in technology and security measures were rushed into effect and they tried to assure the nation that all necessary measures where being taken. Critics claim not enough is being done and that gaps in our nation??™s security still exist. The real question, is America more secure since the attack on 9/11
Following the attacks on 9/11 the government approved billions of dollars to fortify domestic defense. Military and intelligence agencies multiplied to include the Office of Homeland Security and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force, in all nearly 263 new organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11 (Priest, Arkin 2010 p 3). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created to oversee theses organizations, DHS??™ mission ???is to lead the unified national effort to secure the country and preserve our freedoms. While the Department was created to secure our country against those who seek to disrupt the American Way of life, our charter also includes preparation for and response to all hazards and disasters. The citizens of the United States must have the utmost confidence that the Department can execute both of these missions??? (Strategic Plan 2010 par. 1).
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is one of DHS largest and most complex components, with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. It also has a responsibility for securing and facilitating trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. regulations, including immigration and drug laws. They use a variety of technology and the government??™s largest law enforcement workforce to protect at and between points of entry. It is estimated that 1.1 million people per day enter the U.S. through land, air and sea ports (CBP website, 2010).
Boarder security has been a long lasting source of concern of illegal entry into the country. The advancement in technology has aloud the CBP to be more effective. The CBP is implementing an integrated land-based sensor system called the SBInet (secure border initiative). ???SBInet will employ a network of fixed towers equipped with radar, sensors, and remotely operated camera equipment, which provide 24 hour, year round surveillance capabilities that will allow Border Patrol agents to more effectively detect, identify, classify and respond to incursions at the border??? (CBP website, 2010). Currently this system is in use on the southwest border near Tucson with plans of expansion in both the southern and northern borders of the U.S. The CBP has also started using unmanned aircraft called the Predator B. The use of these aircraft has allowed CBP to monitor areas that are difficult to access or are considered high risk to ground personal. However there are those that claim not enough is being done. Arizona Senator Jon Kyl states that insufficient resources coupled with the lack of ability to enforce the law, have allowed an estimated 500,000 individuals each year to cross our boarders illegally or remain in the U.S. after their visas expire (2010). The Senator goes on to say that much of the progress made in recent years may be at risk from budget cuts of the Obama administration. The proposed budget for FY2011 would cut the CBP??™s budget by 2% or about $261 million for E-Verify, border security, fencing, infrastructure and technology. This would reduce the number of Border Patrol agents as well as cancel plans to extend the border fence.
Airports and airlines have been a source of concern security wise long before the events of 9/11. Terrorist have hi-jacked airliners for years primarily because you get a lot of victims at once. Steven Simon, the former senior director for counter terrorism at the National Security Council says, ???There is a particular horror attached to transportation attacks because passengers are in effect helpless in situations like that??? (Kaplan, 2006 para. 2). After the attacks on 9/11 Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and mandated that federal employees be in charge of airport security screening. This screening consists of passengers passing through medal detectors and full body scans, carry-on baggage is x-rayed, and checked baggage passes through explosive detection equipment. Limits and restrictions where imposed as to what passengers could carry-on the plane. The TSA also prescreens passenger lists and compares the names to a watch list in an attempt to prevent suspected terrorist from having access to airlines. One of the problems with using just the watch list is, there is nothing to prevent a terrorist from creating a false identity and gaining access. It is imperative the facial recognition be used in conjunction with the list in identifying possible terrorists. Other methods employed to prevent hi-jacking include fortified cockpit doors, allowing armed pilots and expanding the Federal Air Marshal program (Kaplan, 2006 para. 6). Major concerns still exist over air cargo security. According to a Congressional Research Service report, states that even though 100% of passenger baggage is screened only a small portion of the air cargo is ever inspected. Recently explosive devises were detected hidden in printer toner cartridges trying to be smuggled in a cargo plane heading for the U.S. More screening and inspections of cargo need to be implemented. Another area of concern is the ease with which airline and airport employees bypass security check points. Some proposed solutions would be the implementing of advanced technology such biometric identification for employee access to secure locations. New screening equipment like Backscatter X-ray, Trace-detection portals and Quadrupole Resonance Scanning could improve the screening process of passengers and cargo. The biggest hurdle is budgetary cutbacks and unhappy travelers who don??™t want to wait in lines. With implementation of new technology and techniques air travel can be made safer but there is always room for improvement.
