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Terrorism and Homeland Security

Essay by   •  May 6, 2016  •  Research Paper  •  2,622 Words (11 Pages)  •  1,385 Views

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Civil Liberties and Police Work

Homeland Security and Constitutional Issues

Homeland security is a term mainly used in the United States of America to refer to efforts made by the government to ensure that the nation is safe. This is mainly with regards to terrorism. However, due to an “all-hazards” approach embraced by the government, the homeland security can be involved in other situations such as national disasters. The roots of this term can be traced to the move by the United States government in 2003 to recognize many of the agencies after the September 11 attacks. As a result, the United States Department of Homeland Security was formed. Its main task was homeland defense. This refers to the acts of protecting the territory of the United States, its sovereignty, the security of its domestic population and its infrastructure from external threats and aggression (Chang, 2011)

However, before the formation of the United States Department of Homeland Security, there were force debates with regards to the need for United States to establish a new domestic intelligence agency that was equivalent of the British MI-5.  Supporters based their arguments on the need for a completely new organization to a new pair of eyes, fresh thinking and focus that was really needed and the fact that the US was the only Western country without such an organization (Chang, 2011). On the other hand, critics believed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was already reinventing itself to form such an intelligence-driven agency needed and that establishing a new domestic intelligence agency be costly and duplicate capabilities that already existed.

The debate was later settled in favor of the critics. This is because, despite the major reforms that were made with regards to American intelligence, no central domestic intelligence agency was created. What took place instead involved the increase of the intelligence functions assigned to the FBI and the creation of l new organizations such as the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) (Cole & Dempsey, 2006).  

This essay argues although it was decided that a domestic intelligence organization was not to be established, that has been done in recent years. This has been through creation of vast domestic intelligence establishment that is only understood by few Americans. It is also free from any oversight and scrutiny which should not be the case. Although this new domestic intelligence system has been successful in increasing security within the US, it is faced with certain limitations and failures (Cole & Dempsey, 2006). They include increased domestic surveillance and disregard for civil liberties.

This essay begins by looking at the current system of homeland security intelligence within the US and supports the argument it mainly constitutes a de facto domestic intelligence organization. It then further argues that the current structure is responsible for the trade-off between security and liberty. Finally, it concludes by arguing despite these developments being acceptable to most American people, there is need for national discussion and debate on domestic intelligence (Chang, 2011).

Current Domestic Intelligence Organization

The current system of homeland security intelligence within the US involves several government departments working together. Even though the domestic intelligence system lacks a centralized structure, it is more coordinated and effective than most Americans realize. As a result, it constitutes a de facto domestic intelligence system that is a bit difficult to understand. This may be attributable to the fact that much of those efforts are a state secret and even the fact that the size of the national intelligence community is not accurately known (Cole & Dempsey, 2006).

However, it is safe to assume that it is relatively large given the growth in intelligence budget. Furthermore, the office of the DNI is a large entity with regard all reasonable standards. This is because as in 2010, it had approximately 1,800 employees. Furthermore, there are at least nine separate intelligence element within the Department of Homeland Security (Cole & Dempsey, 2006). These components are exemplified by the existence of Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, and the Secret Service.

After the September 11th attacks, the prevailing environment led to the establishment, development and ultimately the growth of new intelligence organizations to reach all the state and local level. The growth and expansion of this de facto domestic intelligence organization was mainly due to the importance of intelligence after the September 11th attacks. This is seen when the FBI increased the priority traditionally given to intelligence and counter-terrorism. It, therefore, established a brand new National Security Branch. Furthermore, it increased the number of intelligence analysts employed and raised their status. It also established Field Intelligence Groups in all of its s fifty-six field offices. Finally, there was a recruitment of more informants within the United States. This continues to take place even up to date (Davis, 2002).

Moreover, there has been an increase in the number of elements of national and military intelligence that have over the years become more involved in domestic surveillance. Such an example is the National Security Agency (NSA). This can be shown by the plans of the agency to build a new data storage center in Utah that occupies more space (Davis, 2002). To add on to this, a number of new federal intelligence agencies and organizations have been formed. One such example is the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). This is a multi-agency counter drug center. It is jointly run and managed by the DEA and DHS.

Currently, intelligence exists at both levels of the United States government. These two levels are the federal level and the state level respectively. The existence of these fusion centers is not widely known. This is despite the fact that they have several times made news for successfully preventing terrorist attacks and assisting other law enforcement agencies in capturing dangerous criminals. At the state level, there are a total of seventy-two state and local intelligence fusion centers. The centers can be assumed to be run by the DHS given the fact that they all receive DHS funding and support, and a majority of them have a DHS intelligence liaison officer assigned to them full time. The DHS intelligence liaison officers assigned to these intelligence fusion centers are tasked with providing analytical support and reach-back capability to DHS headquarters (Davis, 2002).

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