- What major measures can the international community take to prevent terrorism?
- Do you think the U.S. should follow Israel’s example of fighting terrorism? Explain in depth.
- Identify and explain at least three international conventions organized to suppress terrorism.
- Briefly evaluate the provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act.
- Briefly discuss the impact of emergency powers on defeating terrorism.
The fight against terrorism is not just a fight that the United States is facing alone. This is evident from the Madrid train bombings, the bombings in London, and the terrorist attacks that Israel seems to face everyday. Terrorism is, in effect, international. Each nation has a responsibility to combat terrorism to protect them and to protect other nations as well. In this paper, I will discuss areas in which the international community can fight against terrorism and steps they have already taken in the fight against terrorism.
Steps the International Community Can Take to Prevent Terrorism
One of the security measures that can be undertaken is that of securing aircraft and airports. Poland cites in his book that between 1973 and 2002, there was an average of ten skyjackings per year. (Poland, 2005, p. 235) This was a number that surprised me due to the fact that it seems like most weren’t reported or very little coverage was given to the incidences. There are new technologies being developed all the time to aid in securing of air travel. There is new technology in the area of explosive detection devices. One such technology is called microtagging. During this process, tiny chips of microtaggants are blended into explosive substances and color coded to identify the manufacturer and batch of explosives. This system would also be beneficial in the reconstruction of bomb scenes and used to gain knowledge and prepare for future terrorist acts. Another innovative technology is called dielectric analysis. Dielectric analysis is a powerful non-destructive tool for characterizing materials; it can provide accurate, repeatable results unavailable by other electrical means. (Unknown, 2007) This, in essence, gives the explosive agents a “fingerprint” and could provide immediate identification of explosive substances at airports.
Along with technological advanced in air security, people can often make the biggest impact. In this area, Federal Air Marshals play an important role. This is not something that all countries partake in but more and more countries are adding these individuals to their flights. The airline association estimates that 10 or 20 out of some 115 airlines that fly into the United States already use air marshals. (Lichtblau, 2003) Israel, for instance, has used marshals on El Al flights for years, and as stated, some other countries have followed suit more recently, as Australia announced in 2003 that Qantas Airways would begin placing armed marshals on flights to Singapore. Even Mexico has stated that they would start to use their own air marshals on flights that are going to the United States. However, not all countries and airlines are signed on to the idea. Air France does not use air marshals and the British Air Line Pilots Association said it does not believe that arms belong on aircraft, and British Airways, the country’s biggest airline, said it reserves the right not to fly if it is forced to add air marshals. Although there is a general feeling among passengers that they would feel safer on a flight if there is an air marshal on board, not everyone believes the passengers would necessarily be safer. The cite that an armed conflict on a plane would become more dangerous to the passengers as opposed to just letting the terrorist state their demands and work with them for the release of passengers.
Intelligence is another area that countries can utilize for overall protection. This is not necessarily limited to military types of intelligence. Political intelligence is an important factor to combating terrorism. This can be used to identify where the groups are garnering the most support for their cause. When this has been determined, pressure from other nations can be placed on these states to not support the terrorists. Of course, military intelligence is vital in any operation. The intelligence gathered here can assist in finding out how many are in a particular group, what kinds of weapons they have, and where they are located. Most countries have some form of intelligence like our CIA and it is important that they use it. Yet another form is economic intelligence. Most terrorist organizations are well funded these days. It is important to track the path in which they receive their money. Terrorists may get their money from several different avenues, including: the sale of drugs, phony charitable organizations; and even other sympathetic nations. So as one can see, intelligence is a very important factor other countries can use to combat terrorism.
Israel’s Fight Against Terrorism
Israel has been fighting terrorism for many years, even before they became a nation in 1948. They are surrounded by Muslim nations which historically do not get along with Israelis. This is particularly true of Palestinians. Since Israel is surrounded by so many that wish to do them harm, they have had to take more drastic steps in order to protect themselves.