Seaports primary security approach before 9/11 was based on crime prevention. Its goal was physical security and access control of cargo. They acknowledged the threat of terrorism but took few specific measures to deter that threat (Haveman, 2005). With the passing of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 the Cost Guard was given primary responsibility of implementing the act??™s requirements. The primary goal is to identify and reduce the vulnerabilities of port facilities, secure cargo flowing through seaports, and enhance awareness of the entire global maritime environment. The Container Security Initiative (CSI) is part of CBP??™s responsibility to try to intercept dangerous cargo before it arrives in the U.S. Agents are place at foreign ports for the purpose of pre screening containers identified as high risk at the point of departure. By using detection technology containers can be quickly pre-scanned for weapons of mass destruction. Another requirement is all ocean carriers transporting container to the U.S. must electronically transmit their manifests to CBP 24 hours before the cargo is to be loaded onto the ship. The manifest includes the contents of each container, the importer and the cargo shipper, this information is reviewed by the National Targeting Center in Virginia. They can use this information to identify high risk shipments and target them for inspection. The CSI program started with 23 of the largest ports that conduct trade with the U.S. these ports comprised about 68 percent of all container traffic. Since then a total of 40 ports have been brought online. Foreign port entry into the CSI program requires the candidate port to have regular, direct, and sustainable container traffic to the U.S. which rules out complete coverage. There are 2,600 commercial ports in the world and 575 which handle significant numbers of containers (Haveman, 2005 p. 8).
Combating domestic terrorism is the responsibility of the FBI. There goal is to identify and prevent terrorist attacks within the U.S. before they occur and to investigate them when they do take place. Domestic terror threats can range from white supremacists, echo terrorist, separatist groups to the lone gun man. Although the FBI remains separate from HLS they do coordinate and share information (fbi.gov, 2009). The provisions of the Patriot Act and its successors have allowed the FBI to be more effective. The areas of most impact are the requirements for obtaining search warrants, phone taps and surveillance of suspected terrorists. These improvements intended to make information gathering more effective have also been the source of concern from opposition. The ACLU claims that if misused the rights of individuals??™ privacy and due process could easily be violated. The real challenge is to be vigilant to protect the citizens of the U.S. without trampling on their civil liberties (aclu website, 2010).
In conclusion the attacks of 9/11 have changes the way American citizens look at and feel about their countries??™ security. The government has spent billons of dollars, reorganized and created new agencies as well as deploying new technology in attempt to secure our borders. The difficulty is securing a nation built on the foundation of freedom. How can a government be expected to fully protect its citizens without infringing on their rights With the passage of the Patriot Act and similar legislation the government has tried to do its best but gaps in security still exists. With an estimated 500,000 people gaining illegally entry into our country every year along with budget cutbacks that threaten manpower and implementation of new technologies that is crucial to our nations??™ security the government falls short. Is America more secure since the attacks on 9/11 My answer is somewhat at best. There is a lot of room for improvement and hopefully progress will continue before another attack happens.
Haveman, J., Shatz, H., & Vilchis, E. (2005) ???U.S. Port Security Policy after 9/11:
Overview and Evaluation,??? Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management: Vol 2 : Iss4, Article 1. DOI: 10.2202/1547-7355.1165
Kaplan, E. (2006) ???Targets for Terrorists: Post-9/11 Aviation Security??? Council on Foreign Relations, Retrieved from http://www.cfr.org/publication/11397/targets_for_terrorists.html
Kyl, J. (2010) border Security Retrieved from http://kyl.senate.gov/print_page.cfmFile=legis_center/border.cfm
Priest, D., Arkin, W., (2010) ???Top Secret America??? A Washington Post Investigation Retrieved from washingtonpost.com
ACLU website (2010) ???How the USA Patriot Act redefines ???Domestic Terrorism?????? Retrieved from
CBP website (2010) U.S. Customs and Border Protection www.cbp.gov
DHS website (2008) ???Strategic Plan ??“ One Team, One Mission, Securing Our Homeland??? Retrieved from Http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/strategicplan/
FBI website (2009) ???Domestic Terrorism In the Post-9/11 Era??? Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2009/september/domterror_090709