Article Review: Assessing and Managing the Terrorism Threat

Managing the Terrorism Threat in the United States

The United States is considered as the most powerful country. It has always had and continues to have a strong impact on the world economy and seems to be strong enough to struggle with any difficulties in the economic, social and political spheres of life. What is more, the United States has always been considered a secure place because of its effective system of national defense, well-trained police, and organized emergency management system. Nevertheless, the security of the country has suffered a violent breach, which changed its status quo forever. The attacks of September 11 had changed the face of the American justice system and police at once. They also revealed the weaknesses and gaps in the national defense system and made society reassess the degree of preparedness to the unexpected disasters and threats coming from the outside. The attacks also demonstrated the power and menace of terrorism to the American nation and the world, in general. Hence, the American society started thinking on the ways of prevention of the terrorist attacks not to allow the repetition of that tragic day. Therefore, the Department of Justice published the document “Assessing and Managing the Terrorist Threat”, in which its author makes an attempt to assess the scale of terrorism and suggest the ways of managing its threat in the United States. Therefore, the given paper provides an overview of the article, discussing its theme and the major concepts.

The primary theme of the article is risk assessment, how it is conducted and how it influences the risk management, in general. The author emphasizes that the risk management process is a skill every law enforcement officer should master. According to his point of view, the American society does not question the possible occurrence of the attempt of terrorist attacks in the future. Thus, all the efforts should be concentrated on foreseeing their possible timing and place to prevent mass destructions and victims. The main concepts of the article are the threat, vulnerability, and criticality assessment.

The article consists of two chapters, such as risk assessment, and risk management, respectively. The main problem under discussion is meeting the expectations the society has in terms of the terrorist threat and its management by the police. According to the article, the main demands include “the ability to effectively and efficiently collect, assess, disseminate and act on intelligence information regarding threats posed by transnational and domestic terrorists”. The author admits that meeting those demands is a challenging and complex task for all parties involved, as it requires the speeding of information sharing between the agencies. Furthermore, the main task of the latter is the improvement of the threat assessment methods. People expect the law enforcers to conduct such assessments timely and effectively.

The monograph’s main idea evokes parallels with the medical field as the doctors prefer preventing illnesses to curing them. Similarly, the readers are informed of the importance of a risk-management capability, which is crucial for confrontation, minimization, and prevention of terrorist acts. Thus, risk assessment and management should become a preventative measure against terrorism as such. The first step the law enforcement agencies should make is considering what objects or locations can be targeted and which of them should be protected the first. By the common efforts, the police officers can determine the potential targets in their area and ensure a more careful control to prevent the attack or at least minimize its consequences. At the same time, the author admits that police officers are not almighty, and it is impossible to protect all of the possible targets. The best strategy, in this case, is to train the personnel and obtain an adequate database of vulnerable locations.

In the first chapter, the author lists the main steps of the risk assessment. These consist of the critical infrastructure and key asset inventory, criticality assessment, threat assessment, vulnerability assessment, risk calculation, and countermeasure identification. First, the author defines criticality. The readers are provided with a list of certain facilities that are the most vulnerable to terrorists’ attacks. Thus, according to the study, one of the aims of the terrorists’ attack is the media coverage. Besides, much of the purpose of terrorism is psychological. Thus, they are mostly interested in the facilities that have some historical or cultural meaning to the American society. After all, “it is important to model the strategic behavior of the attacker”. To measure criticality, a specific scale is suggested. The scale ranges from extreme criticality to low criticality. The author explains the characteristic features of each level in details. The study insists that police officers are obliged to react to the damage of facilities of high and extreme importance and danger. It is especially true when the loss of human lives is in question. Apart from that, the author lays emphasis on the police’s ability to conduct threat assessment. Thus, police officers should be able to act in an efficient and timely manner. Therefore, they should obtain as much information as they can. As a result, the skill that is expected from the law enforcers is conducting intelligence gathering and reporting. This aspect is particularly important since, as it can be stated, the more police officers know, the sooner they will detect a terrorist hazard. The threat is also measured within a range from one to five. Moreover, there exists a list of factors increasing the likeliness of the attack. These factors include existence, capability, intent, history, targeting, and security environment. The crossing of several factors increases the chances for the attack to take place.

At the same time, the author claims that identifying a threat is not as simple as one might think. Unfortunately, people tend to overlook its significance because the entire process is often misunderstood or seen as technically unreachable. Among others, vulnerability is difficult to measure effectively. Leson suggests considering such factors as location, accessibility, adequacy, and availability. Therefore, asking questions might be helpful for those who want to conduct a risk assessment. Every technique implies three questions that can be found useful in summarizing the information obtained. In particular, one should consider the impact of the loss of the certain assets, the likeliness of attacking these assets, and the most likely vulnerabilities of these assets. To simplify the task of risk assessment, the author offers a risk equation used in most systems. This equation has the following formula: Risk=Threat x Vulnerability X Criticality.

The second chapter of the article is dedicated to risk management. After one had successfully conducted the risk assessment, he or she can choose an appropriate management strategy. According to the article, the most common countermeasures are physical security, cyber security, and personnel security. One might also add technological, enhanced surveillance and armed guards. Law enforcement’s successful risk analysis will provide one with the data sufficient for further decision making. Obtained information should become the ground for countermeasure proposals, optimal cooperation with the state and federal authorities, as well as security improvements. One also may find a demonstration of how the system works by the example of a case study at the end of the mentioned chapter. The author also suggests promising practices adapted to State Homeland Security Comprehensive Assessment Model, as well as a strategic program in the appendices. Alternative tools can be found in other research, as well. In particular, Barry Ezell suggests the method of logic trees and William McGill enhances the risk management procedure with benefit-cost analysis.

To conclude, the article under analysis is intended to improve the preparedness of the law enforcement agencies to the threat of terrorism. The primary theme of the article is risk assessment, how it is conducted, and how it influences the risk management, in general. As a result, the readers may get familiar with a utilitarian risk management methodology. United efforts of all the agencies and improved security are the primary preconditions for the successful prevention of attacks. With trained personnel able to conduct risk assessment and risk management, the United States has all the chances to provide its citizens with a more secure environment. The measures discussed above will not restore the reputation of the invulnerable country, but they would significantly improve the protection of critical infrastructure.

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