POSC/COMM444 - Global Agenda
Assignment - Paper #5 & 5H
April 24, 2002
Domestic Response to Terrorism


The United States faces domestic challenges in its response to terrorism. Americans expect U.S. law enforcement, intelligence and other agencies to be capable of a prompt and effective response. Yet measures taken after September 11 pose their own threats to American society.

Read, Research & Write:

Choose one of the following topics on which to focus your attention. Review your chosen area of interest in light of terrorist attacks against the United States, including the September 11, 2002 attacks and previous ones. Make a case for -- or against -- changes in the way the U.S. responds, domestically, in your chosen area of interest. Be sure to consider implications of changes not only for the war against terrorism, but also for other aspects of your life in the United States, including the costs of such changes, in money, lifestyle and civil liberties.

About 5 pages.

Choose ONE:

1) Civil Defense & Infrastructure

• During the Cold War, the United States devoted significant resources to protecting citizens in case of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The measures included building fallout shelters stocked with food and water. Civilians, civil servants, and medical personnel practiced their response to a Soviet attack. In recent decades, this system of civil defense has fallen by the wayside. Since the terrorist attacks and the appearance of anthrax, there has been a call for additional resources to be devoted to preparing for a domestic response to an attack on the United States. This includes stockpiling vaccines and medications, and practicing responses to a chemical, biological, or nuclear attack.

• The U.S. economy depends on critical infrastructure that is mostly privately owned and poorly protected against a determined attacker. Our transportation infrastructure, telecommunications equipment, and water and power supplies are critical to the daily functioning of the economy yet are vulnerable to all but amateur attacks.

In the interest of efficiency, infrastructure is often concentrated in limited areas. For example, on both the west and east coasts, petroleum deliveries are concentrated in regional ports. An attack on one of these ports, similar to the one on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in 2000, could paralyze a regional economy for weeks. For the U.S. Coast Guard, charged with providing seaport security, the challenges of increased vigilance are straining the limits of personnel and equipment.

2) Trade:

The United States has long pursued a policy of economic openness and increased trade. Trade as a percentage of the U.S. economy has increased over the last decade. International trade, both imports and exports, totaled more than $2 trillion dollars in the past year. With increased trade comes increasing traffic over our borders in both goods and people. Managing this flow, so critical to the health of the U.S. economy, is an extremely complex job. The task of preventing terrorists from smuggling weapons into the United States, while allowing the economy to function, heightens the importance and complexity of the job.

3) Visitors and Immigration:

Of the 19 hijackers who commandeered the planes that crashed on September 11, all were foreign nationals. Sixteen entered the United States on legal visas. All but two kept a low profile and avoided suspicion. The FBI received information two weeks before September 11 connecting those two to the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.

A search for the men began. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was alerted, but the two men could not be found. Because the FBI was not aware of a specific threat, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other authorities were not notified. Government officials agree that improved communication and coordination between agencies is important in the struggle to prevent terrorism.

In addition, the INS believes that ten of the hijackers were in the United States legally on September 11 and that 15 or 16 had originally entered the country legally. The INS concedes the need to improve its methods of keeping track of those who visit the United States and tracking down those who overstay or misuse the visa required for entry.

Many argue that there is a strong need to reassesses America's immigration system. They call on the government to devote more resources to ensuring that the United States scrutinizes more closely those whom it admits to the country, that people abide by the terms of their admission, and that the United States establishes better mechanisms for monitoring those who have been admitted. Much of this involves increasing resources and personnel. It will also require investing in technology that enables the FBI, the INS, and the Department of State to share information more easily.

At the same time, many economists attribute the success of the U.S. economy to the openness of our society and the influx of skills and labor from overseas. For example, recent immigrants from China and India started 30 percent of the high technology startups in Silicon Valley during the 1990s. Preserving the vitality that immigrants bring to the country is seen by many as extremely important.


Note: This assignment is adapted with permission from the Choices for the 21st Century Education Program of the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies of Brown University.