Intelligence role in countering new terrorism threats
The threat of violence practiced by extremists or other terrorists is not a new one. However, the events of 9/11, Bali, Madrid or London disclosed a new, unprecedented dimension of terrorism. Today’s political and religious violence movements “evolved from a national physical threat into a transnational ideological threat” (Wenger, Zimmermann 2007, S. 1). In order to combat this changed threat situation, intelligence inherits a key role. Yet, in 2002, a report of the US Council for Foreign Relations assessed that “a year after 9/11, America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack on US soil” (Rudman et al. 2002, S. 1). Often, the intelligence community (IC) is blamed for this condition however there had been changes within the IC in order to adapt to a new, asymmetric threat environment created not only through the use of “strategic terrorism in a large-scale military strike” (Berkowitz 2002, S. 289) but also through the emergence of new, international acting criminal networks that pose another threat for a country’s national security. In the following, this paper will explain the role of intelligence in combating these new threats. In a second section, it will analyze some processes of adaptation within the IC to the new challenges.
As already mentioned, intelligence plays a key role in combating terrorism, in fact for intelligence agencies “terrorism […] became the super priority” (Herrmann 2003, S. 41). The most important task of intelligence within this key role is to provide “threat assessments to policy makers” (Bruneau 2008, S. 454). As Berkowitz outlines, the arduousness of this task lies within the high variety of customers for intelligence products, each with its “own requirements and constraints” (Berkowitz 2002, S. 293). Nevertheless “intelligence organizations must provide them clearances [and] develop special procedures and channels to provide them information and make better use of unclassified and open-source intelligence” (Berkowitz 2002, S. 294). Therefore, “intelligence is essential in countering terrorism, in diminishing its tactical effects and strategic importance” (Karmon 2002, S. 119). Or in other words “good intelligence is the best weapon against international terrorism” (Report of the National Commission on Terrorism 2000).
The importance of intelligence for the combat against terrorism becomes obvious if one considers the interest state authorities put into the expansion of intelligence after the devastating attacks of 9/11. While in the US during the election campaign of 2000 was only “little incentive for most congressman to spend much time on security issues or the more arcane, demanding issues pertaining to intelligence” (Hansen 2004, S. 675), this changed after September 11. Since then, “the administration and Congress have adapted a number of incremental changes designed to improve the quality and integration of intelligence reform” (Steinberg et al. 2003, S. 2). A similar process can be observed in Germany, where “new laws provided German intelligence and law enforcement agencies greater latitude to gather and evaluate information, as well as to communicate and share information with each other and with law enforcement authorities at the state level” (Miko, Froehlich 2004, S. 9).
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