They had become one of the first countries to articulate a deliberate and official policy of retaliation against terrorism. Most nations understand that a nation must fight back in order to protect itself and its interests. Israel on the other hand seems to retaliate in a much more aggressive manner. Such a case was their retaliation against an Arab village in Qibiya, Jordan in 1953. On October 13, 1953, Jordanian terrorists infiltrated the Israeli border and threw a grenade into a house, killing a mother and two children in Tiryat Yehuda. In an effort to prevent further attacks and protect its borders, Israel launched a reprisal raid on Qibiya, a Jordanian town across the border from Tiryat Yehuda. Unit 101, led by then Colonel Ariel Sharon, destroyed 50 homes, killing 69 Jordanian civilians who were hidden inside and had gone unnoticed. (Oreck, 2007) Sharon had stated that he was not aware that civilians were involved but that did not help in the embarrassment that Israel suffered due to the incident.
Israelis have also pioneered the area of preemptive strikes against terrorism. This policy is a bit more difficult to convince the international community for its justification. It is one thing to fight back against an attack on your country it is another to strike first to prevent such an attack. But in many cases is necessary to do so. Israel has carried out such attacks such as the bombing of an Iraqi nuclear facility in 1981. It was feared that if Iraq had been able to produce the nuclear bomb, they would use it against Israel. This strike was something of a success story. Israel’s preemptive strike against Iraq was heartily condemned in Washington and by the United Nations, although privately most governments, even in the Middle East, were pleased to see the setback to Saddam Hussein’s ambition.
Targeted killings are also something that Israel employs to fight terrorism. However, this form of protection has one big drawback. It is often necessary to obtain information from higher ranking individuals within a terrorist organization. Obviously dead men are of no use to obtain information. In September 1999, the Israeli High Court ruled on specific procedures for interrogation and practices in dealing with terrorists or suspected terrorists. Interrogations can only be conducted by the Shin Bet (counter-intelligence and internal security service). The head of the Shin Bet works with the Attorney General very closely to determine how to proceed on specific cases. Targeted killings have to be confirmed by the prime minister in every instance. If there is a change in the plan on a targeted killing, the head of the Shin Bet must go back to the prime minister and have the operation approved once more. (Dicter, Bronfman, Bronfman & Byman, 2005) However, if the head of the Shin Bet feels there is great urgency, he alone can make the decision to take out the suspect.
So the question is “Do I think the United States should employ the Israeli tactics in fighting terrorism?” If that question had been posed ten or fifteen years ago, I may have said no. Today, my answer would be yes, with a caveat. Though it may be difficult, I think we would need other countries to publicly back us to carry out certain missions. In the case of a preemptive strike, our allies must be informed of such action so they are not taken by surprise of the situation. As far as targeted killings, we had better have support in this undertaking or else we are going to look like the aggressors. Case in point, our current situation in the Middle East. Although the United States has a policy against taking out heads of state which President Ford imposed by executive order in 1976, there is nothing to say that we cannot take out leaders of terrorist groups like Osama bin Laden. In the climate we live in today, we had better have all of our options open and on the table if we want to defend ourselves and help prevent future attacks.
International Conventions to Suppress Terrorism
Throughout the years there have been many policies and conventions used to aid in the fight against terrorism. They are normally backed by the civilized states of the international community. But it seems over time, these policies go by the wayside. In this section, I will look at three of the more recent conventions.
The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1999, and signed on behalf of the United States of America on January 10, 2000. The Convention is aimed at cutting off the funding that terrorist groups need to operate. This Convention provides an obligation that States Parties criminalize such conduct and establishes an international legal framework for cooperation among States Parties directed toward prevention of such financing and ensuring the prosecution and punishment of offenders, wherever found. In a letter to the Senate in 2000, then President Clinton urged the members to “give early and favorable consideration to this Convention, subject to the understanding, declaration and reservation that are described in the accompanying report of the Department of State.” (Clinton, 2000) Even before 9/11 it was apparent that funding for terrorists needed to be addressed.
Another convention, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing was adopted in 1997. This convention “created a regime of universal jurisdiction over the unlawful and intentional use of explosives and other lethal devices in, into, or against various defined public places with intent to kill or cause serious bodily injury, or with intent to cause extensive destruction of the public place”. (United Nations, 1997) It is similar to other conventions in that it requires parties to extradite or submit for prosecution persons accused of committing or aiding in the commission of such offenses.
Lastly, the Convention on the Making of Plastic Explosives for the purpose of Detection was ratified by the United Nations in 1991. The members of the U.N. were concerned that plastic explosives had been used for such terrorist acts in the past and could be again in the future and wanted to do something about it. This Convention was aimed at deterring such unlawful acts of the use of plastic explosives because they felt there was a need for an international mandate for States to adopt appropriate measures to ensure that plastic explosives are marked.
Provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act
The Patriot Act has ten different provisions that outline the United States government’s war on terrorism. These provisions impact the war on terrorism in different ways. Some of the provisions deal with rights and responsibilities; others provide areas in which terrorism can be fought. I will discuss, in brief, each of the ten provisions.
The first title is for the enhancement of domestic security and provides for funding and information gathering. It also prohibits the discrimination against Muslim Americans. Title II is probably the most controversial of all the provisions. It is here where the perceived infringement on civil liberties takes place. This provision reshapes the way the federal government can collect information. The FBI can seize materials from private citizens when it believes national security is at stake and then get permission from courts to do so afterwards. The third title involves the area of money laundering and the financing of terrorist organizations. Title IV increases border patrols and mandates the detention of suspected terrorists. The fifth title deals with removing obstacles in the investigation of terrorism and addresses the capture and prosecution of terrorists. Title number six provides aid to the families of Public Safety Officers who were injured or killed in terrorist attacks, and amends the Victims of Crime Act of 1984. Number seven supports the sharing of information by federal law enforcement agencies. This would have been very useful pre-9/11. Title VIII strengthens criminal laws against terrorism, defines domestic terrorism, and expands biological weapons statutes. The ninth provision provides that intelligence information sharing from foreign agencies. The information derived from electronic surveillance or physical searches is disseminated for efficient and effective foreign intelligence purposes. The last title is kind of a catchall and is listed as miscellaneous. It contains 16 sections that do not fall under other titles in the act.
Impact of Emergency Powers on Defeating Terrorism
Many nations have forms of so called, “Emergency Powers”. Some countries call it “State of Exception”, “Special Powers”, or “Terrorist Affected”. No matter what a country may call their emergency powers, extreme circumstances may exist in which the security of the country in needed and these powers allow for authorities to stop, search, question and detain individuals suspected of terrorist involvement. There have been emergency powers used even before the United States was formed. Between 1775 and 1781, the Continental Congress passed a series of acts and resolves which count as the first expressions of emergency authority. These instruments dealt almost exclusively with the prosecution of the Revolutionary War. (Relyea, 2006) The President of the United States has available certain powers that may be exercised in the event that the nation is threatened by crisis, exigency, or emergency circumstances (other than natural disasters, war, or near-war situations).
The acts of terrorism are ever-changing. It is important that countries are able to react (or in some cases become proactive) to situations as they arise. How well can a country be protected if their leaders cannot make a quick decision on the information they have been provided. In this, emergency powers are essential in both the war on terror and defeating terrorism.
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Oreck, A. (2007, N/A). Qibya. Jewish Virtual Library, The Library. Retrieved March 29, 2007, from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Qibiya.html.
Poland, J. M. (2005). Understanding Terrorism: Groups, Strategies, and Responses. Sacramento, CA: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Relyea, H. C. (2006, November 13). National Emergency Powers. In CRS Report for Congress. Congress.Retrieved March 29, 2007, from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/98-505.pdf.
United Nations. (1997, N/A). Conventions Against Terrorism. Retrieved March 29, 2007, from United Nations: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/terrorism_conventions.html.
